Herman Vail - President of The Plain Dealer

9448 Lake Shore Boulevard
Delia & Herman Vail 1951
Delia & Herman Vail 1951

Delia White Vail was prominent in Cleveland Cultural and social circles for more than a third of a century. Her varied philanthropic activities began in 1917 when she became one of the first certified occupational therapists to be trained during World War I. Working with the Association for Crippled and Disabled Children, she conducted an occupation therapy class under the auspices of the Office of Civil Defense during World War II.

Delia served as a reconstruction aid for occupational therapy at a hospital in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and maintained a lifelong interest in therapy.

Delia was born on November 9, 1898, the daughter of Windsor and Delia White and the granddaughter of Liberty and Delia Holden. She was educated in Froebel School, grades 1 to 5; Laurel School, grades 5 to 10, and Westover School 1917. She attended the Garland School of Homemaking in Boston and the Boston School of Occupational Therapy.

Her activities took in the Cleveland Art Institute, of which she was a trustee, and the Cleveland Health Museum, where she was a director.

Delia was an artist, proficient in oils and watercolors. She had her own kiln in the basement in a room she called “The Shop”. Here she installed a big jigsaw, a ten-inch Delta wood lathe, and a combination set-up of a circular saw and joiner. Later a floor-stand drill press and woodcarver were added. She was adept with all the tools.

A prominent horsewoman, Delia belonged to the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club. Hunting and shooting were among her favorite hobbies. Her kennel of springer spaniels included many field champions.

Delia married Herman Lansing Vail on June 29, 1922. The Vails had two sons: Herman Lansing Jr. born in 1924, and Thomas Van Husen born on June 22, 1926.

Herman Lansing Vail was born on July 6, 1895, in Cleveland to Harry and Sarah Wickham Vail. He graduated from University School in 1913, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Princeton University in 1917 and an LL.B. from Harvard University Law School in 1922, being admitted to the Ohio bar the same year. He became a partner in the law firm of Sayre, Vail, Steele & Renkert, and later senior partner in the firm of Vail, Steele, Howland & Olson.

Vail was a first lieutenant in the 332nd Infantry during World War I. Leaving for France in 1918, he fought in the battle of Vittorio-Veneto on the Italian Front and was in the Army of Occupation.

A lifelong Republican, Vail served two terms in the Ohio legislature, where he was chairman of the House Tax Committee; and was a member of the Ohio Special Joint Taxation Commission.

Vail was appointed to serve the remaining term of Edward Foote who died in 1937. He served for 16 years until 1953.

Vail became involved in Forest City Publishing Company, publisher of the Plain Dealer, as a trustee representing the Holden family. In 1941 he was named a director of Forest City Publishing. Vail took charge of the Plain Dealer as president in 1963, serving until 1970. The Holden estate trustees decided to sell the newspaper to the Newhouse chain in 1967.

Vail was Chairman of the Northern Ohio Opera Association, president of Western Reserve Historical Society, the Citizens League of Greater Cleveland, and the Cleveland Council on World Affairs. He was a member of the American Legion, Princeton Alumni Association and The Country Club.

Delia died on December 22, 1952, at age 54 and is buried in Lake View Cemetery.  The terms of her will specified that if her husband remarried, he and his new wife were not to occupy the residence. Herman did remarry to Mary Louise Gleason in 1965 and the house was sold. Mary had been previously married to Charles B. Gleason and had two children: Caroline (Oberndorf), and David.

Herman Vail died on January 7, 1981, and is buried in Lake View Cemetery. Mary Louise died on April 18, 1997, and is also buried in Lake View Cemetery.