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"There's No Place Like Bethesda:" Meinhardt Raabe's Legacy to Disabled Adults

Matthew Simmons
Getty Images
Original munchkins from "The Wizard of Oz," (L-R) Mickey Carroll, Myrna Swenson, Clarence Swenson, Meinhardt Raabe, Karl Slover and Margaret Pellegrini, arrive for a gala screening marking the movie classic's 50th anniversary in 2005.

At first blush, The Wizard of Oz and Bethesda Lutheran Communities wouldn’t seem to have much in common.  One is a beloved, classic movie; the other is an organization that supports developmentally disabled adults.  But what they do have in common is Meinhardt Raabe.

Raabe was the diminutive actor who – at the time of his death in 2010 – was the last surviving actor from the Wizard of Oz.  And like Bethesda, he was a native of Watertown, Wisconsin.  More recently, his estate donated a million dollars to Bethesda.  And in return, the organization is throwing a Meinhardt Raabe-themed celebration tomorrow.  Mike Thirtle is the President and CEO at Bethesda, and he told the story of the beloved actor and his legacy fighting against discrimination:

Mike Thirtle is President and CEO of Bethesda – a Watertown-based national organization that provides services and support for developmentally disabled adults.  It’s the organizer of the Meinhardt Raabe celebration scheduled for tomorrow evening at Camp Matz in Watertown.  Raabe, who played the Munchkin coroner in the Wizard of Oz, died in 2010 – his estate recently donated a million dollars to Bethsda.