Hilda Dyer’s Legacy at KCSL
For National Women’s History Month, we would like to share the story of Hilda Dyer, an amazing woman and advocate for children. While the belief that families are best for kids has always been paramount, our services have changed over the years to adjust to the culture and demands of our society. When Hilda started with KCSL in 1926, she worked in one of our Topeka receiving homes. The receiving home was a hub for adoptable children to receive care, healthcare, education, and be made ready for foster homes or adoption. During Hilda’s 39 years here, she extended herself far beyond her job as a bookkeeper and administrative assistant to an executive director. By interviewing families for parentless children and making follow-up visits to families who had adopted a child through KCSL, she came to embody many of our organization’s most enduring qualities.
Through her involvement with some 15,000 adoptions, she earned the right to refer to the adoptees as “my children.” The love and kindness Hilda showed children appeared in other noteworthy ways. In the early 1900s, some children arrived at our receiving homes in a perilous and malnourished condition. Sadly, 42 medically fragile children died in our care between 1912 and 1966. They were buried in Topeka’s Mount Hope Cemetery marked by simple, donated plots. Hilda volunteered to become a regular visitor to those children, bringing flowers and tending their graves.
“I felt like someone needed to remember these children,” she explained. “I wanted to make sure these babies were not forgotten.”
Hilda retired from KCSL in 1965 but still tended to “her children’s” burial plots. At the age of 95, Hilda contacted KCSL to request that someone continue looking after the children’s graves. She passed away in 2001 at the age of 101. She had asked to be laid to rest in Mount Hope Cemetery amidst “her children.” KCSL staff member Heather Moon has stepped forward to preserve Hilda’s memory—and that of her children— by tending their graves.
The Hilda Dyer Staff Achievement Award
KCSL continues to remember Hilda’s legacy by designating our staff achievement award in her honor. Each year, KCSL recognizes a staff member, current or former, who through their service has made an indelible mark on the agency. In 2014, Hilda was posthumously the honoree and KCSL officially renamed the Staff Achievement Award to be the Hilda Dyer Staff Achievement Award.
We’re thankful for Hilda’s passion and compassion throughout her lifetime. Hilda’s legacy lives on in our agency’s mission to protect and promote the well-being of children.