Sara Helen Kaufman Farmer
May 4, 1926 – May 13, 2018
Helen Farmer, the trailblazing Music Row executive and nonprofit executive, died in Nashville on Sunday of natural causes. She was 92.
Farmer worked for the Country Music Association for over 20 years, rising to the position of director of programs and special projects when she retired in 1994.
At the CMA, Farmer oversaw legislative issues and logistics for the annual CMA Awards, for which she served as associate executive producer. She rose the ranks in the country music industry at a time when the few female executives in Nashville wielded major clout.
She counted luminaries like Jo Walker-Meador, Frances Preston and Connie Bradley among her contemporaries.
Farmer won the CMA Founding President's Award in 1994, and in 2008 she took home a Source Award, honoring women in Nashville's music industry.
“Helen Farmer was a force to be reckoned with. She was authentic, smart, savvy and tirelessly devoted to her work, family and friends," recalled Angie Acker a former colleague at the CMA and longtime friend. "Throughout her life and career, Helen strived to ensure that every endeavor with which she was involved was meticulously planned and flawlessly executed.” Raised in the Jewish faith, Farmer was remembered by those who knew her best for her toughness and for paving the way for women to work on the business side of the country music industry. Among her advocacy accomplishments, she helped pass landmark anti-stalking legislation in the early 1990s.
"My mom was always a very, very strong lady," said her son Sonny Farmer. "She, and Frances and Jo Walker and Connie Bradley, they broke the glass ceiling. They were women in country music who were non-entertainers. They ran companies like BMI, Sony, the CMA.
"I never heard my mother say a bad word about somebody. When people asked her about what's going on in the country music business, she wouldn't discuss other people's business. She was very professional, and she cared about helping along the careers of the women, and men too, who were coming up behind her."
A Nashville native, Farmer worked for the Nashville school system and then for the local branch of the American Cancer Society.
Farmer notably co-founded the annual Music City Tennis Invitational, which raised funds for the Center for Child Development at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. Gov. Bill Haslam read a proclamation honoring the 40th anniversary of the tennis tournament and Farmer's role in its creation in 2013.
She also helped open the city's first cancer screening clinics for women while with the ACS.
When her husband William Farmer died in 2007, they had been married 44 years. Farmer is survived by her sons Michael Farmer and Sonny Farmer and six grandchildren.
Her funeral will take place on Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Congregation Micah in Brentwood (2001 Old Hickory Blvd).
- Funeral Wednesday, May 16, 2018
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