A Methodist mother-in-law for the ages


Key points

  • Dede Weldon Casad died July 23 at age 94.
  • A longtime United Methodist clergy spouse, she described her life as “forever beginning,” and earned her Ph.D. at age 73.
  • At 87, she founded a senior adult ministry at her Dallas church.

Mary Brooke Casad. Photo courtesy of Mary Brooke Casad. 

Mary Brooke Casad.
Photo courtesy of Mary Brooke Casad.


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I often said it was a wonder we got along as well as we did since we were both in love with the same man; she, the adoring mother of her first-born son; me, his adoring wife of almost 46 years. But we were best of friends, fellow clergy spouses and writers.

Dede Weldon Casad, my husband Vic’s mother, died July 23 at the age of 94. A vivacious spirit, she was brimming with ideas and possibilities, many of which she accomplished herself, others that she shared with those to whom she was a mentor and encourager.

A few years after Vic and I married, Dede shared one of her ideas with me. Knowing my love of children’s books, she suggested I create an armadillo character and a series of books featuring the armadillo’s travels to Texas historical sites. She even suggested I name the armadillo Bluebonnet for the Texas state flower.

When my first manuscript was complete, Dede served as an agent of sorts by taking it to a Texas publisher. Thus, she helped launch what became the Bluebonnet Armadillo Adventure series featuring 10 books about Texas sites. The books now have second-generation readers and are found in school and public libraries throughout Texas.

Dede’s idea turned into one of the greatest joys of my life. And it continues: An eleventh book in the series is slated to be published later this year.

But Dede did not lack for writing projects of her own. Over the years, she wrote biographies of famous Texans, children’s books, inspirational and motivational books and historical fiction. She wrote two doctoral dissertations; when the first was not accepted, she refused to be deterred, and wrote another, receiving her doctorate at age 73.

“I was determined to get a Ph.D. because (Methodist scholar) Albert Outler said I didn’t have the mind for it,” she wrote in her memoirs. “He was right. I don’t have the mind for it, but I did it anyway. I don’t have a Ph.D. mind; I have a Ph.D. determination.”

That same determination also awarded her with a license to preach when she was 16, a rare feat for a young woman of her era in her hometown of Henderson, Texas. Having joined the Methodist church at age 13, a trip to Mount Sequoyah church camp in Fayetteville, Arkansas, “solidified my commitment to ministry. I always felt that the Lord sought me at an early age and never left me.”

Dede W. Casad, Mary Brooke Casad’s mother-in-law, led an inspiring life of faith. Photo courtesy of Mary Brooke Casad. 

Dede W. Casad, Mary Brooke Casad’s mother-in-law, led an inspiring life of faith. Photo courtesy of Mary Brooke Casad.

While attending Southern Methodist University, she met a seminary student, Gordon Casad. They married in 1949 and served churches and districts in the North Texas Conference until his death in 1989. During that time, after their three children were grown, she continued her schooling, choosing to write her masters’ thesis on the role of the preacher’s wife, a role she experienced first-hand.

Dede’s life and career would take a varied course. She started three businesses, served on corporate, civic and church boards, and made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Congress. She was a two-time cancer survivor. She also survived the largest condominium fire in Dallas history, losing all her material possessions. She had a long widowhood but at age 81 married Lt. Col. Charles “Chuck” Walker — on his 91st birthday. They enjoyed five years together, traveling the world, before his death in 2014.

Dede often said her life was a series of beginnings. She called this “forever beginning.” One morning, at age 87, she was sitting at her breakfast table when, “I suddenly knew what God wanted me to do.” She got in the car and drove to University Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, found the pastor and said, “I want to start a senior adult ministry.” It was a new beginning for Dede and for University Park UMC.

One member of the church told her, “I have been praying for something like this at our church!” Within two years, the church began hosting “Equip” conferences with dozens of attendees from across the country coming to learn and exchange ideas for vital senior adult ministries.

Among the more popular offerings of the church’s senior adult ministry is the “School of Essential Wisdom.” This weekly program offers guest speakers on a variety of topics.

In the final weeks of her life, Dede was working on a presentation for this program. She noted that much emphasis was put on leaving a legal will regarding one’s financial assets, but what about a values will, a wisdom will and a spiritual will that are important to bequeath to those we love? How grateful we are to have these as her final written words.

But her entire life story is indeed a valuable legacy to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Although we mourn her passing, we give thanks for her long, well-lived life, her rich legacy of love and faithful service, and are confident that she is “forever beginning” again in God’s eternal home. Thanks be to God for the life and witness of Dede W. Casad.

Mary Brooke Casad is a former top executive of The United Methodist Church’s Connectional Table, among several roles in the denomination. She’s also an author of children’s books and other books. Check out her website here.

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