Born May 4, 1924, in Ercildoun, PA, Dorothea Alice (Martin) Farmer-Mays-Cody had a huge heart and a congenial spirit that definitively left their mark on people’s lives. Why so many last names? Well, she outlived 3 husbands! To say she had a ‘halo’ is an understatement for someone whose life was well-lived. She is survived by an abundance of family: 3 children (Roscoe, Lee Farmer Jr., of San Francisco, CA; Tyrone Wazell Farmer, of Denver, CO, and Dr. Debra Paige Brazzle Noel-Deane, of San Diego, CA). (Dot’s fourth and youngest son Linford Emmanuel Brazzle preceded her in death). Together they’ve given Dot 7 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, and 4 great-great-grandchildren. She was also adored by scores of friends and neighbors, and beloved by her sisters and brothers in Christ.
First and foremost, the Church of Christ was a huge part of Dot’s everyday life…begun in a quaint one-room congregation started by her grandfather, Samuel Ruth, a freed slave, who was rescued by the 54th Massachusetts Regiment (think the movie, “Glory”). The church resided on the Underground Railroad. Samuel was brought north to Pennsylvania and later married Louisa Pinn. He pastored the Church of Christ on Doe Run Road in Ercildoun, P.A. where Dot would receive her early religious education. Much of the family is still buried in the cemetery next to the church. A testament to history, her life story reads like an epic novel!
Dot endured. She survived so much loss: a scourge of pandemics, natural disasters, personal illnesses, the loss of three husbands, starting with her first, Roscoe Lee Farmer who died in WWII. When she visited Pearl Harbor she did it in remembrance of him. She was uber well-traveled with touchpoints in exotic places from Asia and Europe, to the highlands of the British isles, historical places in Central America, Viking reminders in Greenland, Freed-slave communities in Canada, and nearly every state in the U.S.A. She was a also staunch history buff.
Most of all she loved to tell the story of how her family came to be on this continent…one of the few African Americans who actually could trace her roots from before slavery in Guinea…A woman, the great-granddaughter of an African princess, was kidnapped by tribal rivals while frolicking in a river with a group near their village. That woman, Grandmother Leah, captured and sold into slavery, was later freed by Emancipation. Her American-born son Samuel Ruth, who came north with the 54th, would make the treacherous journey back to Carolina’s Sea Islands many years after the Civil War to find her again. We may watch “Finding Your Roots” on T.V., however, the oral and documented history of the Martin-Green-Bowden-Pinn-Ruth family tree is full of outstanding personal achievements despite harsh realities; from the Underground Railroad story to our ancestor’s lives on George Washington’s plantation, to our rich Native American ancestry, family struggles for equality, and so much more!
After farm life, Dot moved to the city where became a ‘Fashionista’ and a ‘Diva’... she loved the movies and Hollywood stars. Yep, a snazzy dresser — always….loved that ‘glamourous look.’ Often stylin’ and profilin’ in the church Ladies Day Annual Conferences’ fashion shows. On numerous occasions, she wore clothing and gowns designed by her daughter, Deb, to whom she gifted a sewing machine originally intended to teach herself to sew. She would tell friends, “it just sat there gathering dust until one day my daughter began to create gorgeous outfits using it.” A personal tailor and new business were born!
Although she never became a seamstress, Dot had numerous hobbies; loved to collect cats and other nick-nacks for the curio shelf. Funny thing is, she owned dogs! She loved adventures too…would always make a point of sight-seeing, from spelunking to hiking well-heeled trails in the mountains, picnics, to hot air ballooning, to a dip in the world’s oceans (just the toes, though). She stopped at bungee-jumping! She loved board games, was a whiz at Checkers, Bingo, and card games called ‘Canasta’ and ‘Dirty Deuces.’ Scrabble saw the ‘super competitor’ in her. She said she loved school as a child, even though she only went to the 8th grade. She was needed on the family farm…a lot of acres to tend and mouths to feed. Self-sufficiency was ingrained at an early age along with the desire to own property, which she eventually purchased on her own, in three states.
