Former Lodi library director Nancy Martinez passes away

A photo of Nancy Martinez from about 10 years ago.

Dayna Martinez said her mother Nancy had always been a superhero to her, and that she still is, just days after her passing.

“She was, beyond any person I know, the smartest, bravest, most courageous person,” she said. “Now I feel unprotected. Most women feel protected by men in their lives, but I was protected by my mom.”

Nancy Martinez passed away Monday night after a very brief battle with cancer. She was 72.

Born in Utica, N.Y., Martinez graduated from the University of Michigan with a master’s degree in library sciences in the early 1970s.

Moving to Ogden, Utah and starting a family not long afterward, Martinez served as a librarian there before taking a similar position in San Jose in 1984.

About six years later, the family moved to Lodi, where Martinez was hired as the assistant library director.

“She was dedicated to that library,” Dayna Martinez said. “When the director retired and the board was looking for a new one, she didn’t put her name in the hat for the first round (of interviews). They ended up not hiring anyone, so my mom finally put her name in, and almost immediately they gave her the job. They saw her vision for the library, how she wanted to get it remodeled and get the collection up to date.”

Dorothy Maas worked with Nancy Martinez at the Lodi Public Library, and said the facility became more modernized under her leadership.

“During her tenure as director, the library kept growing and becoming even more computerized,” Maas said. “We added drop boxes for returned library materials, computerized reports for the library board and the state library. The library refurbished the community room, the children’s department, the circulation desk, the work room, the bathrooms and the staff room. She was always full of ideas.”

Martinez retired in 2012, and her daughter said several tragedies struck not long afterward. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, her automobile was totaled in a rear-end collision, and her family’s home was destroyed in a fire within a year of her retirement, Dayna Martinez said.

Yet, none of that slowed her mother down.

Nancy Martinez became involved in the Lodi Branch of the American Association of University Women, as well as the Breakthrough Project, among a variety of other local civic organizations.

Breakthrough Project member Linda Hammons said Martinez assumed leadership of the organization last year, adding that her quiet, solid management style led to reorganization and a renewed commitment to equity in the community.

“Nancy also served on the AAUW Nominating Committee with me this year,” Hammons said. “We found a talented new member who was enthusiastic about putting on programs for the group, but needed a more experienced member with whom to partner. Nancy volunteered, and with great enthusiasm for what they could do together.”

Dayna Martinez said her mother took everything she did in the community as seriously as she performed her duties at the library. And when Nancy Martinez was passionate about something, she would let everybody know.

Martinez began feeling ill in late May, her daughter said, experiencing major pain in her arm and neck. She took her mother to the hospital, where she underwent a battery of tests and learned there was a cancerous mass on her lungs, as well as 18 lesions on her brain.

“Even though she knew the outcome, she fought until the day she died,” Dayna Martinez said. “My sister and I were with her in the hospital, and we told her it was okay and that she could go. She said, ‘I’m not ready. I don’t want to. Because you guys are here.’”

When not at work, burying her nose in book, or helping the community, Martinez loved visiting family, going on outings with her grandchildren or to the movies, and gardening.

“She loved us unconditionally,” Dayna Martinez said. “There was no judgment, but she steered my sister and me right. She’d let us fall down and hit our head, then dust us off and tell us to keep moving. She raised us to be strong, just like her, but if we got too hot-headed, she’d tell us to cool off.”

While she knew her mother was very involved in the community, Dayna Martinez said she didn’t actually see the impact her mother had made until community members began offering their condolences this week.

Dayna Martinez said even other family members aren’t completely aware of the legacy her mother left on Lodi.

“Her passing is going to be very hard-felt in Lodi. I can just tell,” she said. “I haven’t heard any bad things about my mom, either growing up or after her death. She just brought joy to everybody.”

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