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Perry Student Leah King Starts Fundraiser for Headstone

By Chris Lillstrung, The News-Herald, Posted: 10/31/17

It may have been an athlete who competed more than 80 years before she did and who didn’t attend her own high school, but Leah King felt compelled to act.

On July 4, the story of 1930s Harvey football trailblazer Lentie Bolden was published in The News-Herald and on its website. Bolden was the second African-American varsity football player in school history, whose time in the sport and in high school was cut short by an eye injury suffered in a car crash.  In the story, it was mentioned Bolden was laid to rest at Evergreen Cemetery in Painesville but did not have a headstone in the family plot in the northeast corner of the grounds.

King wants to do something about that. The Perry junior, who was the Division II 100-meter hurdles state champion last spring and a first-team N-H girls track and field all-star, has started a fundraiser through her family’s foundation to raise $3,000 for a headstone for Bolden.  “After reading the story, I talked with my dad (Keith) about getting Lentie a headstone to properly mark his grave in honor of his struggles, missed opportunities and bring awareness to equal humanitarian treatment,” King said. “To raise funds, my dad is assisting me with direction and we share ideas. But I’m driving the bus.”

King was particularly moved by the manner in which Bolden was described in local media accounts of the era more for his skin color than for his athletic prowess.  About a month before his senior year of high school would have commenced, Bolden was a passenger in a car on Mentor Avenue when a 17-year-old Fairport Harbor resident, evading police in a stolen car, crashed head-on. The driver of Bolden’s car was killed.

Bolden died in 1951 at the age of 32. At Evergreen, the area in which Bolden’s grave would sit only has one headstone, which is for another member of his family.

“For me, this is about human decency and to remember the lost potential of someone who was forgotten,” King said. “Volunteers and the monument company have helped with the order of Lentie’s headstone, foundation pour and set, and we can have this in place by Thanksgiving.

“We have even started our own charitable foundation for this purpose, that we hope will bring awareness and serve future community awareness needs.”

Donations can be made through the Headstone for Lentie Bolden gofundme page, mailed to King Charitable Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 558, Perry, 44081, or at a local Huntington Bank branch. For more information, email unitedpi@roadrunner.com.

Read more about Lentie Bolden:  High school football: Lentie Bolden blazed trail at Harvey in 1930s before sad ending