Martha was at the heart of things

Today a wee bit after 5:00 pm, little Ella, who is a Girl Scout in the troop that meets at Trinity on Tuesdays, was headed for home.  She had just finished working on a sewing project with Marie Elena.  I asked her if she had sewn something fun today.  She said, “I sewed seven rows on a quilt.”  Wow,” I said, and asked “What color is it.”  “Oh it is many colors,” she said.  “Thanks for telling me about it.  Hope you have a good night,” said I.  “Thanks.  See ya’,” said she.

Over the years in the life of Trinity, there have been lots of short conversations that are never recorded, never become part of our history, but are woven into the fabric of who we are, all the same.

Marie Elena said to me as Ella was leaving, “Oh, I put up a poem I wrote about Martha.  I miss her.  She is in everything here and so much of Northport.  I wrote the poem the day she died . . . and . . . I put it on the bulletin board.”

I read Marie Elena’s poem.  Tears of gratitude welled up within me for Martha, for Marie Elena, for Ella who was hearing and watching this Trinity story of a life savored and a poem written, and for all who loved and were loved by Martha.

I asked Marie Elaina if I could share her poem and she said, “Yes.”  So here it is:


In Memory of Martha Roberts

Martha was at the heart of things.

She always knew what to do, and just how it must be done.

A pink and white complected powerhouse, tastefully dressed, sometimes tart of tongue.

Martha died this morning.

She always knew what to do, and just how it must be done.

“Marie, put those dishes in the big cabinet, third shelf down.”

Martha died this morning.

Who will tell me what to do?

“Marie, put those dishes in the big cabinet, third shelf down.”

Her presence was everywhere, the church, the lighthouse, Community Center, and choir.

Who will tell me what to do?

I need Martha’s hard-won wisdom.

Her presence was everywhere, Rag Bee, stone soup, Village Voices, the museum.

She could have ruled a small country, daring, caring, sure-minded, and strong.

I need Martha’s hard-won wisdom.

A woman born to the long-rooted history of this town.

She could have ruled a small country, daring, caring, sure-minded and strong.

A pink and white complected powerhouse, tastefully dressed, sometimes tart of tongue.

A woman born in the long-rooted history of this town.

Martha was at the heart of things.

Marie Elena Gaspari  2016

Martha poems.

There must be a hundred of them written or in the process of evolving to words on paper.  If you have written one (or are in the process), would you consider posting it on this blog in the reply section below?

So many conversations and interactions are woven into the fabric of Trinity and are never recorded, (like the one I had with Ella today) because, well, they are too small in the universe of what really matters.  And yet, it is these small stories that are us.

Share your poems about what really matters here if you wish.

The picture of Martha in this post was taken on November 6, 2016.  She was at Trinity to check on the progress of the making of peanut brittle.  Such a smile!  An unremarkable interaction that has now become remarkable because . . .

well . . .

Martha died early in the morning on Monday of this week, January 25, 2016, about 4:30.  It was quiet and still in Northport as she left us.

She is and will be missed.

Martha L. Roberts’ life will be remembered as people gather for the “visitation” at Martinson’s in Sutton’s Bay on Friday evening of this week from 5-8 pm.  Then we will remember Martha and give thanks for her life beginning at noon on Saturday at Trinity.  The Trinity Choir and members of the Village Voices will sing.  We will sing, we will pray, we will hear scripture, a few selected remembrances of Martha, a Bill Cook solo, and a some words of faith.  After the time of worship, there will be a luncheon including a Martha-recipe of “chicken casserole” for those who wish to stay.  Thank you Suzanne for coordinating the meal with the assistance of many.

Thank you to so many for your condolences and kind words.  Thank you to Bethany Lutheran for your presence and your many offers of assistance and support.  It is a privilege to be in the same block with you.

Many of you know Martha’s story.  She was born in Northport on August 11, 1940.  Her parents were Frederick and Daisy Baumberger.  She was their tenth child.  She was raised a Methodist.  She was her high school graduating class valedictorian.  Martha and Carlyle married in 1958 at the Northport Methodist church and then moved downstate for eight years before returning to Northport in 1966.  The year before they came back, 1965, Northport Methodist Church and First Congregational became one family of faith, Trinity Church, of the United Church of Christ.  Martha’s loyalty to “this new church” never wavered.

When Trinity was remodeled, six of the stained glass windows from Northport Methodist were incorporated into the worship space of Trinity.  Two of the six windows are dedicated to Martha’s forebears.  The windows are described as follows in the 2005 Pictorial Directory of Trinity Church:

In memory of Frederick Baumberger and Mary Elizabeth Baumberger – Mr. Baumberger was a civil war veteran and he began farming in the Northport area in 1875.  The Baumberger’s would spend the school year in Indiana where Mrs. Baumberger’s parents lived.  They are the grandparents of Mrs. Martha Roberts.

