Born in South Dakota as the daughter of a pharmacy proprietor, Helen Daniels brought a strong work ethic when she headed east to attend Milwaukee’s Downer College. Not long after graduation, she met and married Alfred Bader. Together, they raised two sons while working to build the Aldrich Chemical Company into one of Wisconsin’s most successful entrepreneurial efforts of the 20th Century.
After a divorce, Helen was determined to set out on a new life path. She took up violin lessons at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and she committed herself to completing a Master’s in Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. During her studies, her field work with Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee brought her up close to the crises of families and individuals facing mental illness, poverty, and homelessness.
Helen’s first social work position affected her deeply. Her role at the Milwaukee Jewish Home demonstrated the everyday challenges of older residents living with dementia. Although Alzheimer’s disease was more of a mystery at the time, Helen sought to bring joy into the residents’ lives through dance and music, believing that creativity had the power to strike a chord deep within all of us.
Following her death in 1989, Helen’s dreams for enhancing the lives of individuals were soon realized by the creation of the Helen Bader Foundation. For more than two decades, the Foundation worked to link and support partners that strengthen families across Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Israel, and occasionally in places beyond.
Today, the Helen Daniels Bader Fund continues that legacy, supporting innovative programs that enhance lives for older adults, particularly those with Alzheimer’s disease. The Fund also supports access to creative arts in Milwaukee, especially for underserved audiences. Helen’s wish was to ensure that everyone can reach his or her fullest potential, and the Fund aims to connect those who work tirelessly to make it happen.