The headline on the news story of Elaine Chesley’s May 26 death described her as a fluoridation foe and while she certainly was an opponent of that controversial chemical, she was much more than that.
Chesley was an activist before that term was popular. A woman of strong convictions, she took action when she sensed the sting of injustice or the over-reaching power of government. And though she held to her principles fiercely Chesley was never mean-spirited or uncivil. She wrote thank-you letters and notes of appreciation often, even to people who sometimes opposed her opinions.
In Brainerd’s long fight against mandatory fluoridation she let the more strident Irene Johnson be the primary spokesperson but Chesley bolstered the positions of Minnesotans Opposed to Forced Fluoridation with well-researched arguments and resolve.
Her activities provided a glimpse of her wide-ranging interests. She was co-chair of the Save Brainerd City Hall campaign, a member of the Brainerd Charter Commission, the Brainerd Community Action Council, Women Against Military Madness, the Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace. She also can be credited with saving the picturesque, grassy boulevards along Eighth Street in north Brainerd. The city officials, who many years ago wanted to remove them, hadn’t counted on the stern resistance of a principled woman who lived on that street.