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She was 15 when her father was beaten to death. Now, making a difference is her new normal

Father's violent death impacted Cedar Rapids woman's life choices

Mental health therapist and Horizons Survivors volunteer Lindsay Meade poses Wednesday with her 14-month-old black Labrador and golden retriever mix, Mollie, at the Grace C. Mae Advocate Center in southwest Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Mental health therapist and Horizons Survivors volunteer Lindsay Meade poses Wednesday with her 14-month-old black Labrador and golden retriever mix, Mollie, at the Grace C. Mae Advocate Center in southwest Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Lindsay Meade lost her father, Daniel Meade, when she was 15, which was difficult enough. But she also had to wrap her mind around the fact the man who beat her father to death in December 2008 wasn’t a stranger.

“In my mind, it was hard to think this man was probably someone my dad trusted,” said Meade, 26, of Cedar Rapids. “Or that’s what I thought. I don’t know if that was true.”

She was only a teenager when Kim Polley, now 52, of Marion, hit her father an unknown number of times during an altercation.

Daniel Meade, 50, of Hiawatha, died of blunt-force injuries after 1 a.m. Dec. 15, 2008. Polley, first charged with second-degree murder, eventually pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

During sentencing in 2010, prosecutors concluded Polley didn’t intend to kill the man he called a “close friend.”

After her dad’s death, Meade’s teen life was far from the norm of worrying about prom dresses and who to date, she said.

Meade found it difficult to talk to her friends because they hadn’t experienced anything like this. She also couldn’t talk to her mother, who was divorced from her dad and affected differently by his death, because they were going through the typical teen-vs.-parent issues. Meade felt isolated.

Outside help

Meeting the advocates with Horizons Survivors Program, which supports victims of violent crimes, helped her know she wasn’t alone.

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“They (advocates) were there from the beginning, all through the court process and after,” Meade said. “I remember (former director) B.J. Franklin showing up at 5 a.m. after we got home from the hospital.”

She joined the monthly Survivors’ support group. It allowed her a safe place to share her feelings with other survivors of trauma.

“You become close to them because they know things about you nobody else does and they understand it,” Meade said.

Paying it forward

She became a volunteer with the program about six years ago while in college to give back and let others know, in time, that healing is possible. Meade said she knows how difficult it is to “deal with everything being different and not normal.”

“What will holidays without him look like now, I thought,” Meade said. “I would go back and forth (between divorced parents) but then there was nowhere for me to go one day a week and every other weekend. That was hard.”

“Lindsay is very dedicated and creative,” former Survivors director Franklin said. “She took over responsibility for the PowerPoint we used at the crime victims’ vigil every year and always makes sure new victims are included as new survivors.”

Meade also served as a member of the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Committee and made sure all survivors of homicide families received flowers in honor of their lost loved one at the April ceremony, said Elizabeth Lucas, community-based programs manager with Horizons. Meade was an “invaluable” part of that.

Choosing career path

Losing her father also influenced Meade’s career choice of becoming a mental health therapist with the Grace C. Mae Advocate Center in Cedar Rapids. After graduating from high school, she attended Coe College without a specific major.

She knew she wanted to help people. Meade briefly thought about law, after being involved with the court process for two years until Polley was sentenced in her dad’s death.

Ultimately, the plea agreement was easier to accept because she had Survivors’ advocates to explain every step of the process.

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“It was hard because you clearly know what happened, so you feel it’s cut and dry, but that’s not how it works,” Meade said. “You wait for the date of trial and then it’s pushed back, but at least there’s a date, so it’s moving forward.”

Meade said it was beneficial to be part of the Survivors’ support group because others in the group shared their experiences going through a trial. She came to realize it didn’t always result in an outcome the victim’s family wanted.

“We do a lot of venting and crying,” Meade said. “But the focus is on the loved ones and not the offenders.”

She decided against law, instead pursuing a career where she thought she could make more of a difference: mental health. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and business administration from Coe in 2015. She then obtained a master’s degree in social work from the University of Iowa in 2017.

“I just wanted to help people in the way they helped me,” Meade said.

What’s next?

Meade is in the process of being certified as a handler for a therapy dog. Her therapy-dog-in-training, Mollie, is with her every day in the office.

Meade said the 14-month-old black lab/golden retriever mix still is a puppy but can “read emotions” well. Meade does animal-assisted play therapy with Mollie for children who have emotional problems.

She acknowledged she still struggles with her father’s death, especially at the anniversary and around some holidays because of their close relationship.

She noted that she followed in his footsteps by attending Coe College, where he still holds the record for the outdoor high jump.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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