A Legacy of Recovery

Hazelden’s connection with White Bear Lake area runs deep and strong.
A special thank you to Dellwood Country Club for letting us photograph Kevin Chandler in their beautiful space.

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, one of the world’s foremost addiction treatment providers, began in Center City, Minn., and is still headquartered there. But for decades, it’s also been deeply connected to the White Bear Lake area, whose residents provided early and ongoing financial support, valuable volunteerism and expertise.

History in the White Bear Lake Area

After Hazelden incorporated in 1949, its first patient was a Dellwood resident, Lawrence Butler. His brother, Patrick Butler, became the first president of Hazelden.

“Hazelden’s ties to the White Bear Lake area are incredibly deep,” says former state Sen. Fritz Knaak, a White Bear native. The origins of that relationship date back decades, to when “old St. Paul money summered in White Bear Lake; there are tons of old stories about that. Some of those St. Paul/White Bear Lake people were founding members of what became Hazelden, on the old farm in Center City.”

The “old money” included $50,000 provided by the St. Paul-based Coyle Foundation to buy the Power family farm in Center City, which became Hazelden’s campus.

Also among Hazelden’s early supporters were White Bear Lake philanthropist Judith Bowe Pew and her husband, Arthur Pew. According to Judith Pew’s 2015 obituary, she was a 37-year “friend of Bill W.” (Alcoholics Anonymous member and an advocate for teen sobriety).

For the past 25 years, Knaak has volunteered his time speaking to fellow attorneys from all over the U.S. who are in the early stages of recovery at Hazelden. “Lawyers are notoriously difficult to treat,” says Knaak, who served in the Minnesota Legislature from 1982 to 1992. (His mother was also a state senator representing White Bear Lake years earlier.)

Dia Linn and Dellwood

The current site of the Dellwood Country Club was once the location of Hazelden’s Dia Linn, one of the first residential treatment programs for women, which opened in 1956 and became the model for Hazelden’s overall approach to treatment. Hazelden purchased the 300-acre estate of W.O. Washington, a St. Paul industrialist. The sprawling grounds included a mansion with a welcoming, home-like setting featuring a rose garden, cozy furnishings and a fireplace; there were also three other cottages on the property. Hazelden president Patrick Butler christened the farm Dia Linn, which is Gaelic for “God be with us.” Dia Linn housed female patients until 1965 when it was relocated to Hazelden’s Center City campus.

Kevin Chandler and His Ties to Hazelden

Hazelden staff member and former state Sen. Kevin Chandler is a White Bear native and still lives in the house he grew up in on Bald Eagle Lake. Chandler, a licensed attorney, recovering alcoholic and board-certified alcohol and drug counselor, works with professionals who face unique challenges as a result of their public profiles or reputations, work-related stress and a high investment in education and credentialing.

Chandler, who served in the Minnesota Senate from 1993 through 1997, is also the author of The Lawyer’s Light, a book of daily meditations for attorneys published by the American Bar Association. The book features inspirational quotes from a wide spectrum, ranging from Andrea Bocelli and John Cleese to Aeschylus and Aristotle. Chandler also serves on the board of directors of Minnesota Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, which provides assistance to lawyers, judges, law students, and their immediate families.

Chandler notes that while some Minnesotans may take for granted the state’s “culture of recovery,” he’s learned from talking to lawyers who live elsewhere that “it still isn’t that way in a lot of other places. You get support here, but there are a lot of places where they still hide” addiction.

Paying It Forward

Before joining the Hazelden staff, Chandler began doing volunteer work, meeting with lawyers who were patients at Hazelden, to help them prepare for practicing law while in recovery. “It’s incredibly meaningful work,” he says, noting that lawyers have a risk of substance-abuse disorders that is more than twice the national average. That is partly due to how lawyers are trained to “never show vulnerability. Lawyers are often reluctant to ask for help because of that strong sense of needing to maintain a tough exterior. Then, when they walk into recovery they have to learn to ‘live and let live’ and depend on the help of a higher power.”

“The legal profession has a long tradition of heavy alcohol use entertaining clients, and it is incredibly stressful, with long hours—a type of work that lends itself to addiction,” says Chandler, who has been an attorney for about 30 years. “Traditionally, alcoholism was something the legal community didn’t want to talk about; [addicted] lawyers’ mistakes were covered up, excuses were made for them and there wasn’t much discussion about the problem. But now we have lawyers’ assistance programs in every state in the nation, as a resource for lawyers who are having addiction or mental health issues to get help.”

Chandler says one of Hazelden’s strengths as an organization, is “an incredible layer of alumni support. People all over the world are aware of Hazelden. It’s a very tightly knit group that helps people get and stay sober, through AA and the 12 steps.”

Another positive effect of Hazelden is the fact that the secrecy and shame that often surrounds the disease of addiction is starting to melt away, Chandler notes. “Ask anyone on the street and they may have a friend or family member who is in recovery. Part of the key to people getting the help they need is being able to talk about this in an open and encouraging way. We are making headway, but we still have a long way to go.”

Gay Parker and Cathy Weyerhaeuser

Another longtime Hazelden supporter from White Bear is Gay Parker, who served on the board of trustees for nine years. For the past 35 years, she has also helped many friends and acquaintances get into treatment at Hazelden, and has provided ongoing support. She’s also been involved in fundraising for the treatment center. “I’ve gotten enormous satisfaction from doing that; I love to help people,” says Parker, who runs her own interior design and contracting firm.

White Bear Lake resident Cathy Weyerhaeuser chaired Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s three-year $10 million capital campaign that ended in September. The campaign is financing the expansion of Hazelden’s campus at 680 Stewart Ave. in St. Paul. The Weyerhaeuser family was one of many helped by Hazelden. She also knows an amazing number of recovering people who came to Minnesota for treatment, “and have stayed here in recovery.”

And that connection is still going strong: Mark Mishek, who has been Hazelden Betty Ford’s president and CEO since 2008, is a native of Dellwood.

For a comprehensive timeline of Hazelden, head to the website here.