Obituary: Cheryl Squire Flint / Leader in helping reduce infant mortality

April 5, 1947 - Feb. 21, 2014

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Cheryl Squire Flint had leadership qualities all her life, planning family events, doing volunteer work, teaching Sunday school and more.

It wasn't until she was in her 50s that her organizational skills came to the attention and benefit of a much wider and needier group -- mainly young and low-income African-American mothers of the region -- through her role as executive director of the Healthy Start program.

The former stay-at-home mother rose in the ranks of Healthy Start of Pittsburgh and Fayette County, starting as a staff worker visiting expectant and new mothers in 1995 before becoming a supervisor and, eventually, executive director in 2003.

She was an influential and innovative advocate in efforts to reduce the infant mortality rate among young, local women.

Ms. Flint died last Friday at UPMC Montefiore from respiratory failure that followed longtime ailments caused by lupus and Crohn's disease. The Churchill resident, who was 66, had been hospitalized since September.

Healthy Start was created as a federally funded pilot project in 1991 in different parts of the country known for high infant mortality rates and for large gaps in the rates of death between white and black newborns, as was the case in the Pittsburgh region.

Ms. Flint headed an agency with more than $2 million in federal funding annually and nearly 50 staffers who counseled young mothers and mothers-to-be to try to address the mortality problem, including the issue of low birth weights.

She lost an infant son in 1973, although it wasn't widely known within the organization or among others she worked with.

"I'm sure that added to her motivation and was something able to help her empathize with these mothers, as a major event in her life," said her brother, Percy Squire, of Columbus, Ohio.

A voracious reader later in life, Ms. Flint grew up in a tight-knit family in Youngstown. She was a good student always known for organizing things, but she subordinated any career ambitions to those of her husband who came to Pittsburgh to attend law school.

She raised a son and brought her keen sense of detail to volunteer activities in church and Y programs in the eastern suburbs before a separation and divorce made her a single mother.

She obtained a position counseling young women for Family Health Council before starting similar work for Healthy Start and ascending to greater responsibilities.

Healthy Start plays a counseling role in hundreds of births annually to low-income mothers in Allegheny and Fayette counties. The agency reports the mortality rate among those it serves as being a little more than half the rate among local African-American births overall.

As executive director, Ms. Flint was known for introducing programs addressing depression among young mothers, working with the fathers of babies, adding electronic record-keeping, organizing educational conferences and more.

Recognition of her work won her appointment as vice president of the National Healthy Start Association. The New Pittsburgh Courier honored her in 2012 as one of its "50 Women of Excellence."

"She would have conversations with people and then pick up ideas and run with them," said Wilford Payne, a Healthy Start board member who is executive director of Homewood-based Primary Care Health Services.

"She was always trying to go the next step, to make the program one of the best in the country."

Andrea Kimple, the agency's human resources director who is serving as acting executive director, called Ms. Flint a passionate advocate and articulate public speaker who commanded whatever room she was in.

"She had the ability to see into the future," Ms. Kimple said, by pioneering new methods such as the project to train and encourage young fathers to become involved in the responsibilities of parenthood.

In her own extended family, Ms. Flint was the one who took charge of organizing parties, holiday gatherings and other events. There was no need for anyone to have a wedding planner when she had mastery of every detail relating to invitations, decorating, meals and more.

She was an excellent cook, with a large library of cookbooks and food magazines that extended beyond the traditional staples she excelled at preparing, such as ribs and salmon.

"Her attention to detail was her signature trait," said her son, Troy Flint, of Oakland, Calif., who attended Kiski Prep and Yale University and credited her close attention to his education throughout.

"She exhibited strong discipline when performing even the most insignificant tasks, so that when she was in a position of importance that could have a significant impact on society, she was really able to produce excellent outcomes."

In addition to her son and brother, Ms. Flint is survived by her parents, Percy M. and Ruth G. Squire, of Youngstown, and a sister, Florence Squire Coleman of Dayton, Ohio.

Friends will be received from 4 to 8 p.m. today at West Funeral Home, 2215 Wylie Ave., Hill District. A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mount Ararat Baptist Church, 271 Paulson Ave., Larimer.

