Occupation: I grew up in San Diego and graduated from Berkeley with a degree in social work, and attended school at the University of Texas and University of Louisiana. I did some secretarial work and I worked as a shipyard welder and as a riveter on the Liberty ships, when I was in California, during World War II. It was a job opportunity that paid better. I met my husband, Bob, in New York, when I was in graduate school at NYU. I worked in the tenement buildings there as a social worker. There was always a need for help of some kind. I helped deliver babies, too. I owned a gift shop for a while near Columbia University.
Family: My daughter Madeleine Johnson and two grandchildren, Louise and Matthew, live in Halifax, Nova Scotia. My son is named John Marlow — he changed his name — and lives in Keene, N.H. My other grandson is David Marlow. I have a brother, Robert Farmer, in California. I’ve always taken in people — dozens over the past four decades — who needed a place to live and many become like family. Dave Anderson is my friend, who is like family.
Pets: I don’t have any now. I once had a goat, a horse, a dog, and 23 chickens.
How long have you lived in Newtown? We moved from New York to Holyoke, Mass., then Fairfield and Bethel. We moved to Newtown in 1968. About ten years ago, I turned over 12 of the 15 acres we owned to be administered by the Humane Society, because I was worried about all the building going on in Newtown. It’s contiguous with some NFA property and will remain open space.
What do you do in your free time? Well, my home was a kind of halfway house, and a long time ago, I met women who were confined to Fairfield Hills Hospital. I was shocked at the conditions there, and the treatment of the patients. They were mean to them, inhumane. I went to Hartford to complain and that superintendent was removed. I was a war protestor during the Vietnam war. It was a bad war, and I marched in Washington, DC, against it. I protested the transport of nuclear waste on our highways, and was one of the founders of the Newtown Food Co-op in the 1970s. I was a founder of Interlude Halfway House in Danbury, along with Celine Karraker from Redding. I saw great need for this in the mid-1970s. I have been a gardener, and was always interested in growing my own food. I met Nicole Morris, a longtime friend and wonderful gardener, through the co-op. I still make my own jam sometimes. I like to read, and I take trips with my friend, Dave. Sometimes we go into the City for shows.
What are you reading now? I’m reading The Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich. It’s a very nice book.
Do you have a favorite travel destination? One of my favorite trips was taking the train, trans Canada, with Madeleine. And once, I won a trip for two to Scotland. That was just by good fortune — I filled out a little coupon in Smithsonian magazine and they called me. I went with Madeleine, and it was beautiful.
What is the biggest change you have seen in Newtown? The population change, for one thing, from a small village to the suburbs. We got our 15-acre property before Newtown began to really grow. And now, I pay as much for taxes each year as I paid for the property.
What is the best thing about Newtown? It’s nice property and I have nice friends nearby.
What has been the greatest influence in your life? Just history as it unfolds. I always was aware of what was happening in different places. I grew up in a very diverse society in San Diego. There was no sense of differences. Everybody from every part of town was together in school.
Do you have a guilty pleasure? Chocolate ice cream. And eating Twizzlers while watching videos.