- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

BALTIMORE More than a thousand people filled New Shiloh Baptist Church to say goodbye yesterday to Bea Gaddy, who rose from poverty to become a City Council member and a tireless advocate for the homeless.
As the choir sang "I'll Fly Away," people filed past Mrs. Gaddy's casket. A bouquet of roses and a photograph of her family rested on the open coffin. Members of the Baltimore Police Department, wearing dress uniforms, saluted her.
Mayor Martin O'Malley said Mrs. Gaddy and her role in Baltimore could never be replaced.
"Our city is less by her passing," Mr. O'Malley said. "But our entire city is more because of her living."
Of her brief political career, Mr. O'Malley said, "She sought political power so she could share it and give it away to the powerless."
Beatrice Frankie Fowler Brooks Gaddy was born in 1933 in Wake Forest, N.C., to a poor mother. When she was a child, her stepfather frequently threw Mrs. Gaddy and her brother out of the house. In 1952, Mrs. Gaddy moved to New York City, where she struggled to make ends meet and even lived on the streets.
But in 1964, she moved to Baltimore and began her remarkable rise, putting herself through nursing school at Catonsville Community College and Union Memorial Hospital. She earned a degree in 1977 from Antioch College.
Mrs. Gaddy held her first Thanksgiving dinner in 1981, feeding 39 persons. The event grew each year and peaked in 1993, when Mrs. Gaddy and about 2,000 volunteers served 20,000 people. The dinner became smaller after Mrs. Gaddy was elected to the City Council in 1999 as a Democrat representing East Baltimore. Last year, she served about 3,000 in a middle school cafeteria.
She died Oct. 3 from breast cancer. She was 68.
Mr. O'Malley, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, all Democrats, and Kweisi Mfume, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, spoke to the congregation.
Mr. Cummings was not scheduled to speak, but rose from the congregation and walked to the podium. "What she was able to do was to take her pain and her problems and transcend them and use that as her passport to help people," he said.
Mr. Mfume praised her individualism and dedication to helping the poor.
"Bea Gaddy answered to her own drummer," Mr. Mfume said. "She defied definition and made us think less about ourselves and more about other people."

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