Oak Hill, WV - September 26, 2008 - Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade, a tireless advocate for senior citizen rights and founder of National Grandparents Day, passed away peacefully on September 26, 2008 in Oak Hill, WV. She was 91 years old.
Born Marian Lucille Herndon on January 18, 1917 in Caperton, WV, she was a lifelong West Virginian and native of Fayette County. She married her Oak Hill High School sweetheart Joe L. McQuade in 1936. Mr. and Mrs. McQuade went on to become the proud parents of 15 children, 43 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
In 1970 Mrs. McQuade initiated a grassroots campaign to set aside a special day just for Grandparents. Years of working with civic, business, church and political leaders paid off in 1973 when West Virginia Governor Arch A. Moore proclaimed the first National Grandparents Day. Also in 1973, Senator Jennings Randolph (D-WV) introduced a Grandparents Day resolution in the United States Senate. When the resolution languished in committee, Mrs. McQuade began a determined national effort to get the resolution passed.
Mrs. McQuade petitioned governors in 49 states to follow West Virginia and set aside a Grandparents Day. Forty-three of those governors sent proclamations to Mrs. McQuade, each declaring a holiday in their states. With this momentum, the bill (Public Law 96-62) was signed into legislation in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter proclaiming the first Sunday after Labor Day each year as National Grandparents Day. National Grandparents Day celebrated its 30th anniversary this year.
In part, the Grandparents Day proclamation reads: “Grandparents are our continuing tie to the near-past, to events and beliefs and experiences that so strongly affect our lives and the world around us. Whether they are our own or surrogate grandparents who fill some of the gaps in our mobile society, our senior generation also provides our society a link to our national heritage and traditions.”
When Mrs. McQuade was asked about founding National Grandparents Day, she said “I am the luckiest person in the world. I have a wonderful and understanding husband, my children are all healthy and well, and my grandchildren and great-grandchildren brighten my days. And then I have my work promoting Grandparents Day, working with seniors and visiting the sick and lonely in hospitals and nursing homes. What more could I want?”
Mrs. McQuade’s legacy is now being carried on by many of her children and grandchildren, some of whom work on the National Grandparents Day Council, the non-profit corporation established by descendants of Marian H. McQuade. (www.grandparents-day.com). The council’s purpose is to protect and promote the original intent of National Grandparents Day as championing the elderly. The council also works to enlarge and enhance the celebration of the holiday by cultivating intergenerational activities throughout the year.
Mrs. McQuade’s work with senior citizens dates back to 1956, when she first helped Jim Comstock, editor of the West Virginia Hillbilly and the Richwood News Leader, with organizing a Past 80 Party. The Past 80 Party became an annual event celebrating the state’s octogenarians.
She went on to become Vice-Chair of the West Virginia Commission on Aging and was appointed as a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging. In 1972, Mrs. McQuade's efforts resulted in President Richard Nixon proclaiming a National Shut-in Day. She also served as President of the Vocational Rehabilitation Foundation, Vice-President of the West Virginia Health Systems Agency, and was appointed to the Nursing Home Licensing Board, among many other involvements.
In 1970, Mrs. McQuade ran for United States House of Representatives in West Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. She was an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention from West Virginia in 1972. Also in 1972, she was a candidate for West Virginia State Senate 11th District.
Mrs. McQuade’s efforts on behalf of the elderly and in the establishment of National Grandparents Day have been recognized through numerous honors. In 1976, Mrs. McQuade received a citation as one of 10 West Virginia Women of Accomplishment and in 1981 she was designated Whitman’s Chocolates’ Grandparent of the Year. The U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative envelope bearing Mrs. McQuade’s likeness in 1989 for the tenth anniversary of National Grandparents Day. On the 25th anniversary of the first West Virginia observance of the holiday, new West Virginia state highway signs were erected outside her hometown, announcing Oak Hill, West Virginia as the ‘Home of Marian McQuade, Founder of National Grandparents Day.’
Mrs. McQuade is survived by her children: Shirley McQuade Davis of Beckley, WV; DJ McQuade Lancaster of Chula Vista, CA; Dan McQuade of East Haddam, CT; Charles (Darby) McQuade of Santa Fe, NM; Patricia McQuade of Watsonville, CA; Tom McQuade of Charlotte, NC; David McQuade of North Hollywood, CA; Ruth McQuade of Shepherdstown, WV; Mary McQuade of Carmel, CA; George McQuade of Sun City, CA; Margaret McQuade Salimi of Oak Hill, WV; Michael McQuade of Santa Fe, NM; Kathleen McQuade Eye of Oak Hill, WV. She is also survived by her sister Vida Herndon Albert and brothers Robert Herndon and Harry Herndon as well as her 43 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
She is preceded in death by her parents Clarence Herndon and Lucille Dickerson Herndon, her husband, Joe L. McQuade, her sons Joel Herndon McQuade and William Robert McQuade, her brothers J.W. Herndon and Charles Herndon, and her sisters Eva Lee Herndon and Virginia Herndon Cater.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The West Virginia Alzheimer’s Association, 1111 Lee St., Charleston, WV 25301. Her family also asks that in honor of Marian McQuade’s work on behalf of the elderly, please pass on family histories to grandchildren, visit with the elderly or volunteer at a local nursing home. As Marian always said, “Make every day Grandparents Day.”
Services at Tyree Funeral Home, 999 Jones Ave., Oak Hill, WV 25901.