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John E. Umstead


John Ervin Umstead, was born on January 10th, 1929 in Hectors Creek, North Carolina to the late Samuel Doctor (Doc) Umstead and Lessie Coley. He was the oldest son of six children, four girls and two boys. He was blessed with 94 years and passed away on Sunday, July 9, 2023.

He graduated from Hillside High School where he played football and found his passion for building and woodworking which led to him becoming an excellent carpenter. He resided in Durham until moving to New York in his early 20s. He returned to Durham and married his high school sweetheart the late, Mattie Lee Sanders Umstead and the young couple relocated to Cleveland Ohio in 1957 where he would expand his skills beyond carpentry. The couple was married 59 years and lived in the Glenville neighborhood for 25 years until moving to Cleveland Heights Ohio where they lived over 31 years.

The young couple desired a large family and both shared a love for children. John finished building their first house he designed and constructed himself and the family moved to Arlington Avenue at E 125th street, in the Glenville neighborhood. With five children the home was full of energy, laughter and joy as many of the neighbors would attest and share funny stories over the years.

John was extremely active and dedicated to his church community which was a commitment throughout his life. John was baptized and found Christ early in life. He was an active member in Durham North Carolina, Mt Vernon Baptist Church, as well as several churches he helped to build over the years both with his leadership and construction company (Second Mt Olive Baptist, Mt Zion Baptist, First Christian Church and Nursery in Ohio). He joined and became a very active member of Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church in early 1990s where he served on the Deacon board until he was unable to and he moved to Carmel Indiana due to health in October 2022.

He dedicated his life to service and he (and Mattie) were very involved in the community for over 75 years: he served as treasurer of the Scouts (both Boy Scouts and Girl Scout troops), a leader of boy scout troops and a member of the Boy Scout council. He was president of Glenville Area council, Forest Hill Parkway council and an active member of the Congress of Racial Equity. He was president of National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC) for several years during that time he mentored many to start their own businesses and advocated for skilled trades in construction, he was recognized for his achievements and entrepreneurial excellence in 1991. He was a life member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America

In 1967, after completing Cuyahoga Community College and West Technical Trade school, John started his own family business, Umstead Management and Construction company which was later incorporated in the late 80s. The Umstead Management & Construction Corporation provided the supervision, maintenance crews and resources for NASA Lewis Research Center facilities for a decade which in ’99 was renamed NASA John H. Glenn Research Center. In addition, the corporation delivered major projects at NASA, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, US Coast Guards Facility, Veterans Hospital, and many markets and stores across Ohio. He was known in the industry for his mental math capabilities and designed many unique skywalks and archways he helped to construct which can be seen at Cleveland Clinic and Baptist churches around the city. The business grew beyond construction to maintenance and rental property management.

Starting in the 1970s and continuing throughout his life, he held many leadership positions in community organizations. He was known for creating and leading the Captain Arthur Roth “Father’s club” at the elementary school his kids attended. A program led and facilitated by local fathers to spend an evening each week at the school mentoring, playing and entertaining young kids (while the mothers had an evening kid free). He was very active politically having held many leadership positions in Ohio and nationally. He has been a member of the Presidential Advisory Board and he campaigned and ran for Ohio State Representative for the 13th district in 1978. He remained active in the Republican Party until 2008 and received two Congressional medals of distinction from the NRCC in recognition of his outstanding leadership and vision, received during span of three Presidents, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama.

John enjoyed nightly long walks with his dog, he exercised daily, he loved fishing and often spent time on a boat with dear friends and family. He loved swimming, classical music, traveling and time relaxing with family and friends playing games that involved trivia. He was well-known for his sharing of historical facts, often sharing humorous story-telling and sharing his zeal and memory of all types of history.

On Sunday, July 9th, 2023, John was called by God to eternal rest at the age of 94. He leaves to cherish his loving memories five children: three daughters, Vanessa Hall (Charles) of Pittsburg PA, JoAnn U. Atwater (Kenneth) of Durham NC, and Donna U. Carroll (Leslie II) of Indianapolis IN; two sons, Robert Umstead and Reginald Umstead of Cleveland OH. Thirteen grandchildren, Elizabeth, John, Charles, Brandon, Jordan, Gabrielle Marie, Leslie III, Reginald II, RayShawn, Markeeta, Houston, Lamont, and Chris; eleven great grandchildren, Amirihana, Jordan Jr, Aleena, Chloe, Brandon Jr, Brendan, Rylie, Laila, Jaylon, Syncere and Reginald III and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, numerous God-children (Hamilton and Rouser Family) and other relatives and treasured friends.

Humbly Submitted, The Family

The family appreciates all the love and support and ask for those choosing to give in lieu of flowers to consider donating to the following program , to which John was devoted. Please know that any amount you give will be appreciated as a tribute to his legacy and the lives he touched. Send to: Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church Community Outreach “In memory of Deacon John Umstead” at 1161 E. 105th St., Cleveland, OH 44108 or



Monday, July 17, 2023

10:00 AM - 7:00 PM

Strowder's Funeral Home 822 East 105th Street Cleveland, OH 44108


Tuesday, July 18, 2023

11:30 AM

The Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church 1161 E. 105th St. Cleveland, Ohio 44108

Funeral Service

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

12:00 PM

The Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church 1161 E. 105th St. Cleveland, Oh 44108


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