Martina Tyler, 103, teacher, seamstress

March 31, 1995|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

Martina Olandrous Drummond Tyler, a former schoolteacher and seamstress and keeper of her family's history, died Monday in her sleep at Inns of Evergreen Northwest Nursing Home in Baltimore. She was 103.

"She was the oral historian of our family and focus of our family reunions, which she attended up until several years ago," said a great-nephew, William H. Britt of Baltimore, a retired city school principal.

Her forebears "were slaves that came from Africa to the Eastern Shore of Virginia before the Revolutionary War and worked on the Finney Plantation near Onancock, where she grew up," Mr. Britt said. "Another ancestor served in the Union Army during the Civil War with the 9th Colored Virginia Infantry. If it weren't for her, we wouldn't know these things."

Mrs. Tyler, the ninth of 11 children, was born in Onancock. She attended St. Paul Normal and Industrial School in Lawrenceville, Va., in the sewing division. After graduating from St. Paul, she returned home and taught elementary school in a segregated, four-room schoolhouse.

"She left Virginia and came to Baltimore before World War I because she felt there were more opportunities there," Mr. Britt said. "She worked as a nurse for the family of a Gilman School teacher and later was a seamstress for many years."

He described Mrs. Tyler, a former resident of Lakeview Avenue and Harlem Avenue, as "a sweet, soft-spoken, accommodating and compassionate lady who was a mother to all the children in the family."

"She was an abstemious person who never drank or smoked and was careful about what she ate, and I guess that was the basis for her longevity," Mr. Britt said. "She was active until her late 90s, until she broke a hip."

For nearly 65 years, Mrs. Tyler was a member of St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church, 810 N. Carrollton Ave. in West Baltimore, where she had been president of the stewardess board and a member of the One More Effort Club. She was also a member of the Pink Rose Circle club.

In 1933, she married Frank Tyler, a Pennsylvania Railroad porter and dining car employee, who died in 1963. A nephew, Leonard Collins, whom she and her husband reared, was killed in an accident while serving in the Army during World War II.

Services for Mrs. Tyler were to be held at 11 a.m. today at St. John AME Church.

Other survivors include a niece, Credella F. White of Baltimore; and other nieces and nephews.

Memorial donations may be made to the church's renovation fund.

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