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Tessie Mae Conley, civil rights activist, owned store ; March 24, 1939 -- Dec. 10, 2010

A service for Tessie Mae Conley, a civil rights activist who participated in marches and rallies all over the United States, will be at 11 a.m. today in the Upper Room Church of God in Christ, 131 Florida Ave. at Jefferson Avenue.

Mrs. Conley died Dec. 10 in St. Louis. She was 71.

For decades, the Buffalo woman was an active supporter of civil rights organizations.

In the 1960s, she took part in protest marches in the South led by activist Dick Gregory and attended numerous rallies featuring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In recent years, she was active with Million Man and Million Woman events, her family said.

"Whenever events were held to help or uplift the African-American community, she was there," recalled one of her sons, Robert Cathcart of Buffalo. "She believed in education and black history. Anytime she would send one of her grandkids a check on their birthday, she'd also send a book or an article -- something to think about."

Mrs. Conley also took two of her grandchildren to Egypt so they could see the pyramids, Cathcart said.

The former Tessie Mae Newton was born in Darbun, Miss., and moved to Buffalo with her family at age 17. She was a graduate of Bryant & Stratton Business Institute. Over the years, she operated a health food store and worked as a home care aide.

In addition to Benjamin, her husband of 37 years, she is survived by two daughters, Antoinette Laney and Jamila Conley; three sons, Cathcart, Alvin Yelverton and Manuwell Yelverton; a stepson, Elvis Conley; three sisters, Lucille Strong, Weinsia Manuel and Dallas Newton; and a brother, Alfonso Newton.

[HERBECK]

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