WHEELING - The late Rosemary Front, a polio survivor who became a champion for people with disabilities, has been elected to the Wheeling Hall of Fame in the Public Service category.
The Hall of Fame board announced that Front, Marc Harshman, G. Ogden Nutting, the late Stanley Romanoski and one other person will be inducted during a banquet at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling Saturday, April 20. Doors will be open for the general public at 5:30 p.m. Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased from Hall of Fame board members.
In selecting Front, Hall of Fame officials stated, "Because of the advocacy of Rosemary Front, the Wheeling area was at the forefront of the movement toward total accessibility for people with disabilities. Her life's work resulted in a legacy that continues to benefit children with special needs."
Front, born in Wheeling in 1940, attended Wheeling Country Day School and graduated from Triadelphia High School. She earned a bachelor's degree from Southern Illinois University and a master's degree from Wayne State University.
She received an honorary doctorate from Wheeling Jesuit University.
As a speech pathologist, Front was employed at the Wheeling Society for Crippled Children from 1966-68. She was the first professional chief executive officer at the society, which became the Easter Seal Rehabilitation Center. She led the organization from 1969-98. She was an executive director of the West Virginia Easter Seal Society for three years.
"During the years she served the Easter Seals as executive director, Front worked to develop local disability programs into state-of-the-art comprehensive rehabilitative services throughout West Virginia and eastern Ohio," Hall of Fame officials stated. She served on state, regional and national boards, including the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Comprehensive Board.
Hall officials said Front built the Wheeling Society for Crippled Children, a small nonprofit charity with four staff members, into a professional rehabilitation center with more than 55 staff members. Under her leadership, the organization implemented programs and services for children with special needs, established indigent care funding and constructed the current rehabilitation facility in Wheeling in 1975.
"When it came to dedication to Easter Seals, Front possessed the willingness to challenge those who she believed did not know what was best for the local program. When national Easter Seals attempted to claim a large portion of what the local program raised for the benefit of the national Easter Seals, Front resisted that attempt, believing that the funds raised for the Wheeling entity should remain in Wheeling," Hall of Fame officials stated. "Therefore, money raised locally was used locally."
In addition, they related, "Front was aggressive in bringing attention to accessibility violations in the area, and she was tenacious when it came to correction of violations."
Front utilized a wheelchair after contracting polio, but remained active in the community. A member of Temple Shalom in Wheeling, she was busy organizing the Hadassah chapter's Chocolate Ex-travaganza fundraiser until days before her death in 2009. She was memorialized as someone who "sat taller in her wheelchair than many of us ever stood on two feet."
Hall of Fame officials stated, "Front was a principled individual, a successful clinical therapist and an ethical, excellent CEO. Along with all of these virtues she also possessed a keen and cultured mind that attracted volunteers, admirers and friends from every walk of life."
Members of the Hall of Fame board are chairman Jim Squibb, Wayne Barte, Laura Carter, Richard Coury, Robert DeFrancis, Sean Duffy, Jeanne Finstein, Anne Foreman, Doug Huff, William Ihlenfeld, James Kepner, William Nutting, Patricia Pockl, Bettie Steele, Kate Quinn, Dianna Vargo and Wheeling City Council representative Don Atkinson.