When television personality Star Jones addressed 700 or so business and community leaders during the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Luncheon, she shared her story of surviving heart disease.
When Jones was diagnosed with heart disease in 2010, the news came as a surprise.
Since she underwent weight loss surgery in 2003 and made significant lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly and practicing food portion control, Jones thought she was on the road to good health.
Three years ago, she started experiencing symptoms including shortness of breath, extreme fatigue and feeling lightheaded. A battery of tests revealed Jones had heart disease that was brought on by a combination of a defective aortic valve and her lifestyle. She subsequently underwent open heart surgery.
After three months of cardiac rehab, she returned to her regular activities with a new lease on life and made heart health her philanthropic focus.
“It devastated me,” Jones said of her ordeal. “Anyone who tells you that open heart surgery is not scary, isn’t telling the truth. It’s extremely frightening but I decided that instead of putting my head in the sand, I was going to use all of my power, influence and platform to go ahead and embrace being the new face of heart disease.”
Even though she had been obese for the majority of her adult life, Jones never thought that she would be impacted by the disease.
“I was a walking example of someone who heart disease could touch but it was still not in my mind,” said Jones, who is a prosecutor, legal correspondent and former co-host of The View.
“I think that’s what faces a lot of African American women, especially when we see ads where the face of heart disease is an old white guy. You think it’s a 50 year old white man who eats too much steak and smokes cigars. It’s not – it’s the number one killer of all Americans. It’s the number one killer of women.”
Jones is striving to drive home the message that 80 percent of heart disease cases can be prevented by lifestyle changes. She wants to inspire and encourage others to make a change that could positively impact their lives.
“If we could stop smoking, if we put real exercise into our lives, if we make changes to our diet in terms of the among saturated fats, salt and sugar that we have in our diet we could stave off the additional onset of stroke, adult diabetes and heart disease,” Jones stressed.
“If I had to summarize my message, I would say eat less and move more.”
When she had her cardio checkup on March 18, Jones’ cardiologist informed her that she is in good heart health.
“I feel better than I ever felt in my life,” Jones said.
Jones’ story of survival comes at a time when an estimated 43 million women in the United States are affected by heart disease.
The GRFW luncheon, which was held on Friday afternoon at Hyatt and the Bellevue, served as an occasion to celebrate 10 years of saving women’s lives. According to the AHA, more than 627,000 women’s lives have been saved and 330 fewer women are dying per day.
During the event, Dr. Maribel Hernandez, cardiologist, Main Line Health was presented with the Women of Heart award. Hernandez has been involved with the Heart Association for more than 15 years, working diligently to raise public awareness of heart disease.
Vernard V. Wilkerson, an accountant, died on Sunday, May 5, 2013. He was 55.
He was born Jan. 19, 1958 to Richetta Battle and the late Herbert V. Wilkerson in Philadelphia.
Wilkerson was a graduate of John Bartram High School. He served in the United States Army from 1976 to 1980 where he achieved the status of specialist-five and was honorably discharged.
His family said he thrived on knowledge and education. He attended Temple University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in August 1983. He continued his education at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a master’s of science degree in professional management in May 1988.
He then enrolled in Wilmington University in Wilmington, Del., where he earned a master’s in public administration in May 2001. At the time of his passing, he had completed his dissertation and was a month away from earning a doctorate in business administration from Argosy University.
Wilkerson was a deputy principal assistant in the Delaware state Department of Finance. Before that, he was the fiscal administrative officer with the Delaware Racetrack Division. Other previous positions included accounting supervisor at E.I du Pont de Nemours in Philadelphia; accounting manager for the South Jersey Transportation Authority in Hammonton, N.J., senior accountant for the New Jersey Casino Control Commission; financial analyst for the Casino Control Commission; corporate accounting analyst for Atlantic Refining and Marketing Corp. and associate accounting analyst for Systems Development Corporation.
Wilkerson was an adjunct professor at Wilmington University in Wilmington, Del., where he was well known and respected by his students and colleagues.
