The 'unsinkable' Martha Eshelman Brown, age 70, passed away quietly and peacefully at her home on Keuka Lake in Hammondsport, N.Y., surrounded by her family, on Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014. Active in her community, Martha's life was defined by what she did for others, by her generosity and enduring hospitality. She was a high school special education teacher, a volunteer, community activist, choir member and sometime actor. She lit up a room when she entered it. Martha's quick wit, warmth and love of life were contagious, and many in her life considered Martha their best friend.
Born in Baltimore, Md. Sept. 29, 1943, Martha and her mother awaited the return of her father, serving in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific, at the end of World War II. After the war, her parents settled in Canton, Ohio, where Martha and her two brothers were raised. Martha was an honors student at Worley School and later graduated from Lehman High School in Canton. She attended the College of Wooster, graduating with a BA in Sociology in 1965. At Wooster, Martha met her future husband, Gary P. Brown, and they married in 1966.
Martha and Gary raised three children living in Naugatuck, Conn., Scarsdale, N.Y. and then Stamford, Conn. (beginning in 1980). She spent a career teaching special education for BOCES in Westchester County and then at Westhill High School in Stamford, CT. She was a supportive pastor's wife and sang in church choirs all her adult life. She loved following the accomplishments of her growing family. One of her memorable starring roles in a church musical was in Scarsdale as "the Unsinkable Molly Brown," a role that captured her personality. Martha retired in 2006 after 24 years of teaching. In 2007, Martha and Gary moved to Keuka Lake where they quickly became active in the community.
In her retirement, Martha could be found walking her dog with a group of good friends on East Lake Road, cooking up a storm in her kitchen or sharing a glass of wine on the dock with family, singing in community choruses in Hornell or Penn Yan, driving a patient to an appointment in Rochester, serving Sunday Suppers to families in need or summer lunches at Bath's First Presbyterian Church to low-income children or producing a play to raise money for the local AAUW scholarship fund. One of her proudest moments in recent years was bringing the first benefit performance of "Momoirs" outside of the New York City area to Bath, N.Y. for AAUW.
Martha loved staying active swimming laps in the lake, running, biking and hiking wherever she could. Martha's homewherever she made itwas always open to friends, family and strangers. She lived and breathed hospitality, her home was your home and some even said they felt more at home with Martha Brown than in their own homes.
Martha was preceded in death by her parents, Cecilia Warner Eshelman and Robert Penn Eshelman. She is survived by her loving husband of 47 years, Gary Pierce Brown; children, Gregory (Sonya) Brown, Matthew (Michele) Brown, and Emily (John) Petro; grandchildren, Garrett, Celia, Maris and Gavin Brown; Calvin and Chloe Brown; and Joshua Petro; brothers, Robert (Robin) Eshelman and George (Anne) Eshelman; and many cousins, nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.
To honor Martha, the family suggests a gift to one of the many causes close to Martha's heart: the Deacon's Fund of the First Presbyterian Church of Bath, N.Y., the Education Fund of the Bath Branch AAUW or the Finger Lakes SPCA. The family also wishes to thank CareFirst Hospice staff for their tender care of Martha in recent days. The family will be at home from 2 to 7 p.m. on Friday, April 25th to greet friends. Please park at the Champlin Beach parking lot on Route 54 in Hammondsport. Transportation will be provided from there to the Brown home. A memorial service will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 26th at the First Presbyterian Church of Bath, NY. Burial will be private. Arrangements are being handled by Fagan's Funeral Home of Bath.
Fagan's Funeral Home Inc.
31 W. Morris St. Bath, NY 14810
Published in The Repository on Apr. 16, 2014