She was an extraordinary woman.
By anyone's definition.
Born in 1919.
Raised in a small country town.
She graduated from Lander College.
Not a common path for women at that time.
She boarded a train at the age of 19.
Bound for a job in Washington, DC.
At the National Archives office.
I imagine that took guts.
She stood on Pennsylvania Avenue.
And watched FDR's motorcade go by.
Carrying him to Capital Hill.
Where he made his case for declaring war against Japan.
It was 1941.
And Martha was in Washington.
It was an uncertain and exciting time in our country.
And she had a front row seat.
She eventually returned home to Ninety Six.
Where she had a patient and persistent sweetheart.
She married Chevis.
Three kids came along.
As they built their lives around the family farm.
She was always strong.
Those traits were soon called to task.
She was made a very young widow.
Her Chevis dropped dead one day on their farm.
A young man in his 40's.
And Martha's life forever changed.
I met her in 1985.
She was already 66 years old.
I was just 26.
We worked together for the next 25 years.
She became part of my family.
And I loved her.
We worked side by side as my girls came along.
For all those years.
Martha was a force of nature.
She became my measuring stick and example.
For what it meant to grow older.
Martha kept the family farm running.
For all those years after her husband's sudden death.
She put her kids through college.
And worked various jobs.
Her last one was with me.
In her 70's she was still tending to her cows.
And caring for the family farm.
I remember being amazed at stories about "Preacher."
That's what she named her bull.
Preacher would occasionally get out of the fence.
Ending up on the country road by her home.
It wasn't unusual for her to get a call in the night.
That Preacher was out again.
Off she'd go in her night gown & coat.
No matter the hour.
A flashlight in one hand.
A rope in another.
Jumping ditches and steering Preacher back where he belonged.
There was a honky -tonk.
That was what Martha called it.
Around the corner from her driveway.
A small establishment where drinks were served.
On one occasion a customer had indulged a little too much.
And made the unfortunate decision to make his way to Martha's front porch.
Needless to say.
She handled her loaded shotgun.
With the same ease she tended her cows.
After a brief communication through the closed door with her firearm.
I believe some mention was made of the local undertaker.
And "your sorry carcass."
The inebriated customer came to his senses.
And removed himself from Martha's property.
Before she made good on her promise.
She flew across the country.
To visit a daughter in Alaska.
After slipping and falling one day in the mountains of North Carolina.
And she politely put herself back in her car.
And drove herself home.
Two hours away.
Only to discover once she saw a doctor.
Her leg was broken.
Heart trouble in her 80's.
Led to open heart surgery.
I thought she wouldn't come back to work at that point.
She recuperated for months at home.
She told me exactly how many laps she had to walk.
Inside her house.
To get in a full mile of walking every day.
And she did it.
She found her motivation and drive.
Even in her 80's.
And surprising everybody -- including me.
She returned to work.
Until she retired some years later at the age of 92.
When Martha took her last breath on Saturday.
She was 97 years old.
I put my arms around her kids at the funeral.
Mamie and Pat and Raymond.
I couldn't hold back the tears.
What a woman.
They knew even better than me.
She had it.
And we were sure blessed to share life with her.
Until we meet again, Martha.
I love you!