Geraldine Belmear, the WVU minority student advisor and assistant dean who was the first black woman in the nation to head a county homemakers program, died Saturday (May 7) at Ruby Memorial Hospital.

She was 87.

Belmear was known assurrogate grandmotherto generations of black students on campus. She helped found WVU s Center for Black Culture and Research (CBC&R) with her husband, Horace, a coach and educator who recruited black students to the University while serving as an assistant dean of admissions and records.

She was such a presence here and such a role model,said Dr. Katherine Bankole, the CBC &Rs director.Every time Id see her, shed want to know how things were going at the center, and shed definitely want to know about the students. She had such a tremendous love and respect for them.

Her tenure at WVU was all the more amazing, Bankole said, because it was her second career.

Can you imagine?Bankole said.

Before her life in academia, she was out in the communities of West Virginia, as an administrator with State Cooperative Extension Service. She spent 30 years with the organizationand made history when she was plucked to head the Marion County Homemakers Program, becoming the first black woman in the country to hold such a post.

Other national recognition would follow. In 1972, she received the National Association of Extension Home Economics Award for Distinguished Service, and also won raves as the creator ofGo-Go, the Good Nutrition Clown,a costumed character who promoted good eating habits to youngsters.

The Dunbar High School valedictorian earned a bachelors degree in home economics from West Virginia State College in 1940, and went back to school to earn a graduate degree in home economics education from WVU in 1962.

Following her 1978 retirement from the Extension Service, she joined her husband at WVU , and served successfully as a black student advisor, assistant dean for minority affairs and assistant coordinator of minority affairs until her retirement in 1987.

A high point of her WVU years came with the founding of the CBC &R, an organization that counsels students and their families while celebrating the black experience across Appalachia and the world.

Belmear was also a very active member in several human outreach organizations in the region and was recognized by then-Gov. Jay Rockefeller in 1980 for her role in the founding of the Valley Community Mental Health Center.

That life of service combined with two highly charged careers that encompassed education and community couldnt have defined Belmear better, CBC &R Assistant Director Beverly Taylor said.

She was just a role model for any age and any skin pigment,Taylor said.

Taylor last heard from her on April 1, when she sent a handwritten thank you card for some newspaper articles on Horace that Taylor had clipped and laminated for her.

Time passes and things change,Belmear penned in that note,but good thoughts are always treasured.

That was just Mrs. Belmear,Taylor said.I still have that note on my desk. And she is right. A lot of us have good thoughts about her that were going to treasure.

Along with, Horace, her husband of 65 years, she is survived by two sons, a daughter, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Friends may call from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday (May 11) at Rotruck-Lobb Funeral Homes, Mancinelli Chapel, 108 Holland Ave., Westover.

A scripture vigil service will be conducted at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in the funeral home.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 12, at St. Marys Roman Catholic Church, 3344 University Ave., Star City, with the Rev. Dean G. Borgmeyer as celebrant.

Burial will follow at East Oak Grove Cemetery, Morgantown.

At the request of the family, expressions of sympathy may be directed to the Horace and Geraldine Belmear Athletic Scholarship, Fairmont State University Foundation, 1201 Locust Ave., Fairmont, WV 26554 .

Personal condolences may be offered to the family online