Ora Coleman was the sort of man every child would love to have for a neighbor. And every child who came to Ora Coleman’s farm on Coleman Road in Roswell were welcome in Ora’s World.
That world was a farm in the middle of one of Atlanta’s most elegant suburban cities. Of course, Mr. Coleman had not come to Roswell with his farm. The city had come to him. But that bothered him not a whit.
Almost until the day he died, Jan. 29, 2012, at age 89 he and his farm were almost unchanged over the 60-odd years he lived there.
Cousin Hal Coleman said he remembered as child going over to that farm to play with the animals.
“Then I took my kids over there to play with the animals, and then I took my grandchildren,” he said. “He was a man who was pure-hearted – a man of simple faith and simple values. He never used anything but wood heat, and he never owned a telephone.
“He told me if he got a phone, then people might not come to see him.”
That wasn’t true of course. People loved to come and bring their children to see him. That’s because the children and Mr. Coleman saw his ducks, chickens, rabbits and goats in the same light, as pets to be loved and held. In fact, if a parent didn’t speak up quickly, a visiting child was liable to go home with a baby rabbit or chick. At the least, visitors would leave with dozen eggs or frozen blackberries or blueberries. He wanted visitors to leave with something.
Mr. Coleman spent his whole life on that 8-acre farm he shared with his wife. As suburban Roswell grew and was offered more and more money for his land, he just shook his head. What can you buy when you live in paradise?
He was a 78-year member of Roswell United Methodist Church. He worked 40 years for the Roswell Seating Co. making church pews. But like so many men who grew up in that “Greatest Generation,” he also farmed, was a master craftsman, bricklayer, woodworker and raised cows and mules to along with the rest of his menagerie.
The Rev. Malone Dodson, pastor emeritus at RUMC, knew Mr. Coleman well. He would bring animals up to the church’s kindergarten to share with them the wonder of God’s creatures. He did the same for Northbrook United Methodist Church’s little ones also.
“As soon as my grandchildren would come to town, the first thing they wanted to do was go to Mr. Ora’s farm. They always came back dirty as pigs, but they loved it,” Dodson said.
He recalled once at the farm, Mr. Coleman wanted the Dodson grandchildren to take a baby goat home with them, and of course the children were anxious to do just that.
“But my Charlotte had a moment of inspiration and quickly spoke up and said, ‘Oh no, Mr. Ora. We’re not zoned to keep goats.’”
His niece, Barbara Coleman Mansell, remembers the farm in its heyday had all manner of fowl and animals. Peacocks, turkeys and ducks mixed in with the chickens.
“I was about 10, and I just loved going over there. I grew up just down the street. He was just a part of Roswell’s history,” Mansell said.