Eileen Kelley Walbert
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Activist, artist, beloved mother, grandmother and great grandmother, Eileen Kelley Walbert passed away on Wednesday, February 17, at the age of 100. A lifelong activist, whom the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth called a "freedom fighter," it was Eileen's idea for a group of 72 white Alabamians to march in Selma in support of voting rights in March 1965, the day before "Bloody Sunday." In 1965, Over-the-Mountain schools were still segregated. As a member of the Education Committee of the Birmingham Council on Human Relations, she knocked on doors in the Rosedale neighborhood, recruiting 13 young people to integrate Homewood public schools and remaining friends with the students throughout the years. Her long life was devoted to working for peace, justice and equality in Civil Rights, LGBTQ rights, Anti War and other movements. Honored with awards for her activism by Miles College and the YWCA, among others, she is also featured in the Oral History project of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Eileen was an award-winning sculptor whose unique work utilized "coil and slab" pottery techniques in the creation of human figures - usually opera singers - music being another passion of hers. Eileen was preceded in death by her husband of 66 years, pianist Jim Walbert, and is survived by her 2 children, Pamela Montanaro and David Walbert; 9 grandchildren (Christopher, Kavi, Adam, Gabriel, Lisa and Lara Montanaro; Ian Walbert and Kirsten Walbert Kilchenstein; Kim Kolze Venter) and 10 great grandchildren (Laurens, Matea, Gabriella, Isabella, Aurelia and Ophelia Montanaro; Stella and Jack Kilchenstein; and Emily and Ethan Venter), all of whom are inspired by her wisdom, compassion and devotion to building a better world. Donations can be made in the name of Eileen Kelley Walbert to the Greater Birmingham Ministries: https://gbm.org

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Published in The Birmingham News from Feb. 19 to Feb. 21, 2021.
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18 entries
March 14, 2021
Eileen's significant dedication to our communities continues to resonate and promote our further commitment to unity and diversity. Eileen was a friend of my Mom (and activist), Mary Jean Haddin.
Leslie Haddin Hendon
Friend
March 7, 2021
Your family is in my thoughts and prayers. Mrs. Walbert was a great role model and a great friend. She will always be remembered.
Dr. Cynthia A Jackson
March 4, 2021
David...Am just now finding out about your Mother. Thinking of you and all your family....and wishing I had really known her. I know how proud you were of her. Certainly no son could have cared better for his mother than you. K

kitty Scott Urquhart
Friend
February 27, 2021
There aren’t enough words or space to give honor to such a lady, Mrs. Eileen Walbert. She was one of a kind. We meet around 1965/66, when she was on a mission to turn the wheels of injustices and inequality, for the education of black students in Homewood, AL as well as Birmingham. She came to our homes to speak with our parents, (canvassing the neighborhood), about school integration in the Jefferson County School System, This meant that we would need to apply for a transfer from our black school, Rosedale High School, to enroll in Shades Valley High School. Rosedale was on a hill about a mile from Shades Valley. Thirteen of us, all black girls, (with the support of our parents), requested permission to transfer from Rosedale to Shades Valley for the upcoming school year September, 1966.

Our relationship with Mrs. Walbert was born and it blossomed into a life long relationship. She introduced us to many of her friends who were involved in the fight for equality with the white citizens of Birmingham. One night we were traveling with Eileen after a meeting, when a State Trooper stopped her and asked, “where are you going with these colored girls?” She responded to him very firmly, “we’re going for ice cream”. She scolded him for stopping her and asked for his badge number. Of course, we shaking in our boots in the backseat. But later we felt fearless too and very proud of how she was so steady & unafraid. She has always been our “Shero”.

I wish I could tell more about our 55 years with her, all the people she introduced to us and, all of the many, many times she wanted us over, so we could chat and catch up things. Through the years, she introduced so many books, magazines and papers about the issues facing people in our neighborhood, in our state & the country. We all loved her husband Mr. Jim Walbert as well. He entertained us with his amazing gifts at the piano. We had many sing-alongs. Brenda, Vivian, Linda & Susan were often the soloists. We loved him as much as we loved her; Pam and David as well. We have never had a dull moment in their company. In the most recent years, we were able to spend more time with Pam, David and David’s son Ian.

As the years past (so fast), our Shades Valley School Class Reunions were favorite discussions with her. We had an opportunity to share pictures of our Class Reunions, 2018. & 2019. Eileen always wanted to know how things were going with us and with our families, as well as our college days, our lives, our jobs and our children. How do we let her go? It’s not easy, but our hearts are filled with so many precious memories. She will be forever in our hearts. Even after 55 years, I can still see her sitting by the pool as we; as kids enjoyed swimming, water games and going with her to meetings. There was the art of passing books, newspapers & articles around her famous black round dinning room table. Her beautiful Christmas tree, was always decorated with handmade ornaments. She would tell us how old they were and who made each of them.

