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Martin finds ‘family’ in community

Lois Martin has been a fixture at the Greenville Senior Center since its earliest days at the Greenville Housing Authority. The Cedar St. facility almost feels like home.

“I was a charter member of the senior center. I worked here for seven-and-a-half years as assistant manager to Velma Blackmon. For the past ten years, I’ve been coming and participating in the quilting,” the 94-year-old Coffee County native says with a gentle smile.

“Pretty much everybody around here knows me.”

She has lived a long life and gathered many memories along the way, both cheerful and tearful.

Martin suffered a devastating loss at age two when her mother succumbed to the Spanish Influenza during the pandemic that followed WW I.

Martin and her father moved in with her grandmother, who took care of little Lois until she was five.

“And then my dad remarried – and I thought he didn’t love me anymore. My grandmother reminded me I would have a mom and a dad now, like the other children. Well, she was good to me and I started calling her “Mama,” Martin says.

“When my brothers and sisters came along, I never thought of them as being half-brothers or half-sisters. They were just my family.”

Married in 1939 to Sherman Neese, the couple moved to Evergreen.

With a scarcity of jobs, Neese finally found work with a CCC camp in Louisiana. Their oldest son, also named Sherman, was born there on May 4, 1940 – coincidentally, his mother’s birthday.

She is also mother to daughters Mary and Patsy, grandmother to five and great-grandmother to 11.

“One of them calls me pretty much every day,” she says with a proud smile.

Thrice-widowed, Martin now lives by herself, but doesn’t consider herself to be alone.

“I have my family here at the center, my church family at East Greenville Baptist Church and my Senior Circle family. The Senior Circle members meet and eat together at the hospital cafeteria on Fridays and Saturdays,” she explains.

She attends church every Sunday morning at East Greenville “and I love all the members there.”

Although Martin enjoys helping craft the colorful examples of the art of quilting produced by the talented ladies at the senior center, she admits arthritis in her neck and shoulders is taking its toll on her.

“I hope to get better. But they do a beautiful job and I know they can get along without me,” she says with a smile.

Since she no longer drives after dark, she had to give up her involvement in the Eastern Star, where she assisted in cooking many pots of their famous camp stew.

“Sometimes at my age, you feel like you’ve outlived your worthiness, I reckon,” she says with a small sigh.

Martin has no plans to give up the center, however.

“This place has done a lot of people, including me, a lot of good,” she says firmly.