Diane Quade is the United Methodist Women Legacy Fund Coordinator for the State of Wisconsin, former Chair of Janesville Southeastern 4-H Fair Club, Absentee Ballot Coordinator for Rock County, and a Dedicated Community Volunteer.
Where were you born?
I was born in a hospital in Monroe, Wisconsin, but grew up in Albany in Green County. I moved to Janesville when I got married in 1964. My husband, Gerald, worked at Highway Trailer in Edgerton. He lived on a farm on Kessler Road, just west of Janesville.
At that time, it seemed like I was one of the last people to work outside the home. I was a stay at home mother for our two daughters. One is an attorney in Rockford and the other just finished two years of living and working abroad with her husband. They do animal sitting for people when they go on vacation.
What sort of fun activities did you and your husband enjoy as a couple around town?
We belonged to a couple’s club at church. When the girls got a little older, he belonged to the Y and what was called the Indian Princesses Club for dads and daughters. They would host a meeting at our house when it was their turn, and I didn’t have to do anything. I just stepped back! They built craft projects, totem poles, and gave each other Indian names. It meant a lot to them.
Back in 1966 we’d been married a couple years and I said, “We really need to do something together on the weekends.” His brother was a caller for dances and used to call for the Janesville Swinging Squares. I saw in the paper that lessons were going to begin in the clubhouse at Traxler Park. When we got there, we saw his sister. She pointed to my husband saying, “Take that guy’s money so he keeps coming back!” Gerald got so into it that he was president of the Southwest Area Square Dance Association, and we served on committees for the state!
When the square dance convention was in Madison, we held the keys for the colosseum for three days. We had to open it in the morning for the convention, and then lock it at night. We were involved in the publicity for the National Square Dance Committee when it was in Milwaukee, and got to meet a lot of nice people who just wanted to have a good time. We also attended the national convention in Oklahoma the year before it was in Wisconsin.
For that one, we cut and cubed 60 pounds of Swiss cheese to hand out to people to get them enticed to come to Wisconsin. People outside the state believed that on every street corner of the city of Milwaukee there was a beer spigot, and we had to prove that there was more to Wisconsin. The Milk Marketing Board sponsored a lot of things for us, like the 60 pounds of swiss cheese.
Did you get involved with organizations at school while you were a stay at home mom?
I was active in PTA at Roosevelt, Marshall and Craig, and I was the president of the Craig PTA for all five years my kids were there. I also took in children at my home and babysat, and they’d come to the meetings with me.
I started out as the picture project chairperson at Roosevelt and then went into everything else that there was there.
When I was involved at the high school, and they still had open campus at Craig, but then later they closed it. The kids could come home for lunch and so would the neighbor kids! Once, I ran into the neighbor boy’s mother in the grocery store. She complained that she had to buy so many groceries. I just thought she should ask her son about that one, because he would just open up the house and let anyone in!
After you became empty nesters, how did you become involved in the community?
I was very active in 4-H, especially in the Sewing/Clothing area. I had as many as 18 kids at my house teaching them to sew. They would show their clothing at the fair. My daughters were involved in it, too. After they graduated, I quit being a leader because it became too challenging to schedule everyone.
I still work at the fair in the Sewing/Clothing Division, and help out in the Floral Division. I was Chairperson of the what was called the Janesville Southeastern 4-H club with as many as 175 kids at one time. That was a lot of kids to keep track of!
The Junior Leaders used to do a pizza sale. They would clean out the Craig Center and line up the kids. They’d make $60,000 a year on that one project! My daughter happened to be treasurer of the Rock County Junior Council, so we had the responsibility of teaching her how to take care of it and write the checks. They don’t do that fundraiser anymore because of all the health regulations.
Where did you work?
I worked at Stories & Stuff and at Building Blocks for Learning. And I worked at Bright Beginnings in Beloit. I love books, reading and talking people into loving books!
Tell me about your work with the United Methodist Women.
I was also really active in the United Methodist Women in the district and conference level. In 1992, I was elected to the national division. As a director, I was assigned to Leadership Development and would go to different states and conferences and help train their leaders. We also had to approve a budget and to question and vote on projects. I served on a subcommittee where we would choose our study 6 years in advance.
We studied South Korea and then 6 years later that country was in the news. By the time the six years passed, it was current news. It was kind of scary to sit down and think about where in the world you would want to go and what you want to do, because 6 years later it was happening, whether we liked it or not!
We have 100 national missionary institutions in the United States and we work in a hundred different countries around the world! We helped some with orphanages and for others we would we teach women the basics of sewing or entrepreneurship to help them achieve a better life for themselves and their families. I still have some of the dolls that they made.
In January of 2000, I was given an opportunity to travel to Zimbabwe. It was right at the height of the AIDS crisis. At that time 1200 – 2400 people were dying each day from AIDS. We went to help the poor to learn more about AIDS and we were trained on the practices that would help those affected. We introduced them to condoms, even though the men wanted nothing to do with them. The conference was made by the Bishop of Zimbabwe for all eleven districts at that time, who each sent four clergy, four men, four women, and four youth.
