Across Gainesville, Mary Strasburger Cade’s impact is felt in a few large ways—like the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention and the Gainesville Community Foundation—but also in hundreds of little ways.
“Some of my earliest memories were just driving around town with her and she was going to visit people and drop things off and pick things up,” daughter Phoebe Miles recalled in a phone interview.
The youngest of six children, Miles rode around with her mother when her older siblings were in school. Cade helped at clothing drives and volunteered at what was called Sunland Training Center, now Tacachale, a center for people with developmental disabilities.
“Those are what I think she was mostly passionate about,” Miles said about her mother’s penchant for small acts of kindness.
Cade died on Sept. 1 from COVID-19 complications at age 92. Since then, Miles said, she’s received dozens and dozens of calls and stories about how Cade showed compassion in many ways.
At a memorial service on Sunday, family members spoke to Cade’s compassionate and honest character.
“I know that everyone probably thinks that their grandmother is the best grandmother in the world, but I think that having three granddaughters named after you is pretty good proof that mine was,” Mary Martha Cade, Cade’s granddaughter, said at the service.
Mary Martha said her grandmother extended the same attention and care to each of her grandchildren.
“I always say ‘Of the greatest generation, she was the greatest,’” Miles said.
Cade was born in Dallas on June 29, 1929, just before the stock market crash sparked The Great Depression. In her teens, she lived through World War II, during which her older brother, Allen, died in the battle of Iwo Jima.
She graduated from the University of Texas with a nursing degree and began work in Dallas, where she met her husband, James Robert Cade, while helping a patient with a damaged liver.
Cade endured her own physical issues that were not well known. She was born with one leg quite shorter than the other and a smaller foot, forcing her to have surgery at age 12 and spend a year in a wheelchair.
But Cade was determined to walk as long as she lived. Miles said doctors were often surprised she could walk after seeing X-rays of her leg.
“All of that just shaped her outlook on life, of being appreciative and filled with gratitude for what you do have,” Miles said.
That gratitude spilled over to others and predates any wealth Cade and her husband earned.
Miles illustrated with a story at Sunday’s memorial service from when the couple were newly married and living in Texas in the 1950s.
While out driving, they came across a boy who had run away from home but was trying to return. The couple did not have the cash to purchase enough gasoline to reach the boy’s destination, so they struck a deal with the gas station attendant, leaving their wedding rings as a safe deposit to return with the cash.
Miles describes her mother as the grounded parent, keeping her husband from flying off.
And while Robert was the inventor, famously creating Gatorade in 1965, Mary saved the invention twice.
She suggested adding lemon juice to make the concoction drinkable. Years earlier, Robert wanted to leave for India or Africa and be a missionary. While applying, Mary replied to a question asking why she wanted to be a missionary.
She answered, “I don’t.”
The response tanked the couple’s application and kept Robert in Gainesville long enough to invent Gatorade.
“But think about the timing,” Miles said at the memorial service. “Two years later, Dad invented Gatorade, which, by the way, helped way more in the third world and overseas because of the oral electrolyte treatment than he ever would have if he had been a medical missionary.”
Miles also noted how her mother noticed the background people. She would tell a waiter or staff member what an excellent job they did and that she had seen it.
Mary also saw herself as one of those background characters. Once the Cade Museum started in 2018, Miles tried to have her mother show up to events, but her mother seemed shocked to think anyone would care if she were there.
“She was sincere,” Miles said. “She really didn’t think that there was a reason they would be happy to see her.”
Mary is survived by her younger brother, John Strasburger, and her six children―Michael Cade, Martha Cade, Celia Cade, Stephen Cade, Emily Morrison and Miles.