Lindalyn Bennett Adams got her first job when she was 70 years old. (Photo by danny fulgencio)

Lindalyn Bennett Adams got her first job when she was 70 years old. (Photo by danny fulgencio)

Working girl

While most have planned their retirement by 70, Preston Hollow resident Lindalyn Bennett Adams was just getting started when she reached her seventh decade in March 2001.

She began working for a paycheck for the first time, as a senior officer with the Baylor Health Care System Foundation. This was not Adams’s first experience at Baylor — she was one of the original members of the foundation’s board of directors in 1978. When Boone Powell Sr., CEO at the time, asked her to join the board, she tried to tell him she was too busy. He simply said, “I’ll see you Thursday.”

As a volunteer board member, Adams was part of a small group that started the Celebrating Women luncheon in 2000 to help in the fight against breast cancer. Her husband, Reuben Adams M.D., long-time chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor University Medical Center, passed away a month before that very first luncheon on September 10, 2000 — their 51st wedding anniversary.

Sitting at that luncheon, Adams remembered her own breast cancer experience in 1982, and she thought to herself, “I think I will always be a part of this.” And, a part of the yearly luncheon she became; the first year as a volunteer, and then as a staff member from that point on. She says, “Working with this luncheon came natural to me.”

The foundation recognized what they had in Adams when they first approached her to become part of their staff in 2001. With her extensive background working with civic organizations, her experiences enabled her to find celebrity speakers and qualified people to chair the luncheon, which is the key to its success.

“It makes a difference to find a chairperson who is capable and has a feeling for how breast cancer should be conquered and finding someone who knows how to raise money,”  Adams says. Since the inception of the Celebrating Women luncheon, which Adams still helps coordinate, the effort has raised more than $28 million for research, community outreach and expanded technology.

Rowland K. Robinson, president of the Baylor Health Care System Foundation says, “Lindalyn is a grande dame. She’s beloved by hundreds of people in Dallas, and is a role model. She has a lot of grit, quite a backbone, and is a very determined lady. She’s a class act.”

The first time Adams received a paycheck she asked, “Are you sure?” She’s always felt like a volunteer.

Adams is no stranger to working hard, having been president of at least 12 different civic organizations and on more than 20 boards the past 40-plus years. She became the first female president of the Dallas Historical Society in its 60th year in 1981. She was the fourth president of Old City Park and chairman of the Dallas County Historical Commission. As part of her tenure there, she was the founder of The Sixth Floor Museum, located in the Texas School Book Depository (now called the Dallas County Administration Building), which chronicles the history of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. With help from personnel at the National Endowment for the Humanities, she assembled a group of architects, historians and security experts to create this major historical exhibition.

Adams has received much recognition for her career, including the Linz Award, one of Dallas’s most prestigious honors, which is bestowed upon a Dallas County resident once per year for civic service or humanitarian efforts.  She has even been honored by Southern Methodist University, where she attended college and met her husband, receiving the SMU Distinguished Alumni Award in 1982, despite never having graduated.

They married in 1949 and immediately moved to Durham, N.C., where he attended Duke University School of Medicine. Returning to Dallas in 1953, they built a house on Azalea Lane in Preston Hollow, which was north from where she grew up on Surrey Circle, (off Inwood close to Northwest Highway), where she attended Highland Park schools. She now lives behind the “pink wall” (which hasn’t been pink since 2001) and she loves the convenience of living in this neighborhood.

She has words of advice for those stay-at-home moms who work for years taking care of their children and husbands and who may now face empty-nesting. “Find something you love, enjoy and believe in. Find an organization that needs help and use your skills and leadership abilities,” she says.

Adams  is still at work as she approaches her 87th birthday on July 4.

“I’ve always worked, but I didn’t call it work,” she says.

Adams considers her greatest accomplishments to be her three sons, Richard, Charlie and William, her 10 grandchildren, and her four great grandchildren.

“My whole family is a blessing, and our faith is firmly in place,” she says.

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.