On one of our last visits, her eyesight was failing. That evening she shared much more about her parents, siblings and her childhood home in Jamestown Virginia, and how she played along the James River. So, I recalled my visit there as a tourist and agreed how truly beautiful it is there. She was sharing with us at least 96 year of her past...an incredible memory and precious. I felt a sadness inside as I listened and I think I knew why. But her face was filled with so much joy as she laughed gleefully about her historic Jamestown and her childhood.

Rest In Peace, our lovely, awesome, smart, beautiful, sweet Eileen. You touched all of our lives, for the rest of our lives and you’ll never be forgotten.
From your darlings, The Girls.❤❤❤
Angela Cunningham Griffin
Friend
February 23, 2021
RIP
pat
February 22, 2021
Eileen was born in Hilton Village, now a section of Newport News, VA. She was one of five daughters of Zaida and Tom Kelley and beloved sister of my mother, Margaret. During WW2 she lived with my parents for a while. It was during that time that she met and married her husband, Jim Walbert who was a member of the Army band stationed at Ft. Monroe. After their marriage they lived on the base then moved to Birmingham. Their love for each other, their children, family, friends, music, art, and the greater good of all people, guided their lives and enriched so many. For many years I loved answering the phone and hearing her beautiful voice. She always asked about our family, told me the latest on her extensive family and related to me her latest concerns and causes. I miss those calls, but I am thankful for her new life as she rests in peace and rises in glory.
Much love to Pam and David.
Peggy Woodall
niece
Peggy Woodall
Family
February 21, 2021
More than three decades ago, I met Eileen through mutual friends. I began to know her as kind and bold, gentle but persistent in pursuing what Congressman John Lewis termed "good trouble" . She is missed, but her legacy of positive impact on those she touched in our shared community goes on. Our thanks and condolences to the Walbert family.
Scott Douglas
Friend
February 21, 2021
To The Walbert Family:
Mrs. Walbert was extremely significant in my educational foundation. As one of the first black student's to integrate Shades Cahaba Elementary School in Homewood Alabama, I believe it was Mrs. Walbert who coordinated tutorial sessions at my Church, Friendship Baptist in the Rosedale community, in Homewood, Alabama. The sessions, coupled with my Christian education at Friendship Baptist, early education at Rosedale High School, and the education that I received at Shades Cahaba Elementary School in Homewood, really gave me a firm foundation which allowed me to later in my life obtain 1 Associate Degree, 1 Bachelor of Science Degree, and 2 Master's Degrees. I am soooo grateful that God allowed our paths to cross. So, please know that I was, am now, and will forever be "Very Grateful" to her for all of the help and unselfish sacrifices that she provided on my and any of the other students behalf. May she now rest in God's peace and hear Him say, "Servant Well Done!!...Sincerely Cynthia Y. B. Johnson
Cynthia Y. B. Johnson
Student
February 21, 2021
David,
I respected your mother so very much. In fact, both of your parents were truly inspirational to me. I always saw Eileen as a most charming person with a wonderful mind. It was always a pleasure to bump into her at the opera, in particular. She is the epitome of a life well lived. My thoughts are with you and yours.



Donna Adams
Friend
February 21, 2021
A true hero who never got the recognition she deserved, nor did she seek it. Our city is the better for having had her, and is diminished by her loss. I feel honored to have known her and been on her call list. My thoughts are with her family. One of my brightest memories is of Eileen beaming on the front row of the old UU church on Cahaba Road while Jim played a recital.
Ellise Mayor
Friend
February 20, 2021
I was one of the Kids in Birmingham in 1963... LONG MAY YOUR LEGACY LIVE.... RIP
Deborah K Dent
February 20, 2021
My condolences to all the Walbert family. She lived a brave and amazing life, and her legacy will endure for generations to come.
Elizabeth Wiggins
Friend
February 20, 2021
Truly a life well lived with a joyful spirit. Our conversations were inspiration. I have missed her since leaving Birmingham, but when I would return for a justice action--there she stood! Blessings to all and thanks to Eileen. (I received an email upon her passing :" Eileen has gone to be be with her friends")
Susan E Proctor
Friend
February 20, 2021
I never got to meet this incredible woman about whom I just read, and am the lesser for not having had that opportunity. What a legacy! My thoughts and prayers are with your family.
Barry A Norris
February 20, 2021
david,i met your mother only once,but my mother used to speak of her often,sounds like she was an incredible lady,did she influence you to play the guitar ?
rel underwood
Friend
February 20, 2021
She was a kind and generous surrogate mother to many Edgewood Elementary School "street urchins" during the late 1950's, including myself. When it came time to understand and internalize the social context of civil rights and equal justice advancements during the tumultuous years that followed, her kindness and moral strength guided the way for many of us who grew to understand these universal values on a deeper level through her gentle spirit and brave actions.
Jim Lacefield
Friend
February 20, 2021
Pam and David, Nancy and I am sorry for your loss. Your mom was a special friend. Prayers for all your family.
Randall E. Murphree
Friend
February 19, 2021
Prayers of peace for the Walbert family... May God bless the memory and legacy of Eileen Walbert.

James PJ Spraggins
James PJ Spraggins
Friend
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