Trude Johnson Mero, a no-nonsense matriarch of Hartford politics who helped found the Project Concern school integration program, died yesterday afternoon, said her son, Wilfred Johnson Jr. She was 85 and had been in declining health for years.
“She was special,” Johnson said today. “She was the lady … It’s a great loss. A really great loss.”
Mero’s family is making funeral arrangements and Cityline will have more on her life later. But here’s a glimpse of her legendary status, as written by Mark Pazniokas in 2003: “A cross look from Trude Mero, one of the old-time Democratic powers in the North End, is enough to make some elected officials go weak at the knees.”
Cityline received this statement from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy:
If you know Hartford politics, you know Trude Mero. She was a gift to her community and fought tirelessly as an activist for people who often needed a voice to advocate on their behalf. She never minced words, and let you know exactly what was on her mind. Most of all, she will be remembered for the love and passion she had for the people of Hartford. She is truly a Hartford legend. Our thoughts and prayers are with her friends and family.
In a 2006 article about the 40th anniversary of Project Concern, a predecessor to the Sheff desegregation movement, Mero told the Courant that “isolation does not afford opportunities to live in the real America.” Mero, who was born in South Carolina, had attended segregated schools in New Jersey before moving to Hartford in 1948.
Mero raised five children and was married to the late Wilfred Xavier Johnson, who was the first black Democrat elected to the Connecticut General Assembly as a state representative in 1958.
UPDATE: Here’s our full story on Mero, including more comments from politicians and people who knew her.