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Martha McElroy Davis
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Birth: Dec. 6, 1918
Henderson County
Kentucky, USA
Death: Nov. 19, 2009
Scott County
Iowa, USA

DAVENPORT - Funeral services for Martha Davis, 90, of Davenport, will be 11 a.m. Saturday at Bethel AME Church, 323 West 11th Street, Davenport, with Pastor Ronald R. Chambers officiating. She departed this life on Thursday at her home. Burial will be at Oakdale Cemetery.
Visitation will be 9 a.m. Saturday until service time at the church. Orr's Mortuary is assisting the family with arrangements.
She was born December 6, 1918, in Henderson, Ky., the daughter of Joseph G. and Ida V. (Allen) McElroy. She attended Elvis Grade School and graduated from Douglas High School in Henderson, Ky. She married Daniel 0. Davis in 1943 in Kahoka, Mo. He preceded her in death on June 14, 1975. She was employed as a Domestic Engineer.
She was also preceded in death by her parents, sisters, Flora McElroy, Alice Green, Katie McElroy and Melisa McElroy, and brothers, Roy and Clem McElroy.
She is survived by one sister, Lula Rose, Rock Island.
She was known not by her name, but by her face. For 50 years she was the powder puff lady, or the clown woman, or more starkly, the woman who always wore a white face.

She puzzled most everyone, but was a gentle friend to many. However and whatever, she was the Quad-Cities' most unique personality.

True to her wishes, she was laid to rest Saturday with her face in white makeup.

She was an enigma. Martha was a black woman who chose to cover her face in heavy white makeup. It was so thick that it often looked like white pancake batter was spread over her face. She would not bare her hands. Always, even on the hottest summer days, she wore white gloves.

She would shop at Walgreen's or Aldi in white makeup, wearing one of her assortment of wigs some flowing black, some curly, often an outrageous blonde. Often, her white cheeks were rouged in bright red. People stared, usually shocked, but Martha would shrug them off as if nothing about her was unusual.

Even after talking to dozens of people, mostly relatives, the reason for Martha's white makeup is not clear. The riddle was buried with her.

Some believed she covered her face in white because she had been scarred in a fire or accident. That is not true. A niece, described her Aunt Martha as a beautiful woman. When she was younger, she looked like Lena Horne, the movie star.

The mortician who knew Martha well, says, When we found her dead in her home, she was not in white face. But there was a little bit of white in her wrinkles. There was no scarring. She was a beautiful woman.

Family members don't know why she chose to look white. They say it was her secret. One says it began in the late 1950s. Of all the reasons, the most logical one comes from her niece, 'She always wanted to be an angel. Angels are white, and that's what she wanted to be, an angel.'

Martha's sister, of Rock Island, says, She just liked to do it; that's what she wanted.

Being what she wanted could be startling to others. A Davenport Police Department was a kid in 1963 working at Murray's supermarket. Employees would say, The white-face woman is in the store.

It's remembered that she carried large amounts of money, mistrusting banks. Oh, she always had a big wad, thousands of dollars. Her income came from rental properties and cleaning houses.

Dozens of comments have been posted on her obituary at, most offering condolences. But some frankly questioned the photos with it, one of Martha in younger days, the other of her in white makeup. Those who handle such things at this newspaper say they've never seen so many responses to an obituary. Some were cruel, recalling ugly rumors. Most were kind, along the line of you can't judge a book by its cover.

Those who knew her said that despite eccentricities, she was a good neighbor, a kindly person who loved to talk endlessly on the phone. One remembers seeing her, about 1990, at the old Fun Shop in Davenport. She was buying makeup.

Her niece, says, Aunt Martha always said, ‘Promise, put me away right.'

She was put away right, in smooth white makeup and wearing a frosted blonde wig. 
Family links: 
  Daniel O. Davis (____ - 1975)*
*Calculated relationship
Oakdale Memorial Gardens
Scott County
Iowa, USA
Created by: June Welsch
Record added: Dec 02, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 45030557
Martha <i>McElroy</i> Davis
Added by: June Welsch
Martha <i>McElroy</i> Davis
Added by: Christine Masterson
Martha <i>McElroy</i> Davis
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Dustin Oliver
Photos may be scaled.
Click on image for full size.

You smiles at me when I was a child, and I smiled back. Thank you. : ^ )
- Mansellyn
 Added: Oct. 28, 2015
I used to see you when I was a kid up by Ben Franklins in Bettendorf. I was scared but now that I'm older, I understand. At least I think I do. I hear you were a great lady, and I believe that. RIP angel with the white face
 Added: Jun. 6, 2015

- Ann Maree
 Added: Aug. 6, 2014
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