A weathered wooden sign reads "Community" in red and blue paint

Oral History: Marty & Francine Rogers

Marty & Francine Rogers Introduction

Interview Date: June 6, 2022

Profession: Teacher, Retired

Birthplace: New Rochelle, New York

A person in a white and blue shirt, with short gray hair, poses for a photo outdoors

Francine Rogers was born Francine Nolan in New Rochelle in 1955. As the oldest of seven children, her childhood was full of play, shared meals, and maintaining organization amongst her younger siblings. Her mother, the main cook of the family, would prepare meals with great skill and abundance, making some of Francine’s favorite meals like pasta with fresh tomato sauce, apple pies from their apple tree, frozen fruit cups for first communions and pork stuffing on Thanksgiving.

Francine grew up surrounded by intergenerational and community gardens—her neighbor grew a “magical garden of peonies,” her grandmother grew snapdragons, and her mother would make her garden’s flowers into crowns in the month of May to honor the Virgin Mary. Francine also attended a private Roman Catholic high school in New Rochelle called Blessed Sacrament. She is now retired from a long and fulfilling career teaching in Catholic elementary schools in the South Bronx for several years.

Interview Date: June 6, 2022

Profession: Community Advocate, Retired

Birthplace: Bronx, New York

A person in a baseball cap and bright yellow shirt poses for a photo outdoors

Martin (Marty) Rogers was born in 1950 on 151st street in the Melrose section of the Bronx, which would eventually become his life-long home, directly across the street from the garden’s current location. He made life-long friendships spending his childhood summers volunteering at the local Catholic church, Immaculate Conception and playing sports like stickball, basketball, and softball with his siblings and neighborhood kids of diverse ethnicities.

As a child, he was a “low maintenance eater,” and didn’t pay much attention to food, but eventually, his engagement with diverse cultures in his community cultivated his appreciation for food culture. He attended a private Catholic high school, Cardinal Hayes, and later attended college at The City College of New York in Harlem. Marty began working for Community Resource Center for the Developmentally Disabled (CRC)—a corporation which operates group homes for and comprehensive care for mentally and developmentally disabled people. Each group home under CRC started a Neighborhood Advisory Committee which worked to create safe, familial spaces for disabled people and facilitate their transition from mental institutions into their local communities.

Before Marty and Francine were a couple, they were “fast friends” in a volunteer program stationed in Morgantown, West Virginia where they were tasked with restoring neglected land in this low-income rural region. They fell in love several years later, and in the early 1980s, they got married and decided to settle in the Bronx where they developed the Neighborhood Advisory Committee Garden.

Marty & Francine Rogers

Full Length Video