He was a member of the North America Gaming Regulators’ Association, Government Finance Officers’ Association and National Association of Black Accountants, Philadelphia division. He also served on the board of directors at the West Philadelphia branch of the YMCA.
Wilkerson’s interests included golfing, scuba diving, swimming, DJ-ing, shopping and spending time with his family.
In addition to his mother, he is survived by his sisters, Greta Wilkerson-El, Iris Washington and Wanda Wilkerson; nieces, Lauren Washington, Lisa Washington, Nia Wilkerson and Nicole Wilkerson; nephews, Dwayne Washington II, Darren El and Darrius El; brother-in-laws, Dwayne Washington and Carl El and other relatives and friends.
Services will be held May 14 at First African Baptist Church, 901 Clifton Ave., Sharon Hill. Viewing is at 9 a.m. Services will follow at 11 a.m.
Yarborough and Rocke Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
This week served to mark the essential contributions made by nurses throughout the healthcare arena.
National Nurses Week, which is observed May 6-12, comes at a time when the nurses are slated to play a critical role in health reform.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that the Affordable Care Act’s emphasis on keeping people healthy, preventing illness and managing chronic conditions opens new opportunities for nurses to shape and lead the future delivery of healthcare.
“The Obama administration is committed to workforce development and education and training for nurses. Through the Affordable Care Act, the number of training and educational opportunities for nursing students and graduates to acquire the skills necessary to enter the health workforce is expanding,” Sebelius said.
“Through the Advanced Nursing Education Program, the law provides support for advanced nursing education to increase the primary care nursing workforce. Through several different advanced nursing education initiatives, an additional 2,800 nurse practitioners and nurse midwives will enter the primary care workforce over the next five years.”
The HHS department has made significant investments in building the nursing workforce through scholarship and loan repayment programs. For instance, the National Health Services Corps, which offers scholarship and loan repayment in return for practice in underserved areas has tripled from 3,600 in 2008 to nearly 10,000 in 2012, including more than 1,600 nurses.
The NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program, which has approximately 3,000 registered nurses and advanced practice nurses, helped to repay the loans of more than 700 nurses in fiscal year 2012.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the nation will need 1.2 million more nurses by 2020. In an effort to help boost the nursing workforce ranks, the Independence Blue Cross Foundation has been funding nursing education for the past 10 years. Under its “Nursing for Tomorrow” initiative, IBC and the IBC Foundation provided more than $10 million in funding to support nursing education. Approximately $7 million of that funding supported more than 1,100 scholarships for students attending schools such as University of Pennsylvania, Community College of Philadelphia, Temple University and Thomas Jefferson University.
The IBC Foundation believes that providing accessible affordable care in the communities will require an increase in the current number of licensed practice nurses, nursing educators and advanced practice nurses.
“We’ve made a committment to nursing and it really has become a cornerstone of who we are,” said Lorina Marshall-Blake, president of the IBC Foundation.
“If you look at all that is going on in health care reform right now nurses are on the front line, so we feel that it’s a major investment for us to invest in nursing and making sure that there is a qualified workforce that’s out there.”
The foundation is also working to increase the number of nursing educators. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) report on 2011-2012 Enrollment and Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing notes that U.S. nursing schools turned away 75,587 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2011 due to insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space and budget constraints. Almost two thirds of the nursing schools cited faculty shortages as a reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into entry-level baccalaureate programs.
Juanita Bennett was a celebrity makeup artist for more than 30 years.
She died on Sunday, May 5, 2013 after a sustained illness. She was 56.
Bennett specialized in creating looks for entertainers, politicians, and media personalities. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, General Colin Powell, Lou Rawls, Helen Gurley Brown, Bill Cosby, Harry Belafonte and Alex Trebek were among her clientele.
She was born Aug, 23, 1956 to Ella Mae Bennett and the late Le Ernest Pompey in Troy, N.Y.
