Jean Toomer will be keynote speaker for Martin Luther King Jr. celebration

Neighbors

January 13, 1999|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ACTIVIST Jean W. Toomer will be the keynote speaker for the 14th celebration of the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The program, sponsored by the Howard County Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission, will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at Jim Rouse Theater for the Performing Arts at Wilde Lake High School.

Toomer was administrator for the Howard County Office of Human Rights from 1979 to 1990. She is one of the founders of Community Building in Howard County, an organization that focuses on conflict resolution and reducing prejudice.

In 1993, Toomer helped start the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center, now in Ellicott City. The center, which seeks to promote alternatives to violence and respect for cultural differences, is a nonprofit organization that also provides professional mediation services as an alternative to litigation. Toomer is in charge of fund raising.

Toomer was born in Savannah, Ga., in 1929 to John Harrison Warrick, a brick mason, and Esther Snowden Warrick, a teacher.

Her mother worked summers taking care of wealthy children in Asbury Park, N.J., to earn money to send Toomer and her brother, John Harrison Warrick Jr., to private boarding schools.

Toomer attended Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia, N.C., from eighth through 12th grade.

"During the course of my educational career, I was exposed to teachers and other influences that expected us to do well," she said. "In fact, we were taught that we had to be better because of racism and the discrimination we would face in society."

She was valedictorian of her high school class.

Toomer graduated from Howard University in 1949 with a degree in government and political science.

She married Clarence Toomer in 1950. He is retired from the National Security Agency and sells real estate in Columbia.

The Toomers have been residents of the Longfellow neighborhood since 1969.

They raised five children.

Debra Toomer is vice president of marketing for gospel station WMBM in Florida.

Douglas Toomer, now deceased, was president of the first graduating class at Wilde Lake High School and attended Columbia University Law School.

David Toomer, the first black quarterback in Howard County, also attended Wilde Lake High School. He works in marketing for Tropicana Products Inc. in Tampa, Fla.

Diana Toomer works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Her twin sister, Donna Toomer Watkins, is an environmental engineer in Virginia Beach, Va.

When asked what she believes King would have thought about present-day Columbia, Jean Toomer said, "I think he would be really pleased to see the open housing community that we have, the desegregation of the school system and the employment of blacks in the upper echelons of government. Compared to some communities, we are ahead of the curve as far as good human relations and interaction are concerned.

"On the other hand, I think that he would be very concerned that because we have these positives going for us, there is a perception that we have no problems."

Information about the King program: the county Office of Human Rights, 410-313-6430.

Town Center neighbors

Nellie Garner has been named Good Neighbor of the Year by the Town Center Village Board.

Garner was nominated by Yvonne Chiarelli, also a Town Center resident. Chiarelli said she nominated Garner because she has helped her neighbors with medical and plumbing emergencies and drives them to appointments.

Garner is treasurer for the Woodford B condominium association and volunteers at Vantage House retirement community, teaching seniors to use computers.

Garner has spent the past two summers at Druid Hill Park in Baltimore helping run a free urban tennis program sponsored by the Head Corp., a sports equipment and clothing manufacturer.

Garner has lived in Columbia for 11 years. She said she likes her neighborhood because "it's a network of people who are concerned about you. I feel safe here."

Also nominated for the award were Kate, Chelsea, Christopher and Jack Corriveau.

The Corriveau family, nominated by Donna Rice, picks up newspapers for neighbors who are out of town, and are "a friendly presence in the neighborhood," Rice wrote on her nomination.

Don Keuch was nominated for helping his neighbors shovel snow, checking on neighbors and helping with yard work.

He was nominated by his Davidge Drive neighbors.

Martin Ruther nominated Alice Meltzer because she always welcomes new neighbors, encourages participation in community activities and has served on the Town Center open-space committee.

All nominees were honored at the holiday open house sponsored by the Town Center Village Association last month.

Village Manager Kathleen Liparini said the award is important because "it recognizes the neighborliness in Town Center and encourages people to think about who their neighbors are."

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