The youth wrote up a whole project that they were going to do as a follow up after the conference. Unfortunately, they didn’t know how many of themselves were already HIV infected. So, they had a conference about six months after ours to teach around 4,000 other Zimbabwe youth about HIV and how to prevent it.
Currently the national office of United Methodist Women is raising funds for the Legacy to keep it running as churches get smaller. I’m currently the Legacy Fund Coordinator for the State of Wisconsin.
Tell me about your work with local elections.
I have been quite involved in our elections. When I first started, I was at First Lutheran Church. Eventually, they put me in charge of all the absentee ballots. Then, the city decided to do all the absentee ballots at the same place. We would start at 7 in the morning and they had to be done by 10 at night. There were over 10,000 ballots!
The thing I don’t like about being in charge of absentee ballots is not being able to see people. When you’re in a polling place, like the church, you can see the people coming in and out. Maybe it’s the only time you’ll ever see them, but it was fun. Working with the absentee ballots, you’re tucked away from the public. But, it’s fun and I enjoy it. During the presidential election, we planned a potluck and brought it in.
One year, we had four or five attorneys running for school board, and I thought, “That’s not right; there’s got to be others.” So, five of us found a woman to run and she beat out all these attorneys! That was Jan Hoops. Later I helped Steve Karges campaign for School Board and then Barb Dubois for her run for School Board. The biggest shock of all was when my brother, Eric Runaas came to me and said he wanted to run for Sheriff! That’s county politics! That’s different. I told him I wouldn’t help if he wasn’t serious about it. But he was! I helped him with his campaign. He ran and won three times in a row!
Eric never caught me speeding, but HE got pulled over one time, which was funny. The officer didn’t even recognize him as his boss. So, Eric just quietly let him carry on, and when the guy asked for his driver’s license he said, “Oh, Sheriff Runaas!” My brother just said, “No, you did good, I should know better than to speed out here on the highway.”
He was right before Bob Spoden, and then I helped Bob Spoden run, as well. People have asked me to run, but I like to stay behind the scenes.
How did you get involved as one of the first cooks for the G.I.F.T.S. Men Shelter?
Well, they said they were going to start this homeless men’s shelter and they asked to our church to provide housing and food for one to two weeks at a time. Once we did it 3 weeks in a row. Our church was always so busy, so people were concerned it would overwhelm us.
We had just remodeled our kitchen; we have a $500,000 kitchen. So, I would go over and cook for them. Then, every other night, I would monitor the kitchen and oversee the help, show people how to cook and how to use the equipment.
I have my license to cook for anyone anywhere, as a National Certified Food Safety Manager. I still cook when it’s Cargill’s time to help the G.I.F.T.S. men. Sometimes it’s breakfast, most times it’s dinner. It makes me feel good inside to help people when they might be down on their luck.
Over the years I’ve watched the men that come to the shelter change, too. Every year it’s different, we never know if it’s going to be the same people or a new bunch. What has bothered me the most is how young the homeless men are; I can’t imagine being 18 or 19 and not having a place to live! That hits the heart strings.
What motivates you to volunteer your time?
We took our oldest daughter to start her senior year at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, and on our way back we were hit by a drunk driver. My husband was killed outright. I’ve been a widow for over 30 years now, and that just makes me want to help people. I like people, and I can’t always afford to give them my money, so at least I can give them my time and talent. And sometimes it means the world.
What are some of the other ways you have volunteered?
Where I live now it’s always fun to take the elderly to their doctor visits. Those who can’t drive, they need to get there, so I volunteer. One lady doesn’t have family in the area, so she asked me if I could go with her to be a second set of ears. She didn’t realize she had blood cancer, and I had to explain what the doctor had told her, that they were watching the protein in her system and that’s why they kept drawing blood. I used to work the blood drives as “The Cookie Lady”.
After my husband was killed, I helped raise a family of five children for 15 years. I graduated from Whitewater, majoring in Women’s Studies and Communicative Disorders. At the time, I didn’t have enough money to get my Master’s Degree so I couldn’t use it in a public school setting. But I do take time to teach my nieces and nephews how to speak well.
I also helped to raise two boys for seven years, so that kept me busy. In fact, I spent Thanksgiving with the family with five children, and one of the girls is getting married in June. That was special news!
Respite Care was another one of my activities, which took me all over the county.
What are some of the changes you’ve seen over the years in the area?
I have seen a lot of changes in the Janesville landscape. Arbuthnot Dairy was where the ice arena now stands. I remember how I could go down and buy fresh milk or ice cream down the hill and bring it back up. The milk man was on Racine Street. It was across the street from Dairy Queen. There used to be a big building there instead of the gas station. The Fairview Mall used to be right across from Cargill and then it was moved to Racine Street. Now it’s gone. There have been quite a few changes around town.
Do you think that Janesville is on the upswing?
I think so, if people let it. I know there are a lot of people against the dam removal, and a lot of folks who think people are wasting money with the improvements downtown. But how often are these same folks down there taking part in anything? They need to come out and experience the positive changes going on.
What keeps you here in Rock County?
The people. When I visit my daughter in Texas, or my sister in Seattle, or my other sister in San Jose, they don’t know people. They really have to work hard to make friends. I’ve met so many people here in Rock County, and they’re all so nice.