OUTstanding Virginians 2009

Claus Ihlemann

Norfolk activist and owner of Decorum Furniture

Claus Ihlemann, owner of Decorum Furniture in Norfolk was one of the original organizers of the Tidewater Aids Crisis Task Force (TACT).  With Claus at the helm, TACT was able to meet its goals of educating citizens and providing critical health care to those in need by raising close to a half a million dollars.  He was approached by Sister Mary Joan Kentz, who dreamed of starting a daycare for children with AIDS and needed help. Claus explained he did not stock furniture for infants but would see what he could do. Within a week, Claus informed her that the Ghent Merchants Association would hold a fundraiser for CANDII House (the name given to the home).  They raised over $20,000 to fully furnish CANDII House.  He was a major supporter for the first Hampton Roads Aids Walk by encouraging businesses in Ghent to contact the Mayor requesting that the walk take place from downtown Norfolk through the streets of Ghent. Having previously sponsored the “Comedy Cruise” to benefit “Virginians for Justice,” Claus joined with a small group of LGBT leaders to form an advisory group to expand EV in Hampton Roads. This group was instrumental in energizing and educating the community on the adverse effects of the so called “Marriage Amendment” to the Virginia Constitution.  Claus was the honoree for the 2008 “The Legends Gala” and continues to be at the forefront in support of EV through various events such as the Commonwealth Dinner and hosting fundraisers for LGBT friendly candidates.