Adelaide Key set a stellar example for all

Aug 28, 2014

When Waynesville Alderman Wells Greeley said that Adelaide Daniels Key had taken philanthropy to a new level, he certainly hit the nail on the head.

Key’s contributions to worthy causes in Western North Carolina are legendary simply because of their scope.

Key was the granddaughter of Josephus Daniels, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She later grew the Raleigh News and Observer into a highly successful publishing company, and carefully selected how she dispensed her fortune.

Key chose causes that would be lasting, as well as ones that would be game-changers in the way issues facing the less fortunate would be addressed.

Key noted that as a child, she was branded as stupid because she couldn’t sit still. It was a misnomer applied not only to her but others who needed a different teaching style to learn. That’s why one of her passions was expanding opportunities for children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

She was one of the first individuals at Western Carolina University to fund an endowed professorship, which ensured a nationally renowned program in the field of special education could be formed. Additionally, she funded the Key Center for Community Citizenship and Service Learning at UNC Asheville and the Key School at Carolina Day School.

She was a Franklin resident when she faced her first bout with cancer. It gave her a newfound concern for loved ones who had to travel far to be by her bedside, but were faced with no suitable accommodations in Asheville.

The experience prompted her to work tirelessly to build the Lewis Rathbun Center, a 36-bedroom home that provides lodging and other supportive services in a home like environment for patients and/or their caregivers coming to Asheville.

The center was a stand-alone nonprofit entity from 1994 until a year ago when Key turned it over to Mission Hospitals.

In Haywood, Key owned Mountaineer Publishing, Inc., before selling it to her son, Jonathan, in 2000. Key’s crucial challenge grant to Folkmoot helped start the foundation that’s helped the organization weather several storms through the years. She also was a key player in helping the First United Methodist Church of Waynesville rebuild after a devastating fire.

Western Carolina University flew its college flag at half-mast on campus Thursday, the day Key was laid to rest. It was a fitting tribute.

To say many in Western North Carolina will miss Key is an understatement. But many can take solace in the legacy that will continue to make a profound difference in the lives of all.

We hope her generosity encourages others to give when they can and follow the wonderful example Key has set for all of us.