“The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.” — Thank You Norene Martin

Norene Dann Martin, a longtime District of Columbia resident, trade association executive, long time friend of the Coalition and  official of the Washington National Cathedral died on Friday, February 5, 2016 of natural causes. She was 98. 

From 1965 to 1980, she was the chief executive officer of the National Parking Association, the Washington-based trade association of commercial parking lot owners and operators. After retiring she became executive director of the Washington National Cathedral”s College of the Laity, which conducted field projects designed to empower local congregations to perform meaningful work in their communities. Norene Dann was born in March 22, 1917 in the upstate New York town of Fulton. During her childhood, the family moved to a logging town in Quebec where her father found work as an electrician. She was educated in a one room school house until high school when she moved back to Fulton to live with her aunt and uncle. She was valedictorian of her high school class but confounded her parents” expectation that she would return to Canada and take over teaching in the one room school house. She found a rooming house in Fulton, got a job in the local chocolate factory and moonlighted as a baby sitter. A minister she baby sat for urged her to quit the factory and found her a job as a secretary for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union in Tennessee. While in Tennessee she attended retreats at the Highlander Folk School which at the time provided training for labor movements throughout the South. At Highlander, she learned about Black Mountain College, a small, experimental liberal arts school in North Carolina. In 1935, she enrolled at Black Mountain College on full scholarship, borrowing money from friends to pay for the trip from Tennessee. On the day she arrived at Black Mountain, her train was met by members of the faculty, including her future husband, Joseph Martin. When he offered to carry “her things,” she was too embarrassed to admit she didn”t have any “things” and told him they would be arriving on a later train. After Black Mountain, she earned a master”s degree in modern history from Columbia University in New York. At the start of World War II, the couple moved to Washington, DC where Mr. Martin worked for the Office of War Information, a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency. Despite her academic record, Mrs. Martin had to start work as a sales clerk in a local Five and Dime before finding a part time job as editor of the National Parking Association”s quarterly magazine. After 12 years she became the association”s chief executive officer, representing parking lot owners and operators nationwide, including local garage chains such as Parking Management Inc. and Doggett”s Parking. During her tenure as director, the parking industry roughly doubled its investment in commercial garages as the increasing congestion of city traffic made street parking more and more difficult. “When she assumed control, NPA underwent a great spurt of growth,” Jack Lyon, one of the owners of Parking Management recalled. “She did a masterful job of attracting new members. It was during her time that we got international members, and it was primarily her efforts.” She also became the first female member of the Highway Research Board. After retiring in 1980, she became the first director of the National Cathedral”s College of the Laity, an organization founded under the auspices of the then Bishop of Washington, John T. Walker. The college organized field projects in communities across the country including in the District of Columbia and Prince George”s and Charles Counties in Maryland. The goal of the Rural Elderly Ministry Project in Maryland was to tap into the knowledge and experience of the elderly to provide services to a largely poor community. In 1986 the College of the Laity organized a national Conference on the Empowerment of Older Americans for Neighborhood and Community Revitalization held in Washington. (May 17, 1986 Washington Post article) In a 1988 article in Cathedral Age, Mrs. Martin wrote, “people over the age of 65 – who make up a significant proportion of every congregation in every denomination – are normally capable of leading productive, meaningful, and socially-useful lives if they are recognized for what they are: the greatest resource that our church and our country can put into the struggle against many of the social evils that beset our neighborhoods and communities.” After retiring from the College of the Laity, she served as a member of the Citizens” Advisory Council for Iona Senior Services, which performs advocacy work for older adults in the District, particularly Ward 3. In 1995, despite suffering from macular degeneration which left her legally blind, she became the first chair of the D.C. Coalition on Long Term Care, a position she held for nine years. During that time, the Coalition helped expand Medicaid eligibility for District residents and develop the first assisted living regulations in the District. In her 30s, Mrs. Martin took up the classical guitar and became an accomplished guitarist, once taking a master class with Andres Segovia. She was also active in the Washington chapter of United Cerebral Palsy. (Washington Post July 29, 1956, F-11) She was predeceased by her husband, Joseph, and her daughter, Sara. She is survived by a son, David Martin of CBS News, and daughter, Dr. Martha Martin, a Washington-area psychiatrist, as well as seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Services private.She was predeceased by her husband, Joseph, and her daughter, Sara. She is survived by a son, David Martin of CBS News, and daughter, Dr. Martha Martin, a Washington-area psychiatrist, as well as seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Services private.