Martha Anne Otero


Martha Anne Otero

Martha Anne Otero, LMSW, age 67, of Concord Farragut, Tenn., passed away on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023.

She was a social worker, program director, educator, an advocate for young children and young women, devout Catholic, a volunteer, devoted wife, wonderful mother and grandmother adored by her two granddaughters. Martha was a free spirit, with a sparkle in her eye, quick wit and playful sense of humor who never met a stranger.

Born March 16, 1955, in Valencia County, she was the daughter of Manuel and Viola Otero. The second youngest in the family, she grew up on the “MO bar” ranch in the El Cerro community of Los Lunas, with her two brothers and two sisters. She spoke fondly of her memories as a young girl, sitting at her grandfather’s apple trees with her siblings, the Manzano Mountains in the background, and listening to her abuelo tell stories about growing up while they enjoyed freshly cut apple slices. She also reminisced about her grandfather’s fresh farmers cheese with syrup, a breakfast treat.

After graduating from Los Lunas High School, Martha attended the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where she majored in special education. At UNM, she met her husband, Timothy Welch, and they were married in 1975. The next year, they moved to Knoxville, Tenn., marking the occasion by celebrating our nations bicentennial in NYC on July 4, 1976.

Martha continued her studies at the University of Tennessee, earning a BA in an individualized program with an emphasis on Hispanic health care in the U.S., and thereafter receiving her master’s degree in  social work in 1985. As a licensed masters social worker, Martha had a heart to serve and help others. She had extensive professional experience counseling clients in educational, medical and family settings. She provided counseling and social work services at several public and private schools and was a campus manager for Project GRAD, an initiative aimed at improving graduation rates among disadvantaged communities. She was a social worker at Children’s Hospital and was a program director for several private social service organizations, assisting families during difficult to navigate situations.

She provided services for children with special needs as service coordinator for Tennessee Early Intervention Services at the University of Tennessee. Finally, as part of her professional honors, she participated in Knoxville-Knox County Community Leadership in 1990, a program aimed at developing leaders to advocate for low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

Martha received one of her proudest titles, Mom, when their daughter Whitney was born in 1987. She was delighted Whitney inherited her happy outlook. She was the most caring and nurturing mother who would go “to the end of the earth” to support any interest or dream. She became a grandmother in 2018, when her first granddaughter, Gracie, was born, soon followed by Anna in 2020. She lived to spoil her girls, as grandparents do, and spent endless hours daily on FaceTime playing games, reading books and listening to their stories.

Martha was a proud 31-year survivor of stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She faced this daunting disease with determination, driven by her faith and desire to see her young daughter grow up. She was a tireless advocate for breast cancer survivorship, volunteering in a variety of capacities with several institutions and serving for a time on the Knox County American Cancer Society board of directors.

Martha was a devout Catholic and faithful member of St. John Neumann Catholic Church. During her cancer journey, she completed a pilgrimage to Santuario de Chimayo, offering prayers of healing and thanksgiving for her cure. Martha also had a strong personal veneration of Mary and was never without her rosary and “fragile” Mary.

In addition to her parents, Manuel and Viola, Martha was preceded in death by her oldest sister, Georgia Otero Kirkham; and brother-in-law Rex Kirkham.

She is survived by her husband, Timothy Welch; daughter, Whitney Morelli; son-in-law, Dominic Morelli; and two granddaughters, Gracie Morelli and Anna Morelli. She is also survived by her two brothers, Jerry Otero (Madalyn) and Roberto Otero (Gayla); sister, Pamela Otero (Rocky Hill); and many nieces and nephews.

Martha was by nature open, empathetic and magnanimous; she worked hard to make others’ lives better and in the process touched the lives of many. She will be missed greatly — her free spirit and joyful memories will remain in our hearts.

Share a memory at on Martha’s tribute wall.

Martha will be returning to her beloved Land of Enchantment with visitation and service to be held at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Peralta Saturday, March 18, 2023. The family will receive friends from 9-10 a.m. A Rosary will be recited beginning at 10 a.m., followed by a Funeral Mass at 10:30 a.m. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall. Check for updates to events, locations, dates and times.

Memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Farragut, Tenn., and/or Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Peralta.

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