Georgia Council of Community Ombudsmen

In Memory of Martha Eaves
Martha Eaves, strong advocate for elderly By ANN HARDIE

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 08/17/05

Of Martha Eaves' many passions, none was greater than her fight to give older Georgians the chance to remain at home in their final years. The Teamster-turned-aging advocate spent the last two decades lobbying lawmakers and bird-dogging the state budget for money for home-delivered meals and other services to keep senior citizens independent. "She was almost all the time able to squeeze a little more out for the programs that she thought was important," said former House Speaker Terry Coleman (D-Eastman). "She was just a great lady."

Mrs. Eaves, an elegant woman who fancied glass beads and designer silk scarves, could quote the poet John Donne in one breath, and call a lawmaker an SOB in the next. She was a regular at 2 a.m. legislative budget meetings to ensure that lawmakers did right by seniors. She relished a good fight, especially with the powerful nursing home lobby. Former Lt. Gov. Pierre Howard said there was a point that he, Mrs. Eaves and others threatened to shut down the budget process if they didn't get more money. "There was nothing done in the interest of older Georgians in the last 20 years that Martha didn't have a hand in," Mr. Howard said. "I think the state of Georgia owes Martha a debt of gratitude."

The Atlanta native's grandfather, a railway yard machinist, founded what is known today as the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. It was her own work experience that made Mrs. Eaves a believer in organized labor. At 39, divorced with three children to support, she took a clerical job with a diesel repair shop on Memorial Drive. She was fired shortly thereafter for rebuffing her boss's advances, but the union saved her job. "That unionized her," said her daughter, Kacy C. Eaves of Cincinnati. At 44, Mrs. Eaves entered Georgia State University. She graduated at 50 with a bachelor's in English literature.

After Mrs. Eaves retired in 1978, her work on behalf of Georgia's senior citizens began. "She was always interested in politics," her daughter said. "I don't know how much of the senior stuff was self-preservation. She knew she was getting older." Mrs. Eaves was selected twice as a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging, most recently by Gov. Sonny Perdue, who called her "a passionate and effective advocate." If 90 percent of life is just being there, then Martha Eaves lived a life-and-a-half. Whenever one of us ran into Martha Eaves at the Capitol, she would unfailingly thank us for what we did to keep the public informed about what was going on. Of course, we should have been thanking her, which is what her family and friends did at a memorial service last week.

Part of Eaves' effectiveness as a volunteer lobbyist on issues affecting the elderly was simply that she showed up, noted Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor. He gave the eulogy for Eaves, who was, we were astonished to learn, 88. In doing so, he said, she became in effect the "face of the elderly" in Georgia. An unblinking presence at every committee meeting, Eaves held legislators under a steadier scrutiny than any harried reporter ever could. Former WSB-TV political reporter Bill Nigut spoke of how she steadfastly resisted being caricatured on camera as just a nice little old lady lobbyist, stubbornly steering interviews back to hard facts and figures. She was one of those unpaid watchdogs of government, who play a more vital role than they are given credit for. This year the media is highlighting the importance of open records and meetings. Of those, Eaves made inspiring good use.

Martha Talbot Helms Eaves, 88, died Saturday, August 13, 2005, of colon cancer at the antebellum Conyers house she restored and loved. Survivors included daughter, Kacy C. Eaves of Cincinnati, two sons, Mike Eaves of Marietta and Jack P. Eaves Jr. of Conyers; two grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and those of us who were privileged to know her.

January 16, 1917/August 13, 2005
"If 90 percent of life is just being there, then Martha Eaves lived a life-and-a-half..."

SENATE RESOLUTION 951 - Senator Unterman of the 45th
Honoring and remembering Martha Talbot Eaves; and for other purposes.

*WHEREAS, Martha Talbot Eaves was born in Atlanta on January 16, 1917, and has a long history of advocacy beginning with her introduction to organized labor by her grandfather who founded what is known today as the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; and

*WHEREAS, at the age of 44, Ms. Eaves entered Georgia State University and graduated at 50 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature; and

*WHEREAS, after Ms. Eaves retired in 1978, her tireless advocacy on behalf of Georgia's seniors began; and

*WHEREAS, she served on and acted in leadership roles for numerous councils, committees, and task forces, and was a long-time member and former chair of the Georgia Council on Aging, delegate to the 1995 White House Conference on Aging and named by Governor Perdue to be a delegate to the 2005 White House Conference on Aging, and member of the Long-Term Care Study Commission and the Senate Elder Abuse Task Force, among others; and

*WHEREAS, Ms. Eaves was recognized by state and national organizations for her advocacy including the Elder Rights and Advocacy Award for the Elder Law Committee of the State Bar of Georgia, the Tom Murphy State Services Award for Human Services and Health Care in 2002, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Salute to Leaders in Aging Award in 2004, and the Georgia Commission on Women Georgia's Legacy—Older Women Recognition in 2005; and

*WHEREAS, the Georgia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program created "The Martha Eaves Award" in 2000 to recognize the extraordinary efforts of Martha, its first recipient, and other advocates for long-term care residents; and

*WHEREAS, Ms. Eaves was an unblinking presence at every budget conference committee meeting, even those lasting into the early morning, and was a stickler for fairness and honesty in testimony as well as informal conversations with legislators and policy makers, often reminding everyone that "all we have is our integrity"; and

*WHEREAS, Ms. Eaves died August 13, 2005, at her home in Conyers after a brief illness and leaves as her legacy an unflagging commitment to advocacy; and

*WHEREAS, in her effectiveness as a lobbyist on issues affecting the elderly she became, in effect, the "face of the elderly" by simply showing up.

*NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE that the members of this body express their deepest and most profound regret at the passing of Ms. Martha Talbot Eaves and recognize and commend her as the Distinguished Senior Georgian for 2006.

*BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Secretary of the Senate is authorized and directed to transmit an appropriate copy of this resolution to the family of Ms. Martha Talbot Eaves.