The successes of Patricia S. Mearns as a mayor were understated at her funeral Thursday morning, but her character, enthusiasm and caring nature were expressed by each person who spoke about her.
Mearns, the city's first female mayor, died Sunday at age 80 after battling Alzheimer's Disease. Hundreds paid respects to her legacy during a funeral service at Our Lady of Peace Church, just outside of Shaker Heights in Cleveland. About 50 family members sat up front, while a collection of current and past city officials and residents filled the rest of the church.
When Pastor Gary Chmura spoke about Mearns, he elected to point out the model of marriage she and husband, Edward "Ted" Mearns, displayed for six decades instead of her civic prowess.
"I have never in my life seen the love, the devotion, the care, the passion, the patience and willingness that I've seen from this family," Chmura said. "This marriage was a vocation — is a vocation — and a gift from God, not only to each other, but to anyone who ever witnessed it."
Mearns, a Brooklyn, N.Y. native, had nine children, 31 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She married Ted at age 19. The family later moved to Shaker Heights.
Mearns' loved ones said they appreciated the way she galvanized others to care about their communities and remain active in them. One of her daughters, Alison Benders, said family and community involvement were of chief importance to her mother.
"If you ever met Pat Mearns, I'll bet you she invited you to go to a meeting, to join a committee, to serve on a board or even to go into office," Benders said. "(People) were affected by her passion and her personality."
Current Shaker Heights Vice Mayor Lynn Ruffner said she first met Mearns when both were active in the Shaker Family Center. Ruffner was privileged to work on Mearns campaign for mayor 20 years ago. Mearns served as mayor from 1992 to 1999.
"Like her daughter said, Pat never forgot anybody's face or name," Ruffner said. "As an elected official in this community, Pat has really been a guidance and shown us all aspects of how the world of politics needs to be played. Pat was a very social and humanistic person. She cared about people.
"In light of the budget issues and all of the other things we have to face, Pat remembered that this community was about people."
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