Dolores Feemster 1929-2018

The matriarch of a family that has given Reno several generations of community leaders has died at age 89.

Dolores Feemster was a rarity—a native Nevadan. She was born in a home on Morrill Avenue in Reno and died the day after her 89th birthday in Sparks.

She was born in the 1920s, an era when the Klan revived, including in Nevada. She had a dozen children, some of whom she had to bury. Her children became educators, businesspeople, public officials. She worked for Washoe Association for Retarded Citzens, the Community Services Agency, and Hug High School. In a window of her home, there was a sign reading, “The love of a family is one of life’s greatest blessings.”

Columnist Andrew Barbano, a vice president of the local NAACP branch, said, “For someone whose name meant ‘sorrow’ in Latin, Italian and Spanish, she brought joy to the world. Dolores Monica Mendocino Feemster was everybody’s mom and grandma. She mothered 12 children. … Dolores was born into the apartheid Reno of 1929. … Her home was always open to anyone, the door seldom locked. Neighborhood foundlings needing a place to crash were welcome at Mother Dolores’ place. A who’s-who of UNR athletic superstars, all the way up to Colin Kaerpenick himself, hung out at Dolores’ house. … She emerged largely unscathed by the old Reno in large part perhaps because she was blessed with a disarming and affable personality. ”

The civil rights movement fell in midlife for her and she was a forceful presence in that movement—and her house a center of activism. When Feemster was named in 1990 to the Nevada Women’s Hall of Fame, it was said of her, “Community, education, and children have been the center of Dolores Feemster’s life.”