Melina M. Waldo, a passionate ally of the local LGBT community for more than 20 years, died earlier this month. She was 76.
Waldo, of Haddonfield, N.J., was a former national, regional and local official for PFLAG, formerly known as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. She died of cardiovascular disease Oct. 6 at her home.
Waldo was born in Braddock, near Pittsburgh. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Pennsylvania State University in 1960 and a master’s in social work at the University of Pittsburgh in 1988.
She was an elementary-school teacher in Allegany, N.Y., from 1960-65. Waldo then left the workforce to raise her family while accompanying her husband, Richard, a sales executive for an energy firm, on assignments in Paris and Tokyo.
Susanne Cassidy first met Waldo at a PFLAG meeting in 1997, and they have been close friends ever since, Cassidy said.
“Our friendship grew over the years as we continued our work at PFLAG. We both had sons that were gay — that’s why we joined,” she said. “We both really found our voice there and began speaking up on our sons’ behalf to others.”
Cassidy described Waldo as “passionate, loyal and dedicated; a smart woman who loved politics.”
“Melina went everywhere, to schools all over the area, educating as many people as she could. She wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Cassidy added. “When she became regional director for PFLAG, she started several new chapters in the area under her leadership.”
Waldo’s passion for outreach did not end with school visits. She also tutored an illiterate man at her church once a week for 12 years, teaching him to read and write.
“She helped a gentleman there named Anthony. Melina taught him how to read and write. She always spoke so fondly of him. He said at her funeral that he always thought of her as the mother he did not have,” Cassidy said.
Waldo testified on behalf of PFLAG and mothers with gay sons everywhere at a marriage-equality hearing in Blackwood, N.J., in 2008, before marriage equality was legal in the Garden State.
She also made a visit to Philadelphia Archbishop Chaput last year.
“Melina and I, along with two couples, visited Archbishop Chaput last April,” Cassidy said. “We wanted to make him aware that the [anti-LGBT] language used in the church was very harmful to so many people, including their sons.”
Waldo is survived by her husband, her son Craig, daughters Elise Major, Corinne Hale and Cara Tully and five grandchildren.
Waldo’s testimony at the Blackwood hearing can be found at, www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuewWhYTSpkn.