Celebrating the life of Martha P. Sherman
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To say that Martha lived a full life would be an understatement. She referred to her life as “my moveable feast,” noting that she lived in 23 different locales during her life. Martha was born in Providence, graduated from Lincoln School in 1935 and from Wellesley College in 1939 as an English major. After college, she began her working career as an editor for The Pilgrim Press in Boston. She married Ted in October 1940 and moved to Providence. After Ted enlisted in the Navy during World War II and served with distinction on a mine sweeper in the Mediterranean, she lived in Norfolk, Virginia, among other places, returning eventually to Providence. Between 1943 and 1949, she gave birth to four children.
Martha was a relentless volunteer for a number of non-profit organizations, including the Providence Public Library, where she served for many years as a trustee and eventually a honorary trustee; Moses Brown School, where she served as a trustee; Wellesley College, where she served as class secretary and development chairman; the Providence District Nursing Association; and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra where she helped to start and organize the children’s concerts (and insisted that all her children have music lessons). She also lobbied to establish juvenile courts in Rhode Island. Martha was a member of Central Congregational Church for nearly 90 years and served as a deacon and chair of the Prudential Committee.
In 1966, Martha and Ted moved to New York. She advanced her professional career by working as Executive Secretary of the Brown University Clearinghouse for Library Cooperation, Executive Assistant for Church Women United in New York, and as a contributing writer to Tidings Magazine. She described herself as a typical product of her generation where every time she started a job, her husband was transferred. But she adapted well, forming new friendships that lasted a lifetime.
Between 1971 and 1979, she lived in to Roxboro, North Carolina with Ted, who became Executive Vice President of the textile company Indianhead, Inc., and she proceeded to earn her Master’s degree in English from the University of North Carolina in 1977 at the age of 59. She also volunteered with the Roxboro Garden Club and headed up her new project to pick up junk cars. Martha had a life-long love of books and was passionate about reading and education, something she especially passed on to her grandchildren.
Martha and Ted retired to Providence and Westerly, where she and Ted continued their life-long love of sailing along the New England coast, the Greek islands and Norwegian fjords. She continued her volunteer activities, and as a passionate believer in education, she was a member of the Westerly College Club that awards college scholarships for Westerly students. Still a fervent supporter of the Providence Public Library, she received the Library’s highest honor, the Enlightenment Award, in recognition of her exceptional service and dedication to Library over her lifetime.
In her later years, she was a stalwart at Laurelmead, where she lived and served on the Laurelmead board, where her opinions were always clear and forceful if not followed. She lived an active life, going to lectures, recitals and the broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera. She wrote articles for the newspaper. Having outlived most of her peers, and many younger than she was, she complained that there were not enough others to accompany her to these events, while also complaining that she was living too long! She served as the chauffeur to many of her friends, finally relinquishing her driver’s license when she was 100.
Martha was a special person, a loving wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, and one who also was devoted to – and an inspiration for - her many friends, both young and old.
A memorial service celebrating her remarkable life will be scheduled once the COVID-19 crisis has passed. Memorial contributions in her honor may be made to the Providence Public Library, 150 Empire Street, Providence, RI 02903, or to the Central Congregational Church, 296 Angell St, Providence, RI 02906
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