Martha Hart Newlon
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formerly of Wilmington
Martha Hart Newlon, formerly of Wilmington, Delaware, died peacefully on December 21, 2013 in Sarasota, Florida. She was surrounded by family and had music on her lips and in her heart. Martha was born in 1918 and raised during the Depression on a small farm in Ohio, where she learned the value of hard work and stretching a penny. She attended Ohio State University, where she majored in music education and met her beloved companion and husband of 71 years, Jay O. Newlon, Jr. After graduation, Martha and Jay were married in 1940 in a very small ceremony in New York City, with Jay's landlord bringing the flowers and serving as a witness. After Pearl Harbor, Jay enlisted in the Navy and Martha followed him from coast to coast so she could meet him when his battleship came into port. This required decoding messages hidden in his letters home, as information on ship movements was taken out of correspondence by military censors. Martha was a good decoder, resulting in their first two children being born during World War II. Four more followed after the war.
Martha and Jay's growing family settled in Wilmington when Jay accepted a job with the DuPont Company in 1950. Martha and Jay raised the family, at times including grandchildren, in a household full of boundless energy and life. Altogether, there were children in their home for 45 consecutive years.
Martha went far beyond the typical postwar housewife and mother role, and threw herself passionately into a variety of causes. These included civil rights (the entire family picketed the then-segregated Rialto Theater in Wilmington), public television (helping found WHYY), bicycle safety (creating the Delaware Friends of Bikecology), and ongoing involvement with music education in public schools. She was a pioneer on healthy living and taught yoga for many years, starting in the 1970s. Her greatest passion later in life was for music and its transformative effects on health and wellbeing. She taught herself how to play the trumpet in her 80s and was instrumental in founding the Academy Band at the University of Delaware Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She played the trumpet and euphonium with the Academy Band into her early 90s, and was still organizing drum circles at age 95 at the Florida retirement community where she moved in 2012 following Jay's passing.
Martha's limitless energy, willingness to continually learn and constant thoughtfulness were an inspiration to her family, friends and everyone she met. Her enthusiasm for life and all it has to offer will be missed by her family and many others.
Martha's legacy includes her six children, 15 grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.
A celebration of Martha's life will be held at 1 pm on Sunday, January 19 at The University of Delaware - Wilmington Campus, Arsht Hall, 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue. It will be preceded by a visitation with Martha's family at noon. A reception will follow the service. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the charities identified on the Martha Newlon memorial website at http://martha-newlon.last-memories.com
Published in The News Journal on Jan. 12, 2014