Kearney Family Christmas photo 2020. Photo by Pete Coleman


Rose LaVonne Powell Kearney (“Roro”) was born on December 20, 1935 in Carson, Mississippi, to Lavatus Von Powell, Sr. and Lucy Samuels Powell. She had one sibling, her dearly beloved big brother, Lavatus Von Powell, Jr. Both parents were teachers, and their community called Rose’s dad “Professor.”

Rose and her family attended Carson Baptist Church until she relocated to Cincinnati and joined Carmel Presbyterian Church where she was a Sunday School teacher and an elder, as well as a volunteer throughout the years for numerous programs and events.

Rose not only was beautiful inside and out like her name, but known for her intelligence. She was the valedictorian of her high school graduating class from the Prentiss Normal & Industrial Institute in Prentiss, Mississippi, which was seven miles from Carson. Her dear cousin, Al Hall, said that their 1953 class’ motto was “Not at the Summit, but on the way.”

After high school, Rose matriculated at Jackson State University, one of the most prestigious Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  At JSU, she earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education in 1957. She took advanced studies at the University of Wisconsin and at the University of Cincinnati.

Easter Dinner with (left to right) Asher, Jan-Michele, Rose, and Eric Kearney, Dr. Myrtis Powell, Mark and Christine Patel. Photo contributed

It was at JSU that she pledged the Delta Pi chapter of her beloved Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. One of Rose’s fondest memories at JSU was when the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated chose her as their Omega Sweetheart.

Rose moved to Cincinnati to teach elementary school after her brother, Lavatus, relocated here to teach and then to join Procter & Gamble. During her career with the Cincinnati Public Schools, she taught at Bond Hill Elementary, Hoffman, and Pleasant Hill Elementary. She loved her students and was always excited to hear from them after her retirement from CPS.

One of Rose’s best friends, Rubye Glenn, introduced her to a handsome young chemist who worked at the Environmental Protection Agency. His name was Jasper William Kearney. They fell in love and were married on April 6, 1963. Rose and Jasper had one son, Eric Henderson Kearney, who became an attorney, founder of KGL Media Group, Inc. (owner of The Cincinnati Herald and other publications), Ohio Senator, and president of The Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce. Eric describes his parents as being loving and supportive, and making many sacrifices to provide him with a good education and opportunities in life. They encouraged him to be on that path to the summit, as Rose’s high school classmates would say. Rose always joked that she was a shy person, but her son forced her to be out in the public eye. Jasper predeceased Rose in 1991.

Rose’s sister-in-law, the late Maxine Bell Powell, was Rose’s soror and classmate at Jackson State University. Maxine asked Rose to be a founding member of the Pan City Garden Club in Cincinnati more than 60 years ago, and Rose remained active in the club throughout her life. Rose also volunteered for the League of Women Voters and several years ago, served as the chair of the committee that produced the Voters Guide. Rose enjoyed her investment club, book club, and her volunteer work, including working on the political campaigns of her son, President Obama, and daughter-in-law, Jan-Michele. She attended both inaugurations of President Obama.

Eric’s swearing in to the Ohio Senate in 2010. Clockwise from left: Elizabeth Lemon, Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, Celeste Kearney, Eric Kearney, Rose Kearney, and Asher Kearney. Photo provided

Rose remained connected to her alma mater through the Jackson State University Alumni Association in Cincinnati. She also was active in the Retired Teachers Association, and in earlier years, joined the Teachers Bowling League. Rose loved to go to Playhouse in the Park, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra concerts at Music Hall, and plays at the Aronoff. She enjoyed attending just about all of her grandchildren’s sports and other activities, eating out at restaurants, and going to movies. She often played board games with her family, especially Scrabble and Rummikub. She was a skillful Bridge player and enjoyed her monthly bridge club until COVID put a pause on-person events.

Of course, Rose loved Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. Upon moving to Cincinnati, she became an active member of the Cincinnati Alumnae Chapter, and in the late 1990s, she was honored as a Delta Dear. Red remained her favorite color, and she was always proud of her sorority and their commitment to community service.

Rose enjoyed traveling with her sister-in-law, Dr. Myrtis Powell, and attending the Powell and Chenault family reunions that were held in cities across the country and sometimes on cruises abroad. Nothing was more important to her than her family, and she enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren, Celeste and Asher – who loved to report to her when they were upset with their parents because “Roro” always took their side in all matters.

Rose was the center of the Kearney Family. She was a blessing and gift from God.

Visiting Celeste during her D.C. internship in 2016 (left to right): Jan-Michele, Eric, Asher, Celeste and Rose. Photo provided

Rose is survived by her son, Eric Henderson Kearney (Jan-Michele Lemon), grandchildren Emerson Celeste Flora Kearney and Asher William Judson Kearney; nieces Robin Powell Mandjes (Luuk), Dr. Judith LaVonne Powell Olson (Dave), Rose Susan Eugenia Dorsey, Esq. (Daniel), Marie Smith Morris, and Helen Kearney; nephews Lavatus Von Powell III, Esq. (Johanna), Roderick Kearney, Rev. Reginald Kearney (Tina); James Kearney, and Leonard Smith, Jr.; great-nieces Carly Olson, Taylor Kearney, Lucie Belle Mandjes, Elisabeth Rose Powell, and Nikita Harris; great-nephews Hakeem Thobhani, Miles Olson, Steven Kearney, and Joshua Kearney; sisters-in-law Dr. Myrtis Powell and Peggy Kearney; and a host of loving, wonderful relatives and friends.

Services for Rose will be held on Saturday, November 20, 2021 at Carmel Presbyterian Church, 3549 Reading Road in Avondale: Visitation from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s Omega Omega Service at 11:30 a.m.; Funeral Service at 1 p.m., followed by interment at Spring Grove Cemetery, and a repast at 4 p.m. at the University Club, 401 E. 4th Street Cincinnati, OH 45202. Rev. Garth Adams will officiate. Renfro Funeral Home is providing services.

Flowers may be sent to Carmel Presbyterian Church, 3549 Reading Rd. 45229, or donations for scholarships for girls to the Delta Gateway Foundation, P.O. Box 37290   Cincinnati, OH 45222.

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