Jamison Farmer

[ Age 63 ] Nurse, counselor and therapist was committed to the welfare of cancer patients and those with mental illness.

Mrs. Farmer, who was devoted to photography, "saw beauty in everything," said her son, Evan Farmer Jr.

August 27, 2007|By Jill Rosen | Jill Rosen,Sun reporter

Jamison Holdren "Jay" Farmer of Rodgers Forge, a nurse, therapist and fervent cancer advocate, died of complications from ovarian cancer Aug. 20 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was 63.

Mrs. Farmer, who grew up in Richmond, Va., was second in her class at George Wythe High School. She attended the College of William & Mary, where she pledged Kappa Kappa Gamma and then transferred to the Medical College of Virginia School of Nursing, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in nursing in 1967. She was elected president of the student body her senior year.

In 1967 she moved to Baltimore after marrying Evan Ragland Farmer. Mrs. Farmer became a pediatric nursing instructor at Johns Hopkins Hospital while her husband finished his medical degree there. The couple won a fellowship and volunteered at the Kaimosi Friends Hospital in Kenya for two months.

They moved to Nashville, Tenn., for Dr. Farmer's internship, and when he joined the Army, they lived in San Antonio, Texas; Dothan, Ala.; and, for two years, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Farmers divorced in 1984.

In 1981, Mrs. Farmer earned a master's degree in education with a concentration in applied behavioral counseling from Hopkins. She established a private practice in Baltimore County to work with troubled adolescents and their families. She developed a parenting class that she taught countywide and often spoke on women's issues.

She became executive director of the Mental Health Association of Howard County in 1981, leading volunteers as they pushed for awareness of mental health issues.

Mrs. Farmer switched careers in 1983, working in property-casualty insurance at Maryland Casualty Co. in Hampden. She attended the executive program at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

In 1999, she joined CastleBay Consulting Corporation, managing software projects for insurance companies nationwide.

"She was a renaissance woman," said her son, Evan Ragland Farmer Jr. of Nashville. "She managed raising the three of us, managed having multiple careers and also managed having a life for herself, which was probably the biggest triumph, being able to do everything at once. It was her inexhaustible character that made it possible."

Outside of work, photography was Mrs. Farmer's passion. She began shooting in earnest in 1995 after taking classes at the Maryland Institute College of Art, taking pictures locally and on trips around the world.

"She saw beauty in everything," her son said. "Her true gift was she had an eye. You could stand there and not see what was so incredible, but she could pick up a camera and you were educated."

Her family and friends were often treated to note cards she made from her photographs: collections of birds, Baltimore scenes, doorways and lighthouses.

"People would get these and then they would be hesitant to send them out 'cause they were too beautiful," her son said.

Mrs. Farmer learned she had breast cancer in 1991. As she battled the disease, she became involved in a number of causes designed to support cancer patients or raise money for a cure.

She served on the board of Arm-in-Arm, a local breast cancer support group, started another group for women with advanced phases of the disease and edited the group's newsletter. She testified at the Maryland State House and lobbied in Washington with the National Breast Cancer Coalition for more money for research.

She went into area high schools with Hadassah's Check it Out to teach young people about the importance of self-exams and helped found the local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Nearly 10 years after she learned of her breast cancer, Mrs. Farmer was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Though she retired on medical disability in 2003, she participated in the HopeWell Cancer Support community until her death. She also volunteered two mornings a week with the Greater Baltimore Medical Center's Oncology Support Program Team until she was too weak to go. In honor of her son and longtime companion, she founded a prostate cancer group at GBMC.

"She saw a gap and felt compelled to fill it," her son said.

In addition to her son, Mrs. Farmer is survived by her companion of 24 years, Otto E. Straif; two daughters, Eliza Farmer Chakravarty of Mountain View, Calif., and Molly Jamison Downhour of Scottsdale, Ariz.; a brother, James G. Holdren of Richmond Va.; a sister, Deedie Cote of St. Louis; and many cousins, nieces and nephews.


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