Fulton social work pioneer dies at 89

Jane Bierdeman-Fike worked 38 years at Fulton State Hospital

Jane Bierdeman-Fike, 89, of Fulton, an award-winning national social services leader, died Tuesday at Boone Hospital Center in Columbia after a lingering illness.

Jane Bierdeman-Fike, 89, of Fulton, an award-winning national social services leader, died Tuesday at Boone Hospital Center in Columbia after a lingering illness.

Jane Bierdeman-Fike, 89, of Fulton, an award-winning national social services leader, died Tuesday at Boone Hospital Center in Columbia after a lingering illness.

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Jane Bierdeman-Fike

A memorial service for Bierdeman-Fike will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Alermanbury on the campus of Westminster College in Fulton. A reception will follow the service.

In 1997 the National Association of Social Workers Foundation honored Bierdeman-Fike as a Social Work Pioneer, which was presented by National President Gary Bailey.

She was honored for a 60-year social work career that included 45 years as a psychiatric social worker with the Missouri Department of Mental Health from 1955 until her retirement in 2000 from Fulton State Hospital.

The National Association of Social Workers honors its Missouri chapters with an award known as the Jane Bierdeman-Fike Lifetime Achievement Award. She was a charter member of the national association.

To honor her 38 years as the director of psychiatric social work at Fulton State Hospital, the facility named its staff development center the Jane Biederman-Fike Building.

“I would do anything for Jane. She hired me 32 years ago,” said Marty Martin-Forman, chief operating officer of Fulton State Hospital.

Martin-Forman is scheduled to speak during the memorial service Saturday.

Martin-Forman said a few years ago she conducted an extensive interview with Bierdeman-Fike and learned her grandparents in St. Louis can be credited with fostering her interest in Democratic Party politics and perhaps even mental health. Her grandfather painted many of the original buildings for St. Louis State Hospital. He organized the first painters union in St. Louis. Jane’s grandmother was a suffragette. She and her sister were active in the women’s movement until women got the vote in 1918.

University School of Social Service, obtaining a Master of Science in Social Work from the university.

When she received the National Association of Social Workers Lifetime Achievement Award, Bierdeman-Fike said: “Throughout my early career, I enjoyed working directly with patients. However, I found out that I could make a greater impact on the treatment of mental illness by teaching other social workers how to be helping professionals. As an administrator, I tried to develop policies and programs that enabled treatment staff to devote their efforts to the most rewarding aspect of our jobs, spending time with patients and persons significant to them.”

In 1955, Bierdeman-Fike went to work as a psychiatric social worker St. Louis State Hospital.

She later agreed to take a job to reorganize the Fulton State Hospital on a temporary basis. As it turned out, she spent 38 years there. When she arrived at Fulton State Hospital, there were 130 patients per worker.

In the 1970s, Bierdeman-Fike met Don Fike in Fulton and they were married in 1978. He died 11 years later.

“I’ve known her since she moved to town,” Pat O’Rourke said while attending Kingdom Supper Tuesday night. “I was the Welcome-Wagon hostess, so I was one of the first people she met, and we’ve been friends ever since.”

The two played golf together for many years. O’Rourke said she would probably miss “golfing together” the most. “Just the fact that she’s not here.”

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