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Giving Back in Mendocino County: Beverly Hudson – a muse for change

We all lead lives of value, but some of us leave legacies. Beverly Hudson is one such person. Her impact lives on in the many workings of Ukiah Valley Association for Habilitation (UVAH) and other such programs today. Born with Down syndrome in 1950 at a time when many children with handicaps were sent away to live in institutions, Beverly remained at home as a cherished member of the Hudson family. One might say she even became a muse for change – her father, Raymond, retired from his career after her birth and devoted his life as a volunteer to the cause of those with developmental disabilities.

At a time when no programs existed in Mendocino County for children with developmental disabilities, the Hudsons worked with other parents to establish these critical services, including the Bush Street School in 1960, the Ukiah Valley Association for Retarded Children (now Ukiah Valley Association for Habilitation) in 1961, as well as a thrift shop, a rehabilitation workshop, and a summer camp program.

Beverly’s name and legacy deserve to be remembered, which is why her family has established the Beverly Hudson Fund for the Developmentally Disabled. This fund will support the mission of UVAH and other programs that promote the employment and other life-skills training of people with developmental disabilities, with the goal of fostering their independence so they can contribute as vital members of the community. This mission is at the heart of what Beverly inspired in her parents, Dorothy and Raymond Hudson, who worked tirelessly to create a thriving environment for Beverly and other children in Mendocino County with disabilities.

As I sit with her brother Charles “Woody” Hudson, and sister-in-law Pam Hudson, they regale me with the tales of a life well lived. “It was important to the Hudsons that Beverly was a fully vested member of the family, not just someone with disabilities,” Pam tells me. Indeed, in the early days of UVAH a guest speaker from the State Department of Mental Hygiene told the parents, “Start being real parents first and the parent of a retarded child second. Strengthen your community by integrating the handicapped and giving them the chance to work to their capacity in useful endeavor.”

And this is exactly what the Hudsons did – focused on being real parents and strengthening Beverly’s capacity to contribute. In this light she shined, working her way through school, then working at the Ukiah Valley Rehabilitation Workshop, holding a variety of jobs. She learned to live independently, and shined as a dependable, capable worker who would sing and dance as she worked. Indeed, her brother Woody shares with me the joy she brought to the family of four boys. “She had a little record player,” he tells me, “and she would play her 45s over and over, singing and dancing, until it drove us all a little crazy.” He laughs. This spirit of joy and playfulness echoes in the photos of Beverly we thumb through.

The light that Beverly brought to those who knew her burned energetically to create a full and fulfilling life. “We always had to check her calendar first for family get-togethers,” Beverly’s sister-in-law Pam jokes, “because she had such a full social calendar. There was bocce night, bowling night, her visits with friends, and of course her many travels to see the Giants, or to Disneyland, or on a Hawaiian cruise.” Pam can’t help but laugh. “Beverly was the busiest one among us!”

Busy, and cherished. Beverly became a familiar sight in town as she would walk from her downtown apartment to work each morning. One day when she was not on her usual path a concerned citizen called UVAH to report that she had not yet passed by their home. “People watched out for Beverly,” Pam tells me. “The community knew her, and made sure she was okay.” She drew in all that knew her, becoming a muse for change that echoes in the legacy she leaves behind, and demonstrates a life well lived. May we all hope to live such a life, and to strengthen our community through our own useful endeavors.

Megan Barber Allende is the President and CEO of The Community Foundation of Mendocino County