Earl Wilson Fleming, 77, a community activist and disabled veteran who patrolled his Woodbury neighborhood on a three-wheeled bicycle for decades, died at home of kidney failure on Friday, Dec. 17.
As president of the West End Neighborhood Association, Mr. Fleming was an influential liaison between residents and government.
"Normally, anything anybody needs I can get," he told The Inquirer in 2002. "I'm a communications expert."
Mr. Fleming stayed in close contact with government program offices, churches, and other organizations that provide services to the community. He often linked residents to programs through the neighborhood association's monthly newsletter, the West End Banner.
Mr. Fleming, who moved from Pitman to Woodbury in 1970, founded the association in 1991 with a handful of others who were concerned about drugs and crime in the community. He presided over the group since its inception, mostly, he told The Inquirer, because no one else wanted the full-time responsibility.
In 1994, Mr. Fleming led the association's yearlong protest against a planned relocation of Gloucester County's Adult Probation Department to his neighborhood. The county found an alternative site in a vacant shopping plaza in Deptford.
He led a petition drive that helped persuade Woodbury City Council to build Thomas Park in the West End in 2000. And he was a mediator for the Superior Court Juvenile Conference Committee for Salem and Cumberland Counties.
Mr. Fleming assisted her whole family, Woodbury resident Syreeta Saunders told The Inquirer in 2002. Her grandfather received veterans benefits, her grandmother obtained a grant to fix up the house, and Saunders received disability pay from her job, all due to Mr. Fleming's support and guidance, she said.
"He's like the father and grandfather to the West End," Saunders said.
Mr. Fleming was born in Ashtabula, Ohio, and enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school. He remained in the military for more than 20 years.
During the Korean War, he was stationed in Germany, and he later served four tours of duty in Vietnam. In 1970, Sgt. Fleming was leading a tank convoy from the 11th Armored Cavalry back to Vietnam from a mission in Cambodia when his vehicle rolled over a land mine.
He spent two years recovering from injuries and eight more years learning to walk again, he told friends. His decreased mobility recently forced him to replace his bicycle with a motorized scooter.
Mr. Fleming was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star and, in October 2009, he and others from Alpha Troop, First Squadron, 11th Cavalry Regiment, were presented with a Presidential Unit Citation by President Obama at the White House.
Mr. Fleming is survived by a son, Glen; a daughter, Dawn; a brother; and a grandson.
The funeral was held Thursday, Dec. 23, at the Budd Funeral Home. Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery.
Donations may be made to the Disabled American Veterans, Box 14301, Cincinnati, Ohio 45250.