Martha Woodroof: An Appreciation

Martha Woodroof didn’t want a funeral. I suspect that she didn’t like the way eulogies smooth imperfect human beings into Disneyfied versions of themselves. That was quite likely to happen to Martha, because she was much loved and respected in this community. She showed up, volunteered, listened, helped out, and made everyone she talked to feel like the most interesting person in the county. Because her deep, distinctive voice was on the radio and in our homes, we all felt like we knew her even before we met her. Once we did meet her, she became the person we wanted to talk to if we were struggling. The person we wanted to laugh with when we were not. Her table at a restaurant was generally rowdy and too loud. There was always the possibility that she would jump up to show us how she could touch her toes, while at the same time giving the rest of the diners an excellent view of her posterior.

Martha’s funeral would have been replete with heartfelt tributes that would have probably made her gag. She had no patience with pathos. She would be the first to remind us that she didn’t always have it together. The version of Martha that most of us knew was Martha 4.0—at least.

To respect and appreciate the full humanity of a person, we must take into account the flaws and the struggles—all the things that went into creating the magnificent Martha 4.0. Earlier versions were rough. In her younger years, Martha fought depression and alcoholism. She countered those by living full bore. She sat in at the Woolworth lunch counter in 1960. She ditched college, took off to Texas on a bus, cooked for an artists’ colony, opened three restaurants, acted in plays, picked up hitchhikers, and ended up in jail for disorderly conduct.

Then Martha got it together and learned how to be happy—one of the most difficult things for any human being to learn. She started going to AA and never stopped. She launched into a career in radio where her gift for being interested in people and in life found a perfect home. On her third try she found her ideal husband, Charlie Woodroof, Mr. Wonderful. She settled into a house on a ridge in Singers Glen and gloried in her sweet view of Little North Mountain and her garden.

Martha was a born liberal who continuously questioned herself and what it meant to be liberal. She wanted to know why other people believed the things they believed. She didn’t accept easy answers and didn’t tolerate snark. She was good at knocking on doors, making phone calls, writing postcards, and talking to and listening to people she didn’t agree with. She did her best to turn a red Singers Glen blue. Her goal for this year’s election was to help elect Bill Helsley.

Martha determined that cancer would not keep her from living, laughing, writing, exercising, and doing all the other things that made her Martha. It did not.

Here’s to life, and here’s to Martha!

-Susan Hasler

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