Cheryl Squire Flint had leadership qualities all her life, planning family events, doing volunteer work, teaching Sunday school and more.

It wasn't until she was in her 50s that her organizational skills came to the attention and benefit of a much wider and needier group -- mainly young and low-income African-American mothers of the region -- through her role as executive director of the Healthy Start program.

The former stay-at-home mother rose in the ranks of Healthy Start of Pittsburgh and Fayette County, starting as a staff worker visiting expectant and new mothers in 1995 before becoming a supervisor and, eventually, executive director in 2003.

She was an influential and innovative advocate in efforts to reduce the infant mortality rate among young, local women.

Ms. Flint died last Friday at UPMC Montefiore from respiratory failure that followed longtime ailments from lupus and Crohn's disease. The Churchill resident, who was 66, had been hospitalized since September.

Healthy Start was created as a federally funded pilot project in 1991 in different parts of the country known for high infant mortality rates and for large gaps in the rates of death between white and black newborns, as was the case in the Pittsburgh region.

Ms. Flint headed an agency with more than $2 million in federal funding annually and nearly 50 staffers who counseled young mothers and mothers-to-be to try to address the mortality problem, including the issue of low birth weights.

She lost an infant son in 1973, although it wasn't widely known within the organization or among others she worked with.

"I'm sure that added to her motivation and was something able to help her empathize with these mothers, as a major event in her life," said her brother, Percy Squire, of Columbus, Ohio.

A voracious reader later in life, Ms. Flint grew up in a tight-knit family in Youngstown. She was a good student always known for organizing things, but she subordinated any career ambitions to those of her husband who came to Pittsburgh to attend law school.

She raised a son and brought her keen sense of detail to volunteer activities in church and Y programs in the eastern suburbs before a separation and divorce made her a single mother.

She obtained a position counseling young women for Family Health Council before starting similar work for Healthy Start and ascending to greater responsibilities.

Healthy Start plays a counseling role in hundreds of births annually to low-income mothers in Allegheny and Fayette counties. The agency reports the mortality rate among those it serves as being a little more than half the rate among local African-American births overall.

As executive director, Ms. Flint was known for introducing programs addressing depression among young mothers, working with the fathers of babies, adding electronic record-keeping, organizing educational conferences and more.

Recognition of her work won her appointment as vice president of the National Healthy Start Association. The New Pittsburgh Courier honored her in 2012 as one of its "50 Women of Excellence."

"She would have conversations with people and then pick up ideas and run with them," said Wilford Payne, a Healthy Start board member who is executive director of Homewood-based Primary Care Health Services.

"She was always trying to go the next step, to make the program one of the best in the country."

Andrea Kimple, the agency's human resources director who is serving as acting executive director, called Ms. Flint a passionate advocate and articulate public speaker who commanded whatever room she was in.

"She had the ability to see into the future," Ms. Kimple said, by pioneering new methods such as the project to train and encourage young fathers to become involved in the responsibilities of parenthood.

In her own extended family, Ms. Flint was the one who took charge of organizing parties, holiday gatherings and other events. There was no need for anyone to have a wedding planner when she had mastery of every detail relating to invitations, decorating, meals and more.

She was an excellent cook, with a large library of cookbooks and food magazines that extended beyond the traditional staples she excelled at preparing, such as ribs and salmon.

"Her attention to detail was her signature trait," said her son, Troy Flint, of Oakland, Calif., who attended Kiski Prep and Yale University and credited her close attention to his education throughout.

"She exhibited strong discipline when performing even the most insignificant tasks, so that when she was in a position of importance that could have a significant impact on society, she was really able to produce excellent outcomes."

In addition to her son and brother, Ms. Flint is survived by her parents, Percy M. and Ruth G. Squire, of Youngstown, and a sister, Florence Squire Coleman of Dayton, Ohio.

Friends will be received from 4 to 8 p.m. today at West Funeral Home, 2215 Wylie Ave., Hill District. A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mount Ararat Baptist Church, 271 Paulson Ave., Larimer.


Gary Rotstein: grotstein@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1255.

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