Col. Nancy Martin of St. Louis Park, who served the Salvation Army in Africa, Asia and Minnesota, was the first woman in the church to play a top leadership role.

Martin, who worked in Crookston, St. Cloud and Minneapolis in the 1940s and '50s, died Dec. 8 in New Hope. Martin, an ordained minister, was 84.

After her retirement in 1976, she was considered the church's matriarch in the Twin Cities, and she continued to devote much of her time to it.

Capt. Lisa Mueller of St. Paul's Salvation Army said Martin was "incredibly proper and poised."

Mueller said she learned much about leadership and how the Salvation Army works from Martin, who served as a mentor to leaders in the Twin Cities during her retirement.

"She was never, ever proud or conceited," said Mueller. "She never made anybody feel that they didn't meet her expectations."

In 1937, Martin, then Nancy Hulett, a Wyoming native, became a soldier in the Salvation Army.

In 1941, she graduated from high school in Winona, and the Army's training college in 1943. In Minneapolis, she served as an executive secretary, and in 1955 she went to Lagos, Nigeria, where she rose to that unit's finance officer.

She returned to the United States for a while, but a financial crisis in Hong Kong led the Salvation Army to send Martin to fix the problems.

Her next stop was Manila in 1967, and she rose to lead that nation's Salvation Army, the first woman to hold such a high post in the church. There she called on ambassadors as well as the sick and poor, Mueller said.

In 1976, she married a retired Salvation Army colonel, Herbert Martin of the Twin Cities.

In retirement, she probably worked as hard as she had while on active duty, said Evelyn Soliday of Coon Rapids, a member of the Salvation Army.

"She was organized, had an inner strength, and had the ability to work with people," Soliday said. "Nancy meant a lot to me. I really admired her. She was a beautiful, gracious person who knew her Bible well and lived it."

In retirement, Martin led the women's group, taught adult Sunday school and sang in the choir. When she played in Salvation Army bands, Martin played the baritone.

In 1988, she and her husband worked as volunteers in the Hong Kong Salvation Army for six months. Her husband died in 2000.

She is survived by two stepdaughters, Edythe Memmott of West Long Branch, N.J., and Joy Shin of Princeton Junction, N.J.; 10 step-grandchildren and 14 step-great-grandchildren.

Services have been held.