Feature of the Week
February 22, 2020
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Kindness and generosity comes from many corners of the world

  • Ellen Martini, a resident of Rohnert Park

By: Irene Hilsendager
April 26, 2019

Eighty-one years ago in a small country called Latvia, a very generous and beautiful lady was born who in later years would hit Sonoma County with a bang and infect Rohnert Park with kindness.

Latvia is a small country of northeastern Europe and the middle of the three Baltic states. This tiny country lies along the shores of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga and it is bound by Estonia to the north, Russia to the east, Belarus to the southeast and Lithuania to the south. 

Can you imagine Ellen De Martini coming from such a rich country in languages? Ellen was born in Riga, Latvia and moved around to many different countries. 

A little background. Latvia was occupied and annexed by the U.S.S.R. in 1940 and declared its independence in Aug. of 1991. Ellen remembers the dropping of food packages in Germany to help feed the downtrodden that survived the bombings.

During that era, only so many German people were allowed to come to the states and it had to be relatives or churches that could sponsor families... Word was received that Ellen’s family could go to the United States if they had a sponsor. It seemed there were cousins that resided in Oakland and they would be responsible for living quarters and jobs. Ellen came to the United States after Ellis Island was closed and was met on the ship by her relatives and traveled to Oakland by train. Ellen became a maid for an elderly couple that treated her like a daughter and stayed with them for three years. She would go to night school to learn English but she still was suffering from scar tissues on a bad lung. 

Ellen said that she went to school for the fun of it; getting a degree and at the age of 60 received her Master’s degree from the Dominican College. This young lady was very intelligent and would go to school and work all of the time until she received credentials. She worked as a chief financial officer for 33 years, being very studious with figures.

Ellen has been such a volunteer and donor to so many organizations that needed funds exponentially. She financed the local Boys and Girls Club and was a board member for many years. Ellen began her volunteering at Fort Miley being a “grey lady” to many wounded soldiers. She still has a memory in her head that one wounded warrior she had to attend to did not have a face. 

After listening to Ellen you can tell that she had a very hard life, but her generosity has no end. The Education Foundation has been one of the non-profit organization that can always count on Ellen. One year she bid on a baby grand piano that was destined to be destroyed but she outbid everyone and gave the instrument to the Rancho Cotate music department. Another year she donated sewing machines to the Boys and Girls Club’s sewing department. She has also purchased many sewing machines for the Rancho Cotate sewing department along with gift certificates to buy material and accessories. 

Can you imagine Ellen going to the police academy? She said they were required to ride with the officers, help traffic where needed and keep crowd control at the Sebastopol Apple Blossom festival. 

Ellen is so generous with her money-it is hard to list all of the things she supports. The police canine officer is one of Ellen’s projects by paying for vet care, always supports the crab feed for the police event, was in the Rotary Club of Rancho-Cotati for one year, has her own seat at the Green Music Center and owns season tickets. She loves animals and rescued Zorro the cat.

Right now Ellen is still trying to recover from her stroke. She is an avid reader and had a library built in her home and says she will support any non-profit organization. 

Ellen was reminiscing about how many children died during the war because of no medicine and her goal was to get a Teddy Bear just like her sister had. It had to be a Teddy Bear with a German face. She so longed for her own bear and since has collected six Teddy Bears-she saw one in Safeway grocery store high on a shelf, but she insisted on having the bear, so someone had to climb up to get the bear and Ellen said she didn’t care what it cost.

Recently, Ellen was awarded the very first life time achievement award from the Rotary Club of Rohnert Park-Cotati community event. 

Ellen seems to be in a good place now and she says “America is paradise and you can make it with good hard work.” God bless Ellen for your patriotism and generosity.