Martha Jane Cannon Toms was an elegant and proper Southern lady who was not above cooking a hairy feral hog that her son Tommy Toms once brought home after a hunting trip.
Called Mango because she was so sweet, Toms was 96 when she died from natural causes on Sept. 2 at the Southwest Ranches home of her daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth and Bill Brinegar.
Ernest Graham, who started a sugar cane farm and then a dairy farm in western Miami-Dade County in the early decades of the 1900s, relied on Martha Jane Toms’ father-in-law, T.N. “Tommy” Toms, to manage the books.
Three generations of the Toms and Graham families have been friends and colleagues in the dairy business ever since.
Ernest Graham’s and T.N. Toms’ sons, William A. Graham -- who in the 1960s developed the farm into a planned community -- and Gerald E. “Jerry” Toms, grew up together in Pennsuco, near Okeechobee Road/U.S. 27 and Graham Dairy Road/Northwest 138th Street.
Martha Jane Cannon was born during the Great Depression in Anniston, Ala., grew up in South Carolina and moved to Hialeah. She graduated from Miami Edison High School and Florida State College for Women, now known as Florida State University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in commerce, her family said.
Toms was a Delta Airlines flight attendant and in 1948, married Jerry Toms. The newlyweds lived on the Graham Dairy farm in west Miami-Dade County before moving to a new home in pastures that became Miami Lakes.
The only other structure in town was a barn, the family said.
“Mr. and Mrs. Toms were the first official residents of Miami Lakes,” said Carol Graham Wyllie, who recently retired as president of Graham Commercial. “They saw our community go from cow pastures with two milking parlors to the Miami Lakes we enjoy today.
“While raising five children, Mrs. Toms was active in many aspects of Miami Lakes,” Wyllie said. “I particularly remember her love of gardening and playing bridge.
“She had such a wonderful smile and loved being part of the community,” Wyllie said.
Jerry Toms managed the dairy operation from 1947 until his retirement as president of Graham Farms in 1998. He died in 2011.
Martha Toms is survived by her children Thomas N. Toms II; Margaret L. Toms; Gerald E. Toms, Jr.; Elizabeth Toms Brinegar and Louis Babb Toms.
Thomas Toms worked with his father and was president of Graham Farms until his retirement in 2014. Louis Babb Toms worked with his brother and is president of Graham Farms in Moore Haven.
Twelve grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and two brothers, John Cannon and Charles Cannon, also survive her.
Lake Martha along Miami Lakes Drive in the middle of town is named for Toms.
She was active with the Historical Association of Southern Florida and the Miami Lakes Women’s Club; played in a weekly game with the Miami Lakes Bridge Club and loved to read and attend the theater and ballet.
Her children said they are indebted to Eva Bassan and Theresa Harris for their kind care and devotion to Toms during the later years of her life.
The family asked that any donations in her name be made to All Angels Academy, 1801 NW 67th Ave., Miami Springs, FL 33166.