Vallen Luther Emery Sr., a retired city public schools transportation manager for disabled children who helped found a Northwest Baltimore church, died Monday of complications of cancer and heart failure at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Ashburton resident was 80.
Born in Vacherie, La., and educated in New Orleans, Mr. Emery enrolled in Tuskegee Institute in 1941. He interrupted his studies to serve in the Army in the Pacific during World War II, serving as a staff sergeant in the medical corps. He returned to Tuskegee after the war and graduated in 1949 with a degree in mechanical industry, with minors in carpentry and masonry. He also trained at Glassboro State College in Glassboro, N.J.
Mr. Emery taught mathematics at First Bibb County Training School in Centerville, Ala., where he was also a basketball and track coach. He moved to New Orleans in 1953 and worked two jobs, one at Kaiser Aluminum and the other at a post office.
He moved to East Biddle Street in Baltimore in 1961, taught industrial arts at Cherry Hill Junior High School and again worked for a post office for several years.
"Vallen was a man of strength and industry," said Michelle Emery, his daughter-in-law, who lives in Baltimore.
In 1975, Mr. Emery became a transportation specialist for the public school system and worked at its headquarters on 25th Street and later on North Avenue. He retired in 1991.
"He was very detailed and precise, particularly with numbers," said his wife of 56 years, the former Anne Osborne, who was a principal at Walbrook High School and an assistant schools superintendent.
After moving to Baltimore, Mr. Emery was denied membership because of his race in the Evangelical and Reformed Church congregations, the religious denomination with which he had been affiliated and which was then locally segregated.
"He thought that a city this large deserved a church with Congregational roots, background and theology," his wife said. "Religion was always central to Val. His daily life epitomized a deep sense of devotion and reverence."
Mr. Emery became a founder of Heritage United Church of Christ in the early 1960s. The congregation worshiped in a church basement at Fayette and Carey streets, and later in the basement of Mondawmin Mall. In 1964, he and others bought a former Christian Science church on Liberty Heights Avenue. The congregation now has more than 300 families.
He was the chairman of its board of deacons and was active in the men's fellowship. He also was a past president of the denomination's Chesapeake Association and had been active with the Central Atlantic Conference and national committees.
He was an award-winning bridge and pinochle player and traveled to tournaments throughout the country.
Mr. Emery was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Industrial Arts Association, the Ashburton Community Association and the Tuskegee Institute Alumni Association, serving as the Baltimore chapter's financial secretary.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at the Heritage United Church of Christ, 3106 Liberty Heights Ave.
In addition to his wife, survivors include two sons, Dr. Vallen L. Emery Jr. and Travis C. Emery, both of Baltimore; a sister, Ivaola Fyfe of Dallas; three grandsons; and two great-grandchildren. A son, Gregory Emery, died in 2000.
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