Community activist and leader Mildred Harpole passes

October 31, 2019

On Thursday October 24, 2019, Mildred L. Harpole (nee Cowan) passed away in the hospital with her husband of sixty years, Reuben K. Harpole, Jr., lovingly by her side.

Mildred was born and raised in Cleveland, OH; however, she attended St. Frances Academy’s boarding school in Baltimore, MD for a few years for grade school. She returned to Cleveland where she attended high school at St. Joseph’s Academy. Mildred moved to Milwaukee to attend Marquette University where she graduated in 1956. She continued her education at Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., for one year. Mildred completed her law education at Case Western Reserve University Law School, earning a juris doctor degree. Mildred met the love of her life, Reuben, during her undergraduate years; they continued their relationship and married in 1959. They established their home in Milwaukee, WI where they raised their daughter and son. They also continued their community activism work.

Beginning in the early 1960’s Mildred was actively engaged in the struggle to end segregation in Milwaukee’s public schools. Mildred helped form several “Freedom Schools,” and went on to be principal of the Harambee Community School in Milwaukee.

By the early 1970’s she turned her attention from public education and applied her legal training as director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Milwaukee Regional Office.

Mildred’s community engagement was extensive. She was the 11th National President of Eta Phi Beta Sorority (a national business and professional women’s organization affiliated with the National Council of Negro Women), member of the Milwaukee County Cultural Artistic and Musical Programming Advisory Council, member of the City of Milwaukee Arts Board, founder-president of North Central Service Club (a civic engagement organization), executive committee member for Community Brainstorming Conference; past board member of Family Service of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Forum, TEMPO Milwaukee, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and charter member of Cream City Links, Inc.

In the 1970’s she drafted a proposal for community health centers in Milwaukee. Mildred served as Chairperson of the Harambee Health Resources Center Task Force in which she helped to write the winning grant that became the genesis of the MLK Heritage Health Center and Isaac Coggs Health Center in Milwaukee.

Honors and awards received include:

• 1969 Master’s Capstone Paper: Role of the teacher aide in the secondary school
• 1988 Milwaukee Times Black Excellence honoree
• 1993 Received Vatican II Award from the Milwaukee Archdiocese with her husband, Reuben Harpole, for Service in Society.
• 2000 Reuben and Mildred Harpole were featured on the cover of Milwaukee Magazine in February for an article on love stories.
• 2002 Received the Lifetime Fair Housing Award by the Wisconsin Fair Housing Network.
• 2012 Reuben and Mildred Harpole received The Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals National Philanthropy Day – Todd Wehr Volunteer Award.
• 2013 Reuben K. Harpole, Jr. and Mildred L. Harpole received the City of Milwaukee’s Frank P. Zeidler Public Service Award.
• 2015 Distinguished Educator of the Year Award by UW-Milwaukee School of Education Dean – Reuben Harpole and Mildred Harpole.
• 2018 Reuben K. Harpole, Jr. and Mildred L. Harpole, Esq. received a Legacy Award at the 42nd Annual Milwaukee Community Journal Award Ceremony & Scholarship Luncheon.

Mildred is survived by her husband Reuben; her daughter Annette; son, John; and two grandchildren, Velma (Bailey) King, and Larry King. She was preceeded in death by her parents, John and Nettie (Wheeler) Cowan; and siblings, Ann Marie Cowan, Frank Bailey, and Billy White.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the following organization in Mildred L. Harpole’s honor:

• Wisconsin Black Historical Society/Museum –
• America’s Black Holocaust Museum –
• St. Francis of Assisi Church –
• North Central Service Club: North Central Service Club Founders’ Scholarship.

Donations can be made via Paypal (under North Central Service Club in connection with the club’s President Pamela Malone) or check made payable to
P.O. Box 170324
Milwaukee, WI 53217

Service Information:

Friday, 11/1/2019
4 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Northwest Funeral Chapel – Milwaukee
6630 W. Hampton Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53218

Saturday, 11/2/2019
12:30 p.m.
St. Frances of Assisi Church
1927 N. Vel R. Phillips Avenue (4th & Brown)
Milwaukee, WI 53212.

Saturday, 11/2/2019
2 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Wisconsin Black Historical Society/Museum.
2620 W. Center St.
Milwaukee, WI 53206

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