Thursday, March 1, 2018 - by J. Glenn Moseley
Martha Ragland has been honored by Chattanooga Funeral Home for reaching her 70th year with the funeral home.
A reception was held in her honor, and there was a special presentation by Chattanooga Funeral Home President Gene Pike.
Martha Jo Brown came into this world on March 14, 1929, near Calhoun, Ga. She was the fourth child born to William and Athaly (Lyons) Brown. She seemed always to be a contradiction of terms: mild-mannered but a bit “tom-boyish,” shy yet bold (when she set her mind to something), dependent on family yet independent when it came to living out her life.
Her dad was one of 11 children in a large farming family.
Martha remembered her grandfather (a minister) and other family members actually starting the Antioch Baptist Church near Calhoun and many in the family were active in the Christian faith there – during her childhood and youth.
Her earliest years were spent through the Depression years (1929-39) - very lean years for most rural Southerners. Yet they were resourceful and weathered the economic storm.
She went to Antioch Christian Grammar School and then followed on to Redbud High School in Calhoun. After high school graduation (1946), she applied and was accepted as a student at McKenzie Business College in Chattanooga. She had an apartment within walking distance to National Funeral Home (forerunner of the Chattanooga Funeral Home), so she applied to work there. She completed all the courses at McKenzie and began to study at Chattanooga College (forerunner of UTC). Working in the daytime at the funeral home, she also went to night school at the college. She tested out of her last year of accounting classes and graduated with a CPA degree in 1949. Sometimes on weekends, Martha would “hop a Greyhound Bus” back to her hometown of Calhoun and spent time with her family.
She became secretary and treasurer at the funeral home and served in that capacity for 47 years (1947-1994).
In the meantime, she had her eye on a gentleman who worked just down the block - as the head salesman for Haverty Furniture. They began seeing each other and, after John “popped the question,” they remained engaged another five years. After retiring from Haverty, John would later work part-time for the funeral home, as well.
John and Martha married Nov. 21, 1959, at the brand-new chapel facility in the CFH-West Chapel. They were married by Dr. John Huff, retired minister of First Baptist. Their attendants included Hubert Ragland (best man) and bridesmaids Frances Brookshire (sister of the bride), and Clara McDonald (John’s sister).
Ruth Leaman, Ralph Brown, and Bill Brown also served as attendants and ushers at the wedding.
John and Martha spent their honeymoon in New Orleans and returned to their home and work in Chattanooga.
Special memories over the years are: their numerous vacations to Florida (as John loved the dog races and camping). Also, they enjoyed trips to Louisiana, and to family members at various other places in the South, and a couple of trips to the West.
In her younger years, Martha remembers taking a trip to Dallas in 1954. She remembers going up in a newly built skyscraper and viewing New Year’s Eve from its heights. It likely was one of the South’s tallest (in its day) – either the Mercantile National Bank or Republic Tower, both over 50 stories in structure.
In the mid 80’s, she decided to try a new venture. She headed off to Nashville to take mortuary classes and passed the state exam. (She claims state exam testing on the same day as Tom Tallent, North Chapel manager). She served CFH several years as the first female licensed director and assisted in many services over the years. In more recent years, Martha has decided to take lesser hours and help families and new workers along the way.
She stated that among her greatest joys were meeting people and trying to help them through difficult times in their lives.
She is still active in her Sunday School Class and is still active with social groups, family, and friends. John’s two children (and “grands”) still live in the area, and Martha enjoys seeing them from time to time.