In memory “Aunt” Susie R. Baumberger and “Aunt” Lida I Baumberger – These are Frederick’s daughters and the aunts of Mrs. Martha Roberts.  These ladies were stalwart members of the Methodist Church.  They were the overseers of the church as well as of each new minister and his family.

Marie Elena is relatively new to Northport.  Patricia and I are newer still.  Even as “newbies” we get that “Martha was at the heart of things.”

Thank you Martha!

Thank you Marie Elena.

Thank you Ella.

Thank you to all who have graced this community of faith with your lives and heart.

Thank you to all of you from other communities of faith who have graced churches, synagogues, temples where you live with your lives.

Martha thought Trinity mattered.

She was “at the heart of things.”

She is woven into the fabric of who we are.

May we cherish every good thing about Martha and keep them alive at Trinity and in our own lives too.

Published by philandpatricia

we live in Northport, MI

12 thoughts on “Martha was at the heart of things

  1. Phil, thank you your warm and loving and wise words about Martha. As always, you said it ‘just right’. There is a huge hole in our lives, the church’s life, the community’s life. Hearts are heavy. With much love from each other, and God’s light, we will slowly learn to cope with her absence. ..thank you for being here with us…

    1. Thank you, Terry.

      It is a privilege to be with you as the one who coordinates the Cancer Support Group in Northport, to be with you at Trinity, and to be with you and Tom in the ‘hood’.

      You too have a long history here.
      So much heritage in this village.

      “We will,” you said “slowly learn to cope with her absence.”
      Yes, we will.
      Martha did before us.
      And we will after her.

      Dorothy Day is reported to have said these words that will be at the top of our bulletin on Sunday, January 31, 2016 – “No one has the right to sit down and feel helpless: there’s too much to do.”

      I’m thinking Martha might embodied those words.

  2. Martha was the first “local” person that I had a conversation with when we were settling in to Northport. I was in, what was then Empire State Bank, to open a checking account. As we concluded our business, Martha smiled at me and said, “By the way, if you don’t have a church yet, come on up to Trinity. We’re real friendly.” How could I not make the hike up Nagonaba after that? The rest is history. Martha has been a model for community and public service. She once reminded me during the years that I served on the council that I wasn’t a politician, but a public servant. I was privileged to work as her assistant in the church office taking care of the offering. Is he upheld the highest standard for all that she did and I will miss her warm but no nonsense approach.

  3. Martha’s chair is empty in the choir
    It will not be filled again

    Her voice is missing from the choir
    We won’t hear her song again

    Martha’s spirit sings, though, pure and sure
    confident with praise
    insisting that we, too, must fill the air
    with harmony and joy

    We too, must fill the air with harmony
    and joy

  4. What a marvelous, touching, and profound essay, conveying truth in a poetical and spiritual way. Thanks to the authors (of both prose and poetry), and thanks to Martha for a life of service. “Making a difference” takes on new meaning because of Martha. Phil Thomas and Henrietta Barnes On Jan 26, 2016 9:41 PM,

  5. Martha was always helpful, very knowledgeable about everything, and a good worker, especially at our church. Her cooking we will miss, she could always whip up anything, and have it be good. I always admired her many talents. Bless you ,Martha. K

  6. We have known Martha since she was a student and John was superintendent at Northport. Her daughter, Carla, and our daughter, Mary were best of friends throughout school. Martha and I shared her garden for several years. We will miss her.

  7. Martha will be missed. She was a rock of the church and my parents George and Elaine were on many committees and my dad sang many years in the choir with her. I remember her strong alto voice when I sang in the choir when I was younger. Her wonderful smile was always a welcome at the bank and she was a strong presence in the community. We’ll miss you Martha.

  8. Martha was such a caring person. She was with me for some of my cancer tests and diagnosis and always had a kind and comforting word. I will dearly miss her..

  9. Martha was a Sweet Lady, always giving of herself to others. May her memories bring us all Joy, in the years to come. She will be missed by all. She is in GOD’s care now, what a Beautiful place to be. We are so blessed to have had her in our lives. She Lived and Loved to the Fullest and she was loved by all who knew her. May you rest in peace Martha!

  10. Ann Bloomquist wrote these poetic images of Martha and asked if I might post them here. Thank you Ann.


    Images vivid


    Twinkling smile

    A knowing smile

    Kindly forbearance

    Swirling purple robes

    Shifting pots and pans

    Gossamer people

    Now transfixed





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