“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in both deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18 (NKJV)
Cleo Norma Breeze was born on August 25 in Syracuse, New York as the only daughter of her parents, William Brent and Thelma Jeffries Brent. She grew up with two younger brothers, Edward Brent and Charles Brent, whom she adored as their big sister throughout their lives.
Her parents provided a loving home environment where education was encouraged and respected. Both parents worked hard to be able to successfully provide for their family. One of her fondest childhood memories was of her father, also known as “Alfi Williams” in the boxing world, when he would return home from the Scranton, Pennsylvania area with loads of cash that he had earned. It was primarily her mother, a teacher, who inspired Cleo to enter the same profession. After completing her public school education in Syracuse, Cleo attended Cheyney State Teachers College in Cheyney, Pennsylvania earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education. She later earned a Master of Science degree in Communications with a Human Relations emphasis from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado. Additional studies culminated in the Secondary Principal’s License via her studies at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado.
By profession, Cleo taught in the public education school systems of Syracuse, New York; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Duluth, Minnesota prior to moving to Denver, Colorado. While in Duluth, she taught in both elementary and alternative schools. In 1975, she became the Director of the Office of Minority Affairs and Student Services in the Aurora Public Schools (APS). Additionally in APS, she was a Grant Writer and Coordinator for Indian Education/Tutorial Programs. At various times during her lengthy career in education, she was a Proposal Reader in Adult Education for the Colorado Department of Education, and for the Colorado Community College and Occupational Education System. She also taught at the Community College of Denver. Later, she joined the staff of the Governor’s Job Training Office as the Manager of Operations in 1987. She was hired as an Assistant Principal at Kunsmiller Middle School of the Denver Public Schools in 1992 where she remained until her retirement in 2006. After retirement, she enjoyed parttime work both as an after-school tutor of elementary school students, and working for the United States Census Bureau.
As a person of faith since the age of 13 when she joined Bethany Baptist Church, Cleo remained a faithful, dedicated Baptist her entire life. She joined New Hope Baptist Church and truly enjoyed serving her church after she was appointed to the Board of Trustees by Rev. Dr. James D. Peters, Jr. She also served as a member of the Condolence Committee.
Cleo was initiated in the Denver Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. on June 5, 1976. She later became a proud Diamond Life Member. Throughout the years, she worked as Chair of the Social Action Committee, and was oftentimes among the top three ticket sellers for various fundraisers and Founders Day events. Being highly competitive by nature, she helped make these activities even more exciting than normal. She received the prestigious Irma K. Hudson Award due to her longtime hard work in her chapter.
Community affairs and politics were her third and fourth full-time jobs. These were two additional arenas where everyone knew, or had heard of, Cleo. She was a founder and the 3rd President of Colorado Black Women for Political Action (CBWPA). She served as a Board Member of Gateway Battered Women’s Shelter, of the Mayor’s Commission on Women, of the Mayor’s Black Advisory Committee, and as a member of Citizens for Denver’s Future, and of the Stapleton Tomorrow Citizens Advisory Committee. Her labor of love working on behalf of others garnered recognitions such as Colorado State Senator Regis Groff’s Community Service Award, the Joint Effort Youth Foundation Certificate of Recognition for Community Service, the International Black Women’s Congress Denver Chapter’s Community Service Award, The Politics Award from CBWPA, and an Excellence in Education Award from the Colorado Gospel Music Academy and Hall of Fame.
Cleo was not only a hard worker and volunteer, but she enjoyed life to its fullest especially with those friends she chose to celebrate her birthday every year always on her actual birthday. In her free time, she was an ardent fiction reader who would sometimes complete 2 or more novels in a week! Her daily passion in addition to reading of course was talking on the phone. She really like playing golf and keeping up with PGA champion Tiger Woods. But her all-time favorite sport was watching the NBA late, great Kobe Bryant and current NBA star Stephen Curry play in every game she could gain access to. She enjoyed travelling to Regional Conferences and National Conventions with her sorority sisters, and on international trips with her friends in the “Y’all Group” that was led by her dear friends the late Colorado State Senator Regis Groff, and former Colorado State Senator Gloria Tanner. Other interests included a few favorite “gathering places” like the Aurora Lounge, the Ready Room, Spruce Street, Club Spice, The Palm Tree, the Kasbah, gaming establishments and Sam’s #3 in Glendale, Colorado.
She was a fervent fighter for her causes, her candidates (especially the late Regis Groff, the Honorables Gloria Tanner, Norm Early, Janet Buckner, James Coleman, Michael B. Hancock, the late Sharon Bailey, President Barack Obama, just to name a few, for HER family of friends and family, for her chosen community issues, for the downtrodden, and for the rights of others. NEVER at a loss for words, Cleo did not back away from any of life’s challenges. Everyone knew how she felt on most subjects, especially in the political arena. Always generous and with a good heart, she would make large public donations, but many times she was known to just “slip” a bit of money into the hands of individuals on a regular basis. She will most definitely be missed by many of those whose paths she crossed including her former students, colleagues, dear friends at church and the community-at-large, and her beloved sorority sisters.
On February 23, 2022, Cleo received her wings. She was preceded in death by her parents and both brothers. She leaves to mourn her passing: Aunt – Iva Harlow, Atlanta, GA; Stepson – Martin McNair, Baltimore, MD; Niece - Robbin Brent (Tony) Jackman, West Palm Beach, FL; Nephew – Christopher Garrett Graham, Syracuse, NY; Great nephews – Joseph Phelps II, Romen E. Phelps, Raheem Shareef; Great-great nephews – Joseph Phelps III, Julian L. Phelps, Joel L. Phelps, Jaylyn L Phelps, Tyger Chandler; Great-great nieces – Shyla J. Phelps, Briana Shareef; Cousins – including Tony (Charlotte) Tucker, Denver, CO; Linda Hammon, Jacksonville, FL; Carl Foy, Dallas, TX; John Godley, Phoenix, AZ; Joe Godley, Weyman Godley, Roxanne Godley all of Syracuse, NY; Deborah Godley, Fay Harlow both of Atlanta, GA; Nancy Sanders, Vallejo, CA; Michele Ortiz, Charlotte, NC; Special Sista Friends and Buddies currently or formerly of Denver, CO – Gloria Tanner, Brenda “BJ” Hyde, Linda Bates (Charles) Leali, Ouida (Michael) Magee, Jacquelyn (Paul) Sample, Delores Manns (Ira) Martin, Mildred Cooper (Anthony) Murphy, Irene Lay, Yvette Hunt, Tracey Dickerson, Ken Johnson, Nell Washington (Albert “Geno”) Haywood, Stephanie Hughes, Shelia Hughes, Charles Sain, Callie Brownlee-Groff, Patricia Brown-Paytee, Michael Brown, Loretta Tipton-Perry, Mitzi Brodnax-Collins, Dorothy Hayden-Watkins, Donna (Maceo) Brodnax, Alyce “Ally” Black-Redwine, Donald (Pat) Gatewood, Kathy Gatewood Clark, Alfred Donald McNair, Helen Landers, her Denver Alumnae Chapter sorority sisters, and the New Hope Baptist Church Board of Trustees.