I grew up on Cleveland’s East Side in a middle class neighborhood. My mom and her girlfriends would play bridge at one of the homes on Talford Street while us kids played outdoors rode our bikes, played kickball in the street, caught lightning bugs or would gather in the basement to watch “The Twilight Zone” or “Ghoulardi.” On weekends our Dads would gather at Mr Pace’s house on Talford Street to watch sports and barbecue. Often my family would join the families of Talford Street on trips to the West Side Euclid Beach Amusement Park or , Punderson State Park Lodge in the winter and the Jersey Shore in the summer.
The families central hangout on Talford Street was the home of Louis and Gloria Chapmon . I came to know the couple as Mr. Chapmon and Aunt Gloria. Later “Gloria” would become a lifelong mentor when she hired me for my first job at age 11. Eventually the lure of the suburbs resulted in my parent’s friends moving from Talford Street. Still come Christmas at least we would all gather at the Chapmons in the Cleveland suburb of Bedford, Ohio. Aunt Gloria, a native of Bermuda, was always a glamorous host and great story-teller. Part of her accent remained.
Aunt Gloria was a school official for the City of Cleveland for much of her career and a was a Legacy Life member of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) . She was also close associate of Dr. Dorothy Height . In fact Dr. Height attended her son’s funeral and her daughter’s wedding. We all attended the many luncheons and weekend activities for the many organizations that Aunt Gloria belonged – even on weekends during my college days when I would visit home, my mom and I would go to one of “Gloria’s luncheons.” In fact Aunt Gloria would come to Washington, D.C. and take me to events sponsored by NCNW.
She was also member of the sorority Eti Phi Beta Sorority where she served as national president. She was also honored with several awards from numerous organizations and individuals including Congressman Louis Stokes (D-Ohio), NCNW and the NAACP.
Growing up in Bermuda she was a playmate to then Princess Elizabeth. No surprise the Queen held audience with her former chum a couple of times . Aunt Gloria also traveled with Leon Sullivan’s African Summit with her daughter to Gabon, Morocco, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Hers was a life well lived for herself and for others. She also met with Nelson Mandela at the South African Presidential Palace.
We all need people who can see in us something that others don’t see or can’t seem to grasp. For me it was my “Aunt Gloria” who while not a blood relative was every bit as important in helping to shape the fabric of the woman I am today and the woman I hope to become. She passed two weeks ago but I still see her smile and hear her laugh.