Since voting for Franklin Delano Roosevelt for his third term as president, Alice Bloedoorn hadn’t, to her family’s knowledge, missed a single election until the 2014 midterms.
Bloedoorn, born in rural Kentucky in 1920, was raised by civic-minded parents who instilled the importance of education and political activism in their seven children. Despite being born into slavery, her father became a pillar in the black community after learning to read and write.
So the freedom to vote for all races embodied in the 15th Amendment meant a great deal to Bloedoorn. And she expected to exercise it.
When a family member forgot to drive her to the polls for the midterms, she was devastated. “That’s not a trivial thing for my mom,” said her son Seph Bloedoorn.
But her contributions weren’t limited to the voting booth.
Bloedoorn, who as a young adult decoded radio messages for the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, riveted F-84 jets for the Korean War and spent 40 years as a pioneer in pre-K education, died on Mother’s Day. She was 95.
Bloedoorn received her teaching certification from Hunter College in 1963, a time when few women — let alone black women — were pursuing higher education. But she didn’t have to sell the idea to her parents, because it was an expectation.
“There was never a question of whether you were going to college. The question was, What college are you going to?” said Seph Bloedoorn, adding that both of Alice’s sons and a granddaughter graduated from Harvard, while her daughter attended Wellesley.
As a teacher’s daughter, Bloedoorn also passed along a deep passion for learning. She served on legislative committees for early education and became an advocate for beginning schooling younger.
“I think she intuitively understood children in a way that I don’t know is even possible to teach. She was just a natural,” said granddaughter Amanda Granger, a third-generation educator.
“She was infinitely patient, but she did have very high expectations for people. In education they call it ‘being warm, but strict.’ And I think she nailed that before it was defined as an education strategy.”
Bloedoorn served on zoning and community boards, volunteering as an election judge and becoming the self-appointed head of the neighborhood watch in St. Paul’s Summit-University neighborhood.
Although she was never a person of means, she remained a consistent political donor throughout her life. Bloedoorn would write hundreds of small checks for causes she deemed worthy.
“If you were in the DFL … you could count on my mom for a check,” Seph Bloedoorn said. “If you had a good civil rights record, she would know that and support you.”
In her spare time, Bloedoorn loved to travel, go to the theater and play cards. She was one of the original members of a ladies’ pinochle club that started around 1950, said friend Sherrie Mazingo, who played in the club with Bloedoorn for about a decade.
Mazingo was unaware of Bloedoorn’s numerous accomplishments because she never discussed them.
“One of her many sterling qualities had to be modesty, because I’m just astounded that we didn’t know the background [of her war efforts],” she said.
Family members say Bloedoorn always preferred to hear about others and make them laugh.
“She was well-respected by everyone she met at every level of society,” Granger said.
Besides Seph Bloedoorn, she is survived by her two other children, Lucy Pamela and Peter; two granddaughters and many nieces, nephews and friends. Services were held Saturday.