When Gwinnett Mitchell Paden sees things that need to be done, she gets in there and gets it done. She says she was brought up that way.
"I have a certain obligation to contribute to society," she said.
Throughout her life, Paden, 88, has served in numerous community service organizations as well as worked in the newspaper industry and as a teacher. For her contributions in the community and for her service at large, Paden was chosen as an inductee for the Lodi Community Hall of Fame.
Other inductees this year include Marilyn Field, who served as recreation supervisor for the city of Lodi for 31 years, for her contribution to athletics; Keith Land, who served on the Lodi City Council and was mayor in 1999, for his contribution in government; the Phillips family, a six-generation farming family in Lodi, for their contribution to agriculture; and Janice Roth, who has been a longtime member of several community organizations, for her contribution to community service.
Paden said she has always had a passion for writing. She first began by taking dictation as a child for her mother. She continued in college, where she wrote for a magazine.
"I'm nosy," she said. "But I also like to know how things work."
Professionally, she was employed in several areas of the media; first, as a part-time reporter for the Lodi News-Sentinel and then for the Stockton Record.
One of her more interesting assignments was when she was able to go behind the scenes at Micke Grove Zoo and see how the animals are cared for, she said.
In between reporting positions, Paden programmed classical music for the radio station KCVR. Later, she served as the first community relations officer for San Joaquin Delta College.
In 1970, Paden earned a life secondary teaching credential from the University of the Pacific. She then taught English at Lodi High School from 1969 until her retirement in 1981. She also served as an adviser to the Lodi High Flame newspaper and for the school yearbook.
Her curiosity, coupled with her desire to pass information along, is what drove her to teach, she said. She enjoyed seeing kids take ahold of something and go with it. Her favorite part was serving in the advisory positions because it meant more intermingling with the children.
"I enjoyed seeing the kids create a product that we could be proud of," she said.
Over the years, Paden has served in numerous community groups. She was a charter member of the Lodi branch of the American Association of University Women and helped organize the Friends of the Lodi Library, where she also served as a board member for many years.
She served as past president of the Lodi Sister City Committee. One of the highlights of serving on that committee was attending the International Sister Cities Conference in Los Angeles, she said. The final banquet was held among the sets of a Hollywood studio.
Elvera Melby, who met Paden through Lodi Unified School District, describes her as a very likable woman who has many interests. Melby nominated her because she has given so much of her time and herself.
"She always gave her best," said Melby. "She always hoped to see some very positive results from her involvement."
After attending children's concerts at Carnegie Hall at the age of 8, Paden took an interest in the arts. She took piano lessons, and throughout her years in school she took music appreciation classes. She says it is important to have an understanding of music and art. She often encourages young people to take appreciation classes in college.
"I think an awareness of the lives and works great composers and artists can widen a narrow life and enrich ordinary lives," she said.
Her appreciation of the arts led her to serve in a wide range of the art organizations in the community. She co-founded the Lodi Arts Commission and served for four years as the charter chairman.
She was a member of the Stockton Symphony League as well as the Lodi League of the Stockton Symphony. For 10 years, she served on the board of the Stockton Chorale.
Carol Marvel, a longtime friend of Paden's, served on the first Lodi Arts Commission with Paden in 1982. She admires her stamina.
"She's unbeatable. No one can do things Gwin has done," she said.
Paden served as publicity or newsletter chairman for many organizations. They include the United Way of San Joaquin County, Lodi Safety Council, Lodi Chamber of Commerce and the Lodi Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.
Born and raised in Port Deposit, Md., she graduated from Sanford Preparatory School in Delaware in 1938, and then from the University of Delaware in 1942. She enlisted in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps and was discharged in 1946 as a first lieutenant. She and her first husband, the late John D. Mitchell, along with their four children, moved to Lodi in 1957.
Today, she serves in the Lodi Post 22 of the American Legion. She joined in 2007 and served as the publicity chairman. She is currently the chaplain. She is also a member of the Lodi Garden Club.
She continues to write a column for the Lodi News-Sentinel, where she writes about personal memories and local people and events. She says writing the column is a way of combining her two careers.
"My column, in a sense, is a way of teaching combined with news items," she said. "Enjoyment of the column lies in being able to pass information and thoughts along to others I think might enjoy them."
The Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Lodi Boys and Girls Club. Inductees will be honored at a dinner and program scheduled for Oct. 16 at the Boys and Girls Club headquarters, 275 Poplar St., near the corner of Stockton St. Tickets are $45 each and may be purchased by calling the club at 334-2697.