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To commemorate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we’d like to share a little history about our organization’s namesake, Albertina Sechtem Kerr.

Albertina, known to her family as “Tina,” was born in Portland on July 13, 1890. Her father died in 1894, so Albertina and her siblings went to work to support the family. She dropped out of high school and went to work at the Kerr Glass Company on NW 4th Avenue and Hoyt Street, where she met the company’s owner and her future husband, Alexander Kerr. The couple were wed on September 29, 1910, and their son John was born in June 1911.

Shortly after John was born, the Kerr family traveled from the Oregon Coast up to Long Beach, WA. During the trip, Albertina contracted typhoid fever. She died on October 17, 1911. Her deathbed wish to her husband was: “Look after other motherless babies, too.”

Alexander donated their home to the Pacific Coast Rescue Society for use as a home for orphans. The home, which provided adoption services and daycare for the children of single mothers, opened in 1913 and quickly needed to expand to support more children and mothers. Alexander and his third wife, Ruth, raised money for a larger building at NE 22nd Avenue and Sandy Blvd. that opened in 1921 as the Albertina Kerr Nursery, known today as Kerr Administrative Center (KAC).

The nursery operated until 1967 when the organization changed to a foster care approach. In the 1980s, the agency began to help people with developmental disabilities in response to the State of Oregon’s plans to close the Fairview Training Center in Salem. Today, Albertina Kerr helps individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health challenges to lead self-determined lives in their communities. This is the legacy of Albertina Kerr!