In Memory: Gloria Aron


In memory of Gloria Aron: December 28, 1945 -January 31, 2023

In the words of Gloria Aron:

            “Desegregation changed my life forever.  I became a community activist.  But even more important was when parents, black and white came together.  We not only learned how to work together for change but many of us developed life-long friendships. What is most important to me is how my kids and how their children develop their friendships.
            Friendships based on shared interests and liking each other not because of someone’s color or ethnic background.  They respect differences…” Gloria Aron, parent and community activist.                                                       

   Gloria Aron, lifelong resident of the Near West Side of Cleveland, believed strongly in the power of neighborhood people getting together, identifying issues, and finding solutions. Throughout her adult life Gloria Aron was involved in issue-oriented grass roots community organizing.

   Aron understood the essence of how to go about changing unjust systems. In a memoir she wrote for the Women’s History Project, she said, “Change only comes when we all work together, each bringing their skills and all of us learning and working together to make the systems work. It does not matter whether it is about education, a problem in your neighborhood, or big issues like health care. The steps to successful change are the same.”

   Aron was involved in a good number of efforts to make life better for Clevelanders. Her efforts were especially aimed at helping low-income residents of the city.

   When the Cleveland Public Schools were facing a desegregation order in 1979, and Gloria’s daughter Chris was about to learn whether or not she would be going to Audubon Junior High in the Buckeye Woodland neighborhood, Aron said some staff members from the West Side Community House came to the Parent Teachers Association meeting at her daughter’s school to invite parents to tour Audubon. Gloria went on the tour and together parents from both schools identified 16 problems that needed addressing at Audubon. Gloria said she timidly raised her hand to volunteer to speak to the Cleveland School Board about their issues. The parents also went to the grassroots community group the Buckeye Woodland Community Congress to seek help with their cause. Aron said 13 of the 16 problems they brought to the Board of Education were fixed. This included a broken bathroom that had previously resulted in boys and girls sharing a bathroom with a hall monitor directing who could go in.

   Aron’s involvement in educational issues continued with participation in efforts by Cleveland settlement houses and a group called WELCOME (Westsiders, Eastsiders Let’s Come Together) working for peaceful desegregation. She joined with other parents through the West Side Ecumenical Ministry to help create a handbook to help guide parents in helping their children with their homework. Aron became a founding member of the Cleveland School Budget Coalition – a citywide group involved in identifying how to better direct school funding to make an impact on classroom learning.

Aron was one of the parent representatives on the Advisory Commission to the Office on School Monitoring and Community Relations which oversaw the desegregation order administered by United States District Court Judge Frank Battisti. Aron believed that the desegregation order if completely implemented would make good things happen for under resourced schools in low-income neighborhood throughout the City of Cleveland. Commenting on that effort in writing for the Women’s History Project, Aron said, “I truly believe desegregation made many good things happen like the Arts Magnet; black and white parents coming together with common concerns; and lifelong friendships between adults and kids were formed. Sadly, Judge Battisti ‘s untimely death brought it to an end too soon. The work was not finished, and our kids continue to suffer.”

In sharing the story of her life with the Women’s History Project, Aron recalls a dispute with Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization over how Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds would be spent that led her block club to join Near West Neighbors in Action (NWNIA). Aron says she became the representative of her block club to NWNIA and became chair of its CDBG Committee. Aron says all the NWNIA block clubs came up with a plan for spending CDBG funds and presented it the Cleveland City Council CDBG Committee. Aron also represented NWNIA on a citywide coalition of grassroots community groups and on the national Neighborhood Peoples in Action (NPA) group.

An article in the March 22, 1982 issue of the Plain Press titled 500 Near West Neighbors attend convention notes the crowd of over 500 people that attended the convention of NWNIA that year at St. Ignatius High School where Congressman Louis Stokes addressed the crowd. At that meeting, Gloria Aron was elected president of NWNIA.

NWNIA was involved in citywide efforts to get funding for a weatherization program and relief for residents facing having their gas shutoff. Aron was involved in some of the famous actions that led to retribution against grassroots community organizations by the City of Cleveland and some funding organizations. “Yes, I took part in the board-­‐up of East Ohio Gas, the shutdown of Sohio’s Annual Meeting, and the Hunt Club action. Although we could have thought through some of these actions more carefully, our purpose and reasons for them were clear. Our campaign was to get these institutions to commit more dollars to help people with their gas bills,” she said.

A spin off from NWNIA was the Near West Housing Corporation which became involved in creating affordable low-income housing through a lease-purchase program.

Aron was also involved for many years with area settlement houses such as the West Side Community House and Merrick House. Through that involvement, Aron participated in creating a shelter for homeless families so families would not be split up when they were homeless and in reforming the way Cuyahoga County addressed sex abuse.

Aron also focused on health care and creating a fairer State of Ohio Budget. In the 1980s she participated in efforts supported by Merrick House to keep Metro Hospital as a public hospital when hospital administrators wanted to make it a private hospital.

In 1995 when MetroHealth tried to close its Outpatient Pharmacy, Aron was among those who reacted immediately to prevent that from happening. When hospital administrators came back with a proposal to just keep it open for those with Medicaid and insurance, the community members challenged that decision before the Federal Office of Civil Rights in Chicago and won. The ruling stated that because of federal funding MetroHealth had received in the past it was required to keep the pharmacy open and available to all in the community.

In more recent years, Aron has been involved with a Northern Ohio coalition that began in 2003 as part of a statewide coalition that brought 5,000 people to Columbus to protest State of Ohio budget cuts that would affect healthcare, childcare, senior programs, and other services that many Ohioans depended upon. That action led to the formation of a group, now called Northern Ohioans for Budget Legislation Equality (NOBLE) that meets every two years to make budget recommendations and testify before the Ohio legislature on the importance of State of Ohio programs in the State budget.

Aron continued to be an advocate for her immediate neighborhood on W. 81st between Lorain and Madison. The June 2022 Plain Press reported that Gloria Aron and her neighbor Nora Rodriguez used the Public Comment period at the May 16 City Council meeting to testify about speeding cars that ignored the stop sign at W. 81st and Lawn Avenue.

Editor’s Note: Sources used for this article include the Plain Press archives, the Women’s History Project and several recorded interviews of Gloria Aron: “Gloria Aron interview, 09 June 2007” (2007). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 955021_999034.; and “Gloria Aron interview, 14 July 2017” (2017). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 955035.

Celebration of Life

            Community members are invited to a Celebration of Gloria Aron’s Life to be held on Saturday, June 24, 2023 from 1:00 – 6:00 p.m. at the home of Chris Aron and Dan Thatcher – 6884 Anthony Lane, Parma Hts. OH. Parking is available on the street or the parking lot of Valley Forge High School 9999 Independence Blvd.

            See tributes to Gloria Aron by family and friends below:

Friends and Colleagues

Martha Smith:  Friend and Colleague

She is no longer in the land of the living but her quest for honesty, fairness and equality lives on in her children, grandchildren, colleagues and friends.   Yes, Gloria Aron mingled with and influenced heads of corporations and state and local politicians, along with the disenfranchised of Cleveland and the state of Ohio.  She deferred to no one and was the passionate advocate for those who could not or would not speak for themselves.  Her primary concerns were the fields of health and education. We met in 1979 as two mothers, one white and one black.  Our racial differences withered under the hot sun of our shared goal.  This was to help create a place in which every man, woman and child in America achieve their constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Molly Brudnick:  Friend and Colleague

Gloria was a strong presence, a wonderful advocate.  She never gave up the fight for justice, to help the needy.  We need more people like Gloria to speak out with and on behalf of people in need.

Doug Van Auken:  Friend and Colleague

Thanks Gloria, 

See you soon.  


Gail Long:  Friend and Colleague

Gloria was always there to speak out against what was wrong and support what was right.  You could always count on her to be at meetings, demonstrations or pot lucks to discuss, come to consensus, push for change and celebrate the victories.  I’m sure that I never told her enough how much I appreciated her willingness to be involved, take leadership, speak out and most importantly her friendship.  Thanks Gloria!  I will miss you…

Randy Cunningham and Tris Roberts – Friends and Colleagues

Gloria was the real deal. She did not get her idealism and activism from books. She got them from life. And as she afflicted the comfortable, and empowered the afflicted, she did so with a wicked sense of humor. She was irreplaceable, and we will miss her greatly.  — Randy Cunningham & Tris Roberts. 

Marita Kavalec:  Friend and Colleague

A profound loss for all who knew her. Gloria was an extraordinary one of a kind. 

Tom O’Brien (Executive Director of Neighborhood Connections):  Friend and Colleague

Gloria was on the Neighborhood Connections Grant Making Committee for six years. She was an outstanding member of that Committee, providing great insight to other Committee members and also to grant applicants.  She was so kind and helpful to people – and willingly shared her experiences with others.

 I loved Gloria Aron. She was such a kind and caring person and had a great sense of humor.  I had many long conversations with her, often in my car, driving her home after Grant Making Committee meetings. She really loved her family, her neighborhood, and Cleveland. While Gloria was kind and caring, she also was a fierce advocate for everyday people in community. She fought for equity and justice for decades, working to change the oppressive structures and systems that harm Clevelanders, whether in a neighborhood meeting with local officials or in Washington, DC with federal officials. She was a strong advocate for people who are often times forgotten by society.  She was a real hero to me and to so many others – and I continue to be inspired by her and the life she led.  

 RIP Gloria. I will miss you. We will miss you.

George Hrbek:  Friend and Colleague

I had the privilege of sharing much of my involvement in the community-organizing-social-justice Movement with Gloria.  Gloria was a spirited force in the Movement on the West Side.  She radiated a passionate commitment to confronting those issues that dehumanize.  She acted with great savvy, integrity and persistence.

I cannot conceive of any final words I might have with Gloria except to quote, 

“Well done, good and faithful servant.” 

