UPDATE: 2/4/12 @ 8:15 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A hero who broke barriers and a pioneer in mental health was honored Saturday at a Charleston church.
Dr. Mildred Mitchell-Bateman, 89, was a woman who defied the odds and was remembered for her contributions to mental health spanning six decades.
"She was like a horse with blinders on running across the finish line," daughter Danielle Shanklin said. "She didn't look to the left or to the right, she saw that finish line and stayed focused -- and went for it."
An African-American woman who earned respect and overcame adversity with what family members say was an attitude to treat others with dignity.
"She told me that she used her stumbling stones as stepping stones," Shanklin said. "So roadblocks were stepping stones."
Hundreds gathered at Bream Presbyterian Church to remember her life that many say she devoted to others.
"My mother was my angel, my hero, my role model, my best friend," Shanklin said. "She taught me so much."
She worked not only with the mentally ill, but for them.
"She made them feel like they were people, like they were individuals," daughter Donna Taylor said. "And they had a heart, a soul and someone that cared about them just like they were her children."
An advocate who left her mark as the first African-American woman to lead a state agency, the Department of Mental Health.
In 1999, the former Huntington State Hospital became the Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital. Today, her legacy lives on.
"You can just go forth, go around, go through -- whatever it takes to make it, that would be the thing I would want people to remember about mother," Shanklin said. "Because that's certainly what she did."
Mildred Mitchell-Bateman is also the role model to hundreds of women across the country who are part of the AKA sorority. Many of them were at the service and call her a trailblazer and advocate.
Dr. Mildred Mitchell-Bateman passed away on January 25 from a short-term illness.
Nominated as a Local Legend by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2), Mitchell-Bateman's awards include special recognition from the National Medical Association Section on Psychiatry and Neurology (1974), the 1995 E.Y. Williams Distinguished Clinical Scholar's Award, and the 1996 Wyeth-Ayerst Physician Award for community work. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter selected her to serve on his commission on Mental Health.
She is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Psychiatric Association (2000), and the Governor's Award for Civil Rights Contributions (2004).
There is a memorial service scheduled for Feb. 4 at 2 p.m. at Bream Presbyterian Church.
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