Peer Tribute from Tracy L. Ward, with David Dudley
Updated: Jun 11, 2021
Former publisher and editor-in-chief of the award-winning Urbanite. Ms. Ward is a respected leader in economic/community development, currently Executive Director of Easton Economic Development Corporation.
I met Martha when I was publishing Urbanite magazine in Baltimore in the 2000s. We had many talented and creative writers working with us back then, but Martha stood out, as told by David Dudley, former Editor-in-Chief:
Martha Thomas’s byline often appeared up three or four times in an average issue of Urbanite, the local magazine I edited in the late 2000s; in the years I worked there, she might contribute a searing feature story on urban violence in the same issue that she’d review a new bistro, interview a local playwright, or deliver a droll first-person essay. Her range reflected not only her professional versatility, but her curiosity, her drive, and her unabashed enthusiasm for learning, discovering, and communicating new things about her adopted hometown. Unlike many of the emerging journalists who scored early bylines in Urbanite in that era, Martha had been around: She brought an eclectic range of experiences and interests from earlier stages in her life, from her New Hampshire roots to her career in New York City. That sharp perspective seemed to help her convey how special the city’s mores and culture and people were.
She was also a lot of fun to work with—witty, opinionated, unafraid, and always looking for a novel way into a story. After leaving the magazine, I was able to work with Martha several more times for other publications, including on a feature that won a Folio award, and I always enjoyed catching up with her at some of her famous parties. Whenever we spoke, she was full of ideas and plans and schemes—new stories to tell, new professional and personal endeavors. I am unsurprised that her last chapter appears to have been such an eventful one, and grateful that she was able to pursue one more great adventure.
In the beginning, Martha and I connected over food, usually running into one another at a restaurant opening, but our relationship was largely distant. It was not until I moved to the Eastern Shore of Maryland that Martha reconnected with me, years after Urbanite had been shuttered. I was touched that Martha reached out to me after all those years, and found her creative spark to be infectious as we tossed around media centric business ideas. As our long-distance friendship warmed up through shared meals, theater events, and the occasional party, Martha gave me a key to her condominium in Baltimore, a sign of our growing closeness. We had become real friends, kind of soul sisters to each other, sharing long philosophical conversations, unfiltered insights, and still-unformed dreams.
Later, when an investor wanted someone to open an independent bookstore in Easton, MD, Martha and I discussed the opportunity as her “ultimate fantasy” for three years. Once she decided to go for it, her life changes came at warp speed, which to my delight included her moving to Easton, meeting the man of her dreams, Chris Rigaux, and the bookstore opening to great success and acclaim, particularly over the excellent curation of offerings. In that short year, other changes were occurring as well, including the loss of her mother, and as we now know, her health. Martha’s impact on me is as indelible as it was ephemeral. In a brief and astonishing year, I have a collection of lovely memories of Martha: seeing Martha on her bike riding to work; running into Martha on a random downtown street walking the dogs; Martha showing up at my house with a carload of friends eager to launch their kayaks; Martha gamely gathering around the firepit during an unexpected rain shower, hoisting our umbrellas not to be deterred from one of our first social gatherings of 2020.
Most indelible is the ephemeral. For these memories over time will continue to provide inspiration to live each day to its fullest, drawing loved ones close and never turning down an opportunity for adventure.