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City of Perris


Memorial Service for Alberta Mable Kearney, Founder of Dora Nelson Museum

A memorial service for Perris cultural icon Alberta Mable Kearney will take place at 11 a.m. on Oct. 8 at First Baptist Church, 311 East Fifth Street in Perris.

Mrs. Kearney, founder of the Dora Nelson African American Art & History Museum and a 60-year resident of Perris, died late on Friday, Sept. 9, from complications of a stroke. She was 95.

A month before her death, Mrs. Kearney was present as representatives from the Association of African-American Museums toured the renovated Nelson museum, named in honor of a former slave and founder of the City’s first black congregation.

The City of Perris and Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley helped pay for the renovations, which included a new roof, landscaping, fencing, interior paint and flooring.

Mrs. Kearney was all smiles as she witnessed the dignitaries from Washington D.C. tour the remodeled museum on East Seventh Street, praising the efforts of the City and volunteers who donated hundreds of hours of time to renovate the museum.

A mistake prompted Kearney, who moved to Perris in 1957, to found the Dora Nelson museum.

Kearney purchased the former First Baptist Church building, which was dilapidated, and supervised its demolition without realizing the historical significance. Disheartened at the loss of a historical site, Kearney spent the rest of her life collecting memorabilia that told the story of the African-American experience in the Perris Valley. Over the years, she collected items owned by Nelson and others who contributed to improving race relations. She also served as a mentor to hundreds of students and adults in the Perris Valley.

Lovella Singer, Kearney’s daughter and executive director of the Dora Nelson Museum, spoke at Tuesday’ City Council meeting and thanked the community for its support. Confined to a wheelchair in recent years, Alberta Kearney hoped delegates from the Association of African-American Museums would visit Perris in 2016.

“You made her final wishes come true,” Singer told the City Council in public comments. “She was able to witness something that was very important to her. She saw you there, she recognized you,  she saw what you did. She died a happy woman.”

The City Council adjourned Tuesday’s meeting in Kearney’s memory.