Bennett received her formal education in the Philadelphia school system. She graduated from Germantown High School in 1974. Upon graduation, she attended North Carolina A&T of Greensboro, N.C., where she earned her associate’s degree. When she returned to Philadelphia, Bennett went on to graduate with a certification in cosmetology.
Strong willed and determined to be one the best in her profession, Bennett went straight into the entertainment field where she began to travel worldwide, working with celebrities from all statures of life.
Her family said Bennett worked with many celebrities that most people would never have the opportunity to meet. One of her greatest success stories was working President Obama.
Bennett’s first celebrity client was Kathy Sledge, along with her sisters who formed the pop group “Sister Sledge,” famous for their song, “We Are Family.”
“Nita was a person that you were drawn to by her high spirited personality. She never complained about anything, not even in her last days. She was kind and caring to all she came into contact with. Juanita was a giving person to anyone in need. Her accomplishments go without saying,” her family said.
“Those that knew her well, knew that politics, networking, and socializing were her prized gifts.”
In addition to her mother, Bennett is survived by her great aunts and uncle, Rosa Frierson (Isaiah) of Troy N.Y., Richard Reid and Lila Mae Crawford of Philadelphia; aunts and uncles, Creola Newman (Paul), Joe Robinson of Philadelphia, Henrietta Bennett of Manning S.C.; godson Justin Norwood; special friends, Venetta Robinson, Vallery Norwood, and Willimema (Mema) Battle and other relatives and friends.
Services will be held May 10 at 11 a.m. at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, 1530-38 N. 11th St. Burial will be private.
Alfonso Cannon Funeral Chapels handled the arrangements.
Services were held May 9 for Myrtle Perry.
Perry died on Thursday, May 2, 2013. She was 81.
She was born Aug. 2, 1931 to Elder Enoch Thomas and Connie Sims in Charlotte, N.C. She began her early education in the North Carolina public school system, but continued and completed her education in Philadelphia after her parents moved there in 1938.
She was a graduate of the Philadelphia High School for Girls on 17th and Spring Garden Streets, actively participating in the annual gymnastics competition where she honed her competitive spirit.
She later went on to pursue higher education from Victor Business School and the Philadelphia Community College.
She married Cleveland Charles Perry in the 1950s and from this union there were five children — three sons and two daughters.
“She was a very caring and devoted mother who stressed the importance of education and being the best you could in any endeavor,” her family said.
Perry’s name was placed on the United House of Prayer for All People’s roll as a baby. Perry began playing the piano at the House of Prayer at the age of 13 becoming the pianist for many groups including The Gospel Singers, The Young People’s Choir, and The Echoes of McCollough. She later became the director of the Echoes of McCollough.
She was a diligent worker at the House of Prayer where she created bulletins, wrote letters, and played the piano during services. She especially enjoyed being the Chair Lady of Women’s Day.
Her family said as a young child Perry was always told by her mother to give God her best and that is why she loved to dress in her finest.
Perry was a hard worker, often working at multiple jobs to support her family. She was employed by Gimbels Department Store as a comptometer operator, moving on to Triangle Publications as an accounting clerk and ultimately retiring from Smurfit Stone Container Corporation.
She was preceded in death by three brothers, Harvey, Enoch T “Bubba,” Charles J, and sister, Ruby Bolden.
Perry is survived by her sons, Charles “Eddie”, Darryl, Michael (Claudia); daughters, Denise “Nee’C” Brown and Cheryl Curry (Samuel) of Piscataway, N.J.; 13 grandchildren; 18 great grandchildren; sisters, Birdell S. Kennedy and Geraldine S. Dunn of Stone Mountain, Ga.; brother-in-law, Joseph Perry; sister-in-laws, Carol Sims, Juanita Bacon, Ida Perry and other relatives and friends.
Services were held May 9 at The United House of Prayer for All People, 742 S. 16th St. Burial will be held May 10 at 11 a.m. at Rolling Green Memorial Park, West Chester.
Slater Funeral Home handled the arrangements.