Muriel Neavin Memorial, Mariposa Museum, CALIFORNIA


                                            IN MEMORY OF MURIEL NEAVIN               
                            Museum Founder, Benefactor and Creative Artist

Muriel Neavin, one of the principal founders and designers of the Mariposa Museum & History Center died last November.  The tardiness of this tribute stems from a lack of knowledge of her passing until late March, 2010.  In poor health for several years, Muriel lost her battle in a rest home in Merced, far from her beloved Mariposa property, now destined to become a wildlife preserve.
For those of us who remember her with fondness and respect, this little sketch of her life and talents hopefully will serve as a fitting tribute. 
Muriel’s mark on the Museum and History Center today remains throughout the original section encompassing the entry, lobby and the Daulton Room.  Almost every display, the calligraphy together with paintings on the walls are the work of this fine artist.
Depicted are the history of the Native American migrations, the routes taken by pioneers and their lengthy journeys, the capital cities of California and their locations prior to Statehood.  Quotations from the letters of Horace Snow to his friend Charles Fitz in Massachusetts as well as samples of his finely scripted missives are scattered throughout serving as a reminder of joys and tribulations of times long gone.  Nor are the hardworking Chinese immigrants forgotten. 
With nostalgia and a touch of humor we learn of naughty Murietta, the explorations of John C. Fremont as well as his sometimes controversial Mariposa Grant.  The life of a lonely miner far from home, the building of the County Courthouse still in use today, an example of a one-room schoolhouse and its extraordinary Superintendent, Julia Jones are all brought into living history.  Not omitted are the contributions of Captain Cathey, founder of  the Cathey’s Valley community, the Quick Family and their Ben Hur Ranch.  Above all the dominant feature is the towering Gagliardo store of Hornitos and its proprietor “Miss Jennie” who continued to operate the establishment past her 91st birthday.
Small wonder this little institution came to be rated by the Smithsonian representatives as “the finest small museum of its kind in the United States of America.”
From those who knew and loved Muriel Neavin best it is appropriate to include some quotes:
Muriel Powers, former Curator:  “Muriel received her instruction and indoctrination from her mother, herself a fine painter whose works hang in several Los Angeles museums.  By visiting such museums with this thoughtful parent she received inspiration on the formation of a history center in Mariposa.”
Marjorie Mueller, former President:  “Alice Sargent taught me the ropes while Muriel was still putting on the finishing touches…she used whatever she could scrounge:  old doors, windows, barn wood, discarded fencing…Muriel stood for hours painting on wood walls.”
Leroy Radanovich, Historian (among his other numerous achievements):   “Muriel Neavin and Louise Hudson almost single handedly designed and created the museum, Muriel the interior displays and Louise the grounds.  In the earliest location of this museum then the lower floor of the old Masonic Hall on sixth street, Muriel created the displays and their artifacts in the context of their original use, then transferred them to the present building in the 1970’s”.
If that were not enough, the museum’s best selling book,
The "Dear Charlie" Letters
representing long hours of transcription as well as humorous sketches is the final touch of dedication on the part of Muriel Neavin.  Try and read the originals yourself and see how difficult it must have been.
My first encounter with Muriel took place in the fall of 1988 while serving as a novice volunteer.  Never did she pass the docent desk without a cheery greeting and a word of thanks for our contributions.  But failing health forced her to relinquish active involvement about the middle of the last decade, and we have seen little or nothing of her since that time. 

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.  Its loveliness increases; it shall never pass into nothingness…”  John Keats

                    Lucille Apcar
                    Mariposa, California June 2010