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Martha Hildegarde (nee Carlson), of Tenafly, passed away July 3, 2014. Martha was born at home in Träslövsläge, Sweden, on November 16, 1911, the daughter of Emil and Alma Carlson. Her father immigrated to the United States in 1913, just before World War One. The family settled in Cranston, RI, where her father worked in the jewelry industry. When Martha was 10, the family returned to Sweden for two years, and she became fluent in Swedish. She never lost her love for her cousins and Sweden. After high school in Cranston, she attended Edgewood Secretarial School. Her first job was with the Rhode Island Commission for the Blind, where she was the administrative assistant to the director. There she met Helen Keller. She also met a student at Brown University, George R. Merriam, Jr., and they were married by his father, a Baptist minister, on September 5, 1936. The couple moved to New York City. Martha worked as a medical secretary to support her husband while he completed pre-medical studies at New York University and medical school at Columbia University. Martha also attended painting classes at the Art Students League of New York. Her husband was an intern at the Lenox Hill Hospital in New York when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and his surgical unit became an Army mobile field hospital. He served in England and Wales prior to the Normandy Invasion and then on the continent. During the long years of war, Martha worked at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. She was accepted to the University of Chicago just before the war ended. With the safe return of her husband, she continued to work while he completed his medical training at the Institute of Ophthalmology at Columbia. The couple moved to Tenafly, NJ, in 1950. They had two sons, George and John, and two daughters, Charlotte and Susan. Martha devoted her time to raising her children and continued to study painting. She also was active with the Englewood Garden Club, the Auxiliary of the Presbyterian Hospital, and Spectrum for Living. Her husband and her sister Esther predeceased her as well as her oldest son George who died in a hiking accident on Mt. Rainier in September 2013. She also leaves seven grandchildren. Throughout her long life, Martha was interested in literature, the visual and performing arts, botany, and she enjoyed traveling. Visiting hours will be at Barrett Funeral Home, 148 Dean Dr. Tenafly on Tuesday, from 5-7 PM. In lieu of flowers, donations should be sent to the Spectrum for Living Endowment, 210 Rivervale Road, Suite 3, River Vale, NJ 07675. She will be buried beside her husband in a private funeral service at the Pawtuxet Memorial Cemetery in Warwick, Rhode Island.
Barrett Funeral Home
148 Dean Dr Tenafly, NJ 07670
Published in The Record on July 13, 2014