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Martha Ford Abernathy passed away at age 70 on Monday morning, March 17, 2014, at Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, after battling primary peritoneal cancer for nearly two years.
Martha was born September 22, 1943, at the old Baptist Hospital in Jackson. A Hazlehurst, Mississippi native, Martha's earliest social achievement was as ringleader and chief enforcer of the "Jackson Street Gang." An outstanding athlete, she held the state high school record for the broad jump. She qualified and competed in national championships in Chicago, where she met Jesse Owens and Wilma Rudolph.
She earned a bachelor's degree from Mississippi College for Women, then a master's degree in Physical Education from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. During a stint teaching at Memphis State University, in the summer of 1973, she met her future husband, Steve. They married on August 31, 1974.
Martha taught high school in Memphis to support Steve through dental school, and afterwards the couple moved to Mississippi, which was home henceforth. Coaching gymnastics and producing state championships consumed Martha's next decade. The birth of her daughter Meredith Ann on January 22, 1982, transitioned Martha to the role of mother and homemaker. She imbued Meredith with her passion for horses and dogs, and they moved to their current home in Madison in pursuit of that passion. Teacher, wife, coach, mother. She was a private person who loved home and family, yet she touched many lives.
She was preceded in death by her parents, William Meredith and Evelyn Ellis Ford, and her brother, William Meredith Ford, Jr. She is survived by her husband Steve, of Madison, her daughter Meredith Ross and granddaughter Ann Ellis Ross of Jacksonville, Florida, as well as her sister Ann Ford Pratt of Beaumont, Texas, and her brothers, Newton Ellis Ford of Lena, Mississippi, and John Catchings Ford of Phoenix, Arizona.
Her family is grateful to the compassionate and caring doctors, nurses, and staