Longtime community activist Leola V. Hermon died Saturday afternoon. She was 75.
Hermon was a St. Thomas native who was involved in a vast array of community projects and programs, according to territory officials who expressed sympathy to her family.
“The Virgin Islands has lost a tireless community activist and a voice for her beloved Smith Bay community," Gov. John deJongh Jr. said Tuesday in a statement issued by Government House. "She was a beloved mother, grandmother, sister and godmother; a former employee of the Government of the Virgin Islands; a deacon of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation; and a community and political activist. She will be missed by her family and friends throughout the Virgin Islands, including me,” deJongh said.
In a news release, Delegate Donna M. Christensen said the territory had lost another leader.
“The Virgin Islands community has lost another one of its most passionate advocates with the passing of Ms. Leola V. Hermon,” Christensen said. “Leola exhibited an undying love and commitment to improving the lives of residents, especially her beloved Smith Bay residents.”
Hermon was born, raised and educated on St. Thomas. She graduated from Charlotte Amalie High School in 1957 and, a year later, joined the staff of the Virgin Islands Telephone Corporation, now Innovative Communications, as a local operator. While working, she pursued a college education by taking courses offered by Hampton University and Catholic University. Later Hermon attended the College of the Virgin Islands, now University of the Virgin Islands, studying first elementary education and later business administration.
In 1960 Hermon fulfilled a lifelong dream to be an educator, when she was hired by the Department of Education as a substitute teacher. She eventually became a fulltime teacher, but continued to work for the telephone company at nights, ultimately becoming a supervisor of operations.
Her career with the government of the Virgin Islands also included assignments with the Department of Social Welfare, now the Department of Human Services, and the V.I. Legislature. She was working as a budget analyst with the Legislature when she retired in 1993.
DeJongh and Christensen noted that Hermon, while working and raising a family, also found time to be active in the community.
Starting as a volunteer with Future Homemakers of America in high school, Hermon “continued to lend her enthusiasm and managerial skills to numerous organizations,” including the East End Clinic, Smith Bay Action Committee, AARP and parent-teacher groups at Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School and Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, the governor said.
“She was also a dynamic supporter of several political campaigns, including both my elections for governor,” deJongh said. “She was a valued member of my committees and I was always grateful for her backing.”
Christensen said Hermon was very active as president of the Smith Bay Action Committee, East End Civic Organization and the Boschulte and Kean PTAs. Hermon was a member of the Business and Professional Women’s Organization-St. Thomas chapter, the first president of the Family Reunion Committee, and former president of the St. Thomas Chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons. Hermon was also active in the Lutheran Church of the Reformation.
Christensen said the territory is grateful for her service, her advocacy and said, “We are assured that her legacy will endure.”
Above all else, Christensen said, Hermon was loved by her family, friends and colleagues.