Vermel M. Whalen
CLEVELAND, Ohio-Retired State Rep. Vermel M. Whalen, who served in the Ohio House of Representatives for 12 years and helped to make or break politicians in the powerful Cleveland Ward 1 on the city's majority Black east side, died at her home in the Lee- Harvard community on March 13 after a brief battle with cancer. She was 84.
Her funeral is at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 23, at Williams Temple Church of God and Christ in Cleveland, 6812 Woodland Ave.
A former Cleveland Clinic nurse, labor and consumer advocate, youth supporter and community adviser who belonged to various community organizations including the Cleveland Chapter NAACP and The Black Women's Political Action Committee, Whalen helped Cleveland Municipal Housing Court deputy bailiffs organize the only deputy bailiff's union in Northeast, Oh., and she was a fighter on issues dear to her.
But she was described also by those that loved and admired her as a gentle soul who put family and community first.
"I am personally saddened at the loss of Ms. Whalen," said state Rep. John Barnes Jr. (D-12), a Whalen protege who now holds the district 12 state legislative seat that Whalen held from 1986 to 1998 and that includes parts of the east side of Cleveland and Garfield Hts and Maple Hts. "She was a kind of moral conscience for our community who understood that politics in the right context could contribute significantly to serving the common needs of humanity."
Barnes Jr, whose father John Barnes Sr. is a former Ward 1 councilman who supported Whalen's appointment as a state representative in 1986 before legislative redistricting saw it remapped to district 12, said the former lawmaker was known as an unrelenting campaigner who always kept her eyes on the prize of achieving social and economic advancements for the Lee-Harvard neighborhood, other communities in her legislative district, and the state of Ohio.
Cleveland Director of Community Relations Board Blaine Griffin said that Whalen was a respected member of the community relations board in the 1960s.
A staunch and loyal Democrat, Whalen was a native of Portgageville, MO who came to Cleveland as an adult and started out as a community activist. As a state legislator she sponsored bills that forced car dealers to reveal to perspective buyers cars that were pieced together and sold from wreckage, and she also won passage of a state law that precluded store retailers from taking the principal amount for discontinued layaway items.
She fought against the misuse of foster children that saw them unnecessarily moved from foster home to foster home, and she demanded fair play for area Black contractors.
Whalen once served as vice president of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party and she was second vice president of the Black Elected Democrats of Ohio. She won numerous awards and accommodations including from the Ohio House and the United Black Fund of Cleveland.
Her daughter, Yolanda Bayless of Cleveland, said that her mother left an unselfish legacy of community leadership, and that she not only reared her great niece Juanita Brent, 28, but that her home was open to young people that needed a helping hand, and guidance and support.
"We will miss her," said Bayless.
Arrangements are by Brown- Forward Funeral Home, 17022 Chagrin Blvd in Shaker Hts, Oh., with an open viewing there from 11 am to 7 pm. on Friday, March 22.
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