Most people from the Tiff City, Mo. area – at least those who have been around awhile – probably know the name RoMere Martin.

Most people from the Tiff City, Mo. area – at least those who have been around awhile – probably know the name RoMere Martin.
RoMere was a former Hollywood actress and performer who ultimately made her home in Tiff City, on the Missouri-Oklahoma line, and spent her latter days doing good. She passed away before I was born, but my grandmother knew her, as did my father and aunt and uncles.
RoMere was born on the Pottawatomie Indian Reservation in Jackson County, Kansas on July 20, 1911. Her father was Pottawatomie and her mother was Chippewa. Her birth name was actually Rosa Marie Grinnell, but she changed it to RoMere Darling when she moved to Hollywood to pursue a dancing and acting career. While a teenager, then living in Arizona, she had won a Miss Original America contest.
As an attractive young actress, RoMere had a number of minor roles in several films, playing Native American or foreign character parts, in the 1930s and 40s. She also toured with Tex Ritter performing traditional Native American dances. She met and married fellow thespian Harold Rogers, a Seneca-Cayuga born near Tiff City, and they lived in Hollywood until he was killed in World War II when the B-17 bomber he helped crew as a tailgunner was shot down over Europe. She next married Julius Martin, and they moved to Tiff City around 1950. RoMere retired from acting and stayed in Tiff the rest of her days. After her second husband passed away in 1968, she married Ovando Collman. However, I have always heard her referred to as RoMere Martin. I'm not sure how many folks know her last name was Collman when she died.
Although no longer on the silver screen, RoMere taught Native American dances to local schoolchildren and 4-H'rs, resulting in some national recognition, for which she supported them monetarily and in other ways. She was a big benefactor of the local 4-H club in Tiff City, the Eager Beavers, which was the same club I belonged to as a youth.
Soon after moving to Tiff City, RoMere employed local Native American women in making native handicrafts, which she sold in a gift shop in Tiff. I remember the painted white block building that had been her gift shop and beverage store very well, though by the time I came along it was a tire shop. It was torn down when I was about 10 to make room for a new metal shop building.
Perhaps what RoMere is most well known for, however, is her Box 14-A charity (Box 14-A was simply her post office box). This was set up to benefit area Native American families in need, and provide them with a good Christmas. The charity became rather famous in its day, and RoMere even received a letter of commendation from President Richard Nixon for her good works among the Native American population in the Four-State area. She was known for her generosity, and not just with the Box 14-A project.
Before passing away on March 26, 1979, RoMere had become a legend. The Tiff City community history book, published three years before her death, had this to say about her: “A cheerful and caring person, she is always willing to help her fellow man and her cheery 'God Bless' makes your day just a little bit nicer.”
I think that's pretty sweet, don't you?


Wes Franklin writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.