One of Dot’s first jobs was working as a neonatal nursing assistant for the Civil Service. She enjoyed caring for babies and children which nurtured her creative side. Some winters when there was no power for days, the family would look to her for bringin’ on the fun. She would play Charades, iron Lin and Deb’s beds at night to keep them warm, and read Bible stories. She loved The Lord’s Prayer, the story of Ruth and other amazing women of the Bible, and memorized the names of all 66 books and many spiritually uplifting passages. She was an avid reader of Encyclopedia Britannica, Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, medical journals, cultural magazines Jet/Ebony, and Mother Goose nursery rhymes which she’d later use in her ‘Gaga’s Day Care Home.’ She said a daycare was sorely needed for working moms and dads and became CEO, CFO, and COO! — an entrepreneur and superb businesswoman, especially in a time when that was totally socially out-of-the-box.
Gaga’s Day Care Home was also a community drop-in for others in need, which donated food and clothing to families in need. Often, when parents couldn’t pay, she cared for the children anyway. At times, she even bought cars for those who struggled. The rear of the daycare became known as “Dot’s Home Kitchen” and it became a fixture in her Denver neighborhood. She would also, at times, let families live in her rental properties until they could pay. She said, “God sent them to me to help them get on their feet.” She had a thing about ensuring others had adequate food, clothing, and shelter…that none should be deprived of basic human needs, especially children. She was raised that way with 15 siblings! God always “added the increase” to whatever she needed.
When her son Lin was harassed, then shot during a corner store argument, she came home early from her job as a Health Technician at the Army Induction Center and cried that the newspaper article about his death labeled her son a ‘transient from Dallas, Texas.’ He lived with her. She was watching the evening news when she saw the story of the shooting, and the victim lying on the sidewalk. She recognized his shoes because only his upper body was covered. Later, when the district attorney asked her if she wanted a death penalty conviction or life without parole, she said, “life…always life. I choose life over death as a Christian.” “Killing a mentally ill man down on his luck will not bring back my son…I wish I could have helped that man.”
She would become an advocate…joining the fight for gun control and services for the mentally ill, for women’s rights, and voting rights. She was incensed that women could not own banking and credit accounts without male authorization; that voter suppression deprived Black people and other minorities of their right to cast ballots and worked feverishly for change. No doubt she inherited many of her ancestor’s fervent fighting spirits, and in fact, passed it on to her own children.
Now an esteemed ancestor herself, Dot seemed to foresee the future. She often shared an intuition that she would outlive her nuclear family…and, she did. Just like her to make a pronouncement that would come true. Respectfully, as a final wish, she wanted to honor her parent’s and siblings’ names. Her parents, Charles Franklin Martin and Leah Louisa Ruth Martin had 15 children:
Pearle Bailey (born March 17, 1905)
Blanche Martin (born February 21, 1906)
Ruth Martin (born August 16, 1907)
Charles Martin (born November 25, 1908)
Sarah Smith (born July 13, 1911)
Samuel Martin (born Sept 15, 1912)
Marjorie Martin (born May 24, 1914)
Della Martin (born October 18, 1915)
Clifford Martin (born February 2, 1917)
Lydia Parker (born April 17, 1918)
Cora Brazzle (born January 16, 1920)
Vivian Baxter (born January 28, 1923)
Dorothea Farmer-Mays-Cody (born May 4, 1924)
Clarence Martin (died soon after birth June 1926)
Ramona Hines (born December 27, 1928)
Rejoice, Dorothea Alice Martin Farmer-Mays-Cody! You lived a long and glorious life. You were many things to many different people: daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, adventurer, caretaker, iconoclast, teacher, counselor, and friend. You had a heart of gold and were beloved by so many for your selfless generosity, shrewd wit, and humorous storytelling. Though you completed your epic earthly journey quietly and peacefully, your legacy continues. We shall remember your compassion, a life well-lived with fervor, gratitude, and in service to family, friends, community, and your God.