Martha Garner’s idyllic life has seen tragedies
by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star
Nov 26, 2013 | 964 views |  0 comments | 52 52 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Martha Yancey Garner’s life was perfect when she was growing up in Altoona in Etowah County. She thought everyone was as happy as she.

“It was a wonderful time,” she said. “It was like I was in a world of my own. My granddaddy had a little country store. They lived next door to us. A little country church was up on the hill. Sometimes you don’t know the rest of the world existed. I was very happy.”

Martha was an adult and had been married seven years, when her ideal world was interrupted by the tragic death of her brother Charles in 1970. A tractor he was driving turned over and landed on him.

“That was very hard,” said Martha. “I watched my mom and dad depend on the Lord during that time.”

After graduating from Etowah County High School, Martha attended Snead State, then Auburn. That’s where she caught the attention of a young junior, Jim Garner, from Piedmont.

Blushing, Martha said she hates to admit how they met. As she was walking, he whistled at her. It wasn’t easy for her to ignore him.

“I thought he was very handsome,” she said. “I kind of cut my eyes around at him.”

Later, they met in a more formal way and began dating. They’ve been married 50 years and have a daughter, Kelly, a writer and singer who has a studio in Franklin, Tenn. Kelly finished her bachelor’s degree in education at Auburn and attended Belmont University in Nashville. She taught in the voice department at Belmont five years, then attended Middle Tennessee State to get a master’s degree. She’s currently working on her doctorate of musical arts in jazz, voice and performance at the University of Miami.

Her parents are keeping Kelly’s Saint Bernard, Clarence who, as Martha said, “is part of the family now.”

Martha followed in the footsteps of her mother, who taught over 50 years. She graduated from Auburn in 1963 and then taught at Sardis, her first job, while Jim went to Korea. After teaching at Sardis two years, she taught at Etowah High for a year, then attended Jacksonville State University where she received her master’s in math.

At that time, her mother was head of the math and engineering department at Gadsden State.

“They probably wouldn’t do this today, but they hired me in the math department at Gadsden State,” said Martha.

That was in 1967. She stayed 29 years before she retired, ending a 32 year teaching career.

Martha served on the Piedmont City School Board two times - from 1979-84 and 2005-10. During her first term, Jim was mayor and, together, they initiated plans to build a new high school. During her second term, the stadium was remodeled.

“I loved being on the school board,” she said. “I like serving anyway I can for education and helping the children in any way.”

Her grandfather, C. A. Kilpatrick, served on the Etowah County School Board for a number of years.

“I guess it just runs in the family,” she said. “Young people keep you young. I love that. I love anything to do with education. I’ve always wanted to be a part in pushing people forward in any way.”

She is currently on the Piedmont Education Trust Board.

Martha retired in 1996, mainly to help take care of her parents, who were living in the old family home.

“I thought I’d be able to take care of them, but undoubtedly, that wasn’t God’s plan,” she said.

The house caught fire and her parents died from smoke inhalation.

“I’d already put in for my retirement,” she said. “This happened in March, and somehow, with the Lord’s help, I taught that summer. I came out at the end of that summer.”

She remembered how her parents had gotten through the tragic accident of her brother and knew she had to emulate their words and actions.

 “I remembered how my mother and daddy had depended on the Lord after my brother died,” said Martha. “You never know how you’re going to use what you’ve seen and realize that the only way you can get through it is with the Lord.”

Martha’s other brother, Cecil, is a veterinarian in Oneonta.

Martha is a member of First Baptist Church where she has taught Sunday school over 40 years. She conducts Bible studies and retreats for women recently led a Bible study at First Baptist Church in Glencoe.

She is a member of the Calhoun County Baptist Association and was a counselor for the Billy Graham Crusade in Nashville in 2000.

“I had to go up every week for six weeks and be trained,” she said. “It was great. It taught me to begin to memorize scripture. I was already memorizing scripture, because that was helping me get through my grieving, but it became more forceful for me. The Lord keeps taking care of you.”

After retiring, Martha took up oil painting and china painting. She’s donated four paintings to her church for the fellowship hall and plans to donate one to the Train Depot Museum.

“That’s something else that helped me,” she said. “You just lose yourself in painting.”

Martha grew up cooking and canning. While her mother worked on her master’s degree at Auburn during the summers, Martha cooked for the rest of her family.

“I learned a good bit on my own,” she said. “But if I didn’t understand something I’d call my grandmother and talk to her. To me, cooking and canning are creative. I guess that’s the reason I love holidays so much. I love to cook and decorate.”

Contact Margaret at


Mama Yancey's Fruit Cookies

2 lb. candied cherries
2 lb. candied pineapple
1 lb. dark raisins
1 lb. white raisins
6 c. pecans
1 stick butter
1 ½ c. dark brown sugar
4 eggs
1 c. pineapple juice
3 T. sweet milk
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground allspice
1 t. ground nutmeg
1 t. ground cloves
3 t. soda
5-6 c. plain flour (plus 1 extra cup to dredge fruit)

Cut fruit into small pieces. Break pecan halves. Add all raisins. Dredge fruit, pecans and raisins in the extra cup of flour. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add the pineapple juice, milk and dry ingredients. Add fruit and nuts. Work well with hands so fruit is well mixed. Drop from teaspoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 275 degrees for 12-14 minutes.

Mama's Cornbread Dressing

2 c. cream of chicken soup
4 pans cornbread (crumbled)
2 qts. milk
3 c. chopped celery
3 c. chopped onion
4 eggs, beaten
2 c. water chestnuts, chopped
3 T. sage
3-4 cans chicken broth

A little broth from turkey if you have it.

Crumble all the cornbread in a large pan. Add the cream of chicken soup and milk. Then add enough broth from the turkey and the 3-4 cans of chicken broth to make it look like cornbread you are about to cook. (How much broth you use always varies.)

Add all other ingredients. Mix all of it well. Cook at 400-425 degrees until top of dressing is golden brown (usually 45-60 minutes). This recipe fills a large oval foil pan (like you would use to cook the turkey in). Butter the foil pan well and place a flat cookie sheet under the foil pan before you place it in the oven.

Corene's Pecan Pie

½ c. sugar
2 T. flour
½ c. butter, melted
2 eggs
1 c. light white Karo syrup
1 c. pecan, chopped into small nieces
1 t. vanilla flavoring

Mix all ingredients together. Stir them well. Pour into 2 shallow unbaked pie shells or into1 deep dish unbaked pie shell. Cook for 30-40 minutes in 325 degree oven.

Myrtice and Ceil's Mexican Cornbread

1 c. corn meal (self-rising)
½ c. flour (self-rising)
¾ c. cheese, grated
1/3 c. oil
1 T. sugar (or Splenda)
1 can cream of corn, small
2 eggs
1 onion
Red pepper (sprinkle a little on top and stir in)

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a cast iron skillet that has been greased well with Crisco and dusted wit corn meal. Cook at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Sugar Free-Fat Free Banana Pudding

2 lg. sugar free vanilla instant pudding
5 c. skim milk
8 oz. fat free sour cream
9 oz. lite or sugar free Cool Whip
8-10 bananas
3-4 boxes sugar free vanilla wafers (Murray)
2 t. vanilla flavoring
1 t. almond flavoring
2-3 Cool Whips just for topping

Mix pudding and milk together until well blended. Add sour cream, Cool Whip and flavorings. Layer wafers, bananas and pudding. Put a generous amount of Cool Whip on top. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. This makes a very large bowl. You can half the recipe.
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Martha Garner’s idyllic life has seen tragedies by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star

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