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Memory of Martha

From Diane Strick (NYC/NH)


Our friend Martha Thomas was a connoisseur of life. She had a wide mind. A curious mind. We can all hail her talent, her perception and sense of humor, her exquisite taste and deep love and knowledge of all culture, high, low and in between. I met Martha when we both worked at the summer school at Phillips Exeter Academy. We reconnected a few years later when we both turned up as neighbors on the Upper West Side. Soon we had an in-and-out-of-each-other's homes kind of friendship. We had a lot in common—the outdoors, the arts, theater, movement and fitness, both of us transplants from our New Hampshire childhoods to New York. With no immediate family in the area, we extended to each other the kind of family you make when you live in NYC, far from all you grew up with. I was a single mom with two daughters and she had a worldwide circle of talented and diverse friends that she generously welcomed me into. Always the busy writer, she was managing in-house publications for corporations and the UN, along with restaurant, theater and car reviews--all creating numerous opportunities for shared adventures and numerous gatherings.

A handsewn cloth overnight bag.
Among Martha's many talents, sewing. Courtesy-D Strick.

This was Martha. A curious mind—investigating all manner of topics, trends and thoughts. An instigator—of adventures, celebrations and so many projects, from pickles to magazines, custom sofas and bookstores. A collector—of ideas, objects, books and especially people. Her greatest super power was as a connector—making connections big and small among her wide interests, projects, ideas and people. In connecting all of us. And the dogs. Martha always had time, space and energy in her life for dogs. Since I had none, and would never get past the dogs in the city question, she made sure my daughters experienced that particular joy of hers. She subtly and not always subtly inserted Kusin, a magnificent child-friendly Keeshond into our lives.

Woman standing next to fresh cut Christmas tree with two small dogs. Cheeful.
Ollie and Evie with Martha at White Hall Farm in Maryland.

And it worked. Those afraid-of-dogs girls became capable and confident with him and then other animals, even riding horses. A turning point came when Kusin, spooked by a truck backfire, broke away from us and tore off. What relief and joy when he was returned a few blocks later by an alert jogger who grabbed the leash of the freaked animal. This isn’t a Martha adventure story, but a peek into her sharing her deep values and understanding of what’s essential in life. We had lost Kusin, entrusted to us by a dear friend and luckily found him again, so relieved and grateful for that happy outcome. We talked about it for weeks. It rearranged the girls understanding of having a pet. They had entered another dimension of reality, realizing the awesome responsibility of caring for another being, getting a glimpse of the fragility of life, and the risks of love. When we choose to love someone or something, it inherently contains the risk of losing them. Love is the biggest risk of all. It takes courage and fortitude to love. Martha had this. Martha always chose love.

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