Jean Martin, a Selma treasure will be missed

Published 5:16pm Tuesday, March 19, 2013

By Becky Nichols

There are many people whom I cannot imagine Selma being without and Jean Martin is one of them.

At the library, our first call for help on “what happened when or where” in Selma’s history has been Jean Martin. For the visitors and tourists who have come to see Selma and experience her stories — the Old Depot Museum has bee the place to send them.

“Look for the red building at the end of Water Avenue,” has always been our simple direction.

If you have not made the trip to that museum, put it on your “must do” list. Over the years that Jean has been the curator, the displays and rooms have been expanded and each tells a story of how this community has developed from industry to downtown to Civil War and civil rights.

There are rooms filled with memorabilia of all types. Each marked and labeled for easy reading. All you add is your imagination and you have stepped into Selma’s past.

Jean’s passion was history. She wrote of her own history in the countless articles about her sisters, their holidays and especially the changing seasons of time. She expressed herself so vividly that many have remarked that it was like walking back in time to read her columns.

Not just a writer and historian, Jean, along with other energetic Selmians was instrumental in bringing events to Selma and helping to build those coalitions throughout the community that embraced all racial and economic lines.

When our beloved  “Big Fish,” whom she adored, was in danger of outgrowing his original tank, she along with Nancy Sewell, chipped in enough of their discretionary funds to enlarge the tank. “Big Fish” swelled and flopped all over those 240 gallons of salt water entertaining every child and person who stopped by to see him. She was first to help with bringing a magic show for the summer, or a few extra books for the children’s department and even found time to volunteer on Saturdays to help us.

Over the years, she has slowed down but not enough to stop being a part of the town she absolutely loved. She was the first person any event promoter would call for publicity. The Life & Style portion of the Wednesday paper held bright photographs and people and always reminded us that Selma was a good place to live.

People come and go in our lives. We know that fact well. Our hope is that we listen and learn from their lives and assume some of the responsibility that they so ably carried.

Jean carried a never ending love for this community and a constant hope that people would and could learn to live together in peace and harmony.

Her service was a gathering of many races, colors, creeds and kinds of folks who had been touched in some way by Jean’s life.

Our hope is that as we move on with our daily lives here in this wonderful town, that we will continue the good work that she and many others have started.

Most of all, Jean believed in the goodness of this place called Selma, Alabama. And that is the first and most important step of all.

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