The founder of Confidence Learning Center, Dick Endres, died Aug. 13 at the age of 84, and friends and colleagues reflected on his career of consistency, compassion and confidence.
The Brainerd man spent his career working with people with developmental disabilities, transitioning from a job at the Brainerd State Hospital to the establishment of a private, nonprofit corporation that bought 140 acres of land on Sylvan Lake. As the camp’s director Endres expressed pride that for its first 25 years it was the only year-round, free recreational camp for persons with developmental disabilities. In later years a small fee was charged for campers.
Endres took pride in his reputation as “the great scrounger” who promoted citizen involvement and fundraisers for the camp. His celebrity golf tournament attracted many Minnesota sports celebrities to the area to support the camp. He received the Crow Wing County Human Rights Award in 2009 and Brainerd’s Citizen of the Year Award in 1991.
In an interview shortly before his death, Endres said he began his career in an era where the philosophy toward state patients with development disabilities was to “keep them fed and keep them quiet.” From the outset, Endres incorporated songs, games and recreational pursuits — particularly outdoors activities — into their treatment.
Endres was a U.S. Army veteran, based in Fairbanks, Alaska, during the Korean War. He earned his bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and later his master’s degree in therapeutic recreation from the University of Minnesota.
When his wife of 58 years, Jeanne, died July 22, Endres said her passing and his desire to be “up there with her” led to his decision to end what had been five years of dialysis for his failing kidneys.