Your legacy has enriched the lives of many.


Len Stevens, Friend and Colleague

During the extraordinary school desegregation years, Gloria was an ally of the highest value to me: wise, knowledgeable, iron-clad values, with friends with similar views of the world. She was among the Clevelanders who made the process work and work peacefully. I remain grateful to her.

Len Stevens, Federal court monitor, 1978-88

Eileen Kelly, Friend and Colleague

While I first met Gloria in 1982 when she was President of Near West Neighbors in Action and she almost didn´t hire me, she gave me the chance to learn so much that has helped me in all parts of my life. More importantly, she became my great friend and walked with me and my family through the best and worst times. She always showed up and knew the right thing to do, in work and in life. I will miss her more than words could ever say. Thank you to Chris and Kirk and your families for sharing her with me and with everyone and everything else she cared so much about, but know that you and your dad were always, always, always first in her heart.

Eileen Kelly

February 7, 2023

Nora Rodriguez:  Friend and neighbor

Dear Eileen, what a pleasure to hear from you.  Well about my dear and unforgettable Gloria that I loved and respected; we started an organization by the name Near West Neighbors in Action to solve the many problems in our community.  We broke land to build the Michael Zone Recreation Center which now is used by many ethnic groups.  Gloria was a true friend she was always ready to help everyone before helping herself.  We conducted the W.81.St meetings at the Lorain Branch of the Cleveland Public Library.  With the help of our Council representatives and the Police Dept. we had many accomplishments.  Rest In Peace my dear friend.  My thanks to you Eileen and Jenny Spencer.


James Meriweather:  Friend

My deepest condolences to Chris Aron and the family.  There are many great memories of Gloria.  The bus rides to the State House, the NOBLE meetings at 3500 Lorain Ave. and at Gloria’s house.

Gloria was a rebel when it came to organizing, of which I had great respect.  My friend Gloria was a good-hearted person.

Her passing is painful.  I am going to miss her.  She touched my life.  Much thanks, love and appreciation.

Larry Bresler:  Friend and Colleague

I have known Gloria since the late 1970’s.  She was one of the most tenacious, and effective grassroots leaders I have ever known.  Whether it was leading Near West Neighbors in Action, fighting to keep Metro Health a public hospital, or leading the effort to prevent the City from evicting the Metro Health clinics from their health centers, she demonstrated time and again herself to be an excellent tactician and fearless leader whose string of successes will serve as a legacy long after her passing


Chris Aron:  Daughter

I was very proud to call Gloria Aron my mom.  She was always there for me as a child and an adult.  I could always count on her.  Family was the most important thing to her.  She definitely was the center of ours.  She taught me all the values I have in life.  I am the woman I am today because of my mom.  I will cherish all the memories I have of her.  I will miss her so much.

Zachary Thatcher:  Grandson

The fire my grandmother brought to a room was infectious! Her activism was always very prevalent all throughout my life. She instilled incredible morals into me and she taught me to fight for those not blessed with privilege. The lessons I learned, stories I was told, and memories made with her are what I’ll cherish forever.  Gloria Aron is unforgettable, and the light she’s brought into my life will never fade.

Amanda Aron:  Granddaughter

There aren’t enough words to describe what my Grandma Gloria meant to me. We are a very close family and we truly owe that to her. Her devotion to our family and her community is truly unprecedented. She was so deeply loved by all of us, and watching her laugh and play with my daughter Aria will remain some of my most cherished memories. I am so grateful to have a lifetime of laughs, family trips, and traditions to reflect on. I look forward to passing along the unconditional love and sense of family that I learned from her to my children. 

Tiffany Aron:  Granddaughter

My grandma was a remarkable person. The way she fought and advocated for her community was truly inspiring. She brought so much love and joy into my life, and my children’s lives. Some of my best childhood memories were spent with her and I am so thankful my children got to experience the same love and joy that I did at their age. I couldn’t have asked for a better grandmother; she will be missed greatly by us but also by all of those whose lives she touched. 

Taylor Thatcher:  Granddaughter

My grandma and I had a special bond from the day I was born. I got her through a rough time in her life and she repaid me by being there for me every step of the way. She was always my biggest fan and advocate even when I was in the wrong. She was truly amazing and taught me what’s important in life especially sticking up for those who can’t do it themselves. I love her with my whole heart forever and always. 

Dan Thatcher, Son-in-law

Gloria was an incredible mother to my wife and grandmother to my children.  I am so blessed she was able to watch them during the day before they started school so she could instill in them the values that made her such a great person.  She was like a second mother to me, treated me as such and welcomed me into her family with open arms.  Many of us choose a path where we spend our days working to enrich others.  Gloria chose a different path.  She chose to fight for those, who historically, haven’t had much of a voice such as women, minorities and the poor.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived” is a true measure of success.  If that’s the case Gloria was wildly successful and her legacy will live on in those, she helped through her years of advocacy work, her friends and family and anyone who was fortunate enough to cross paths with her…a legacy many of us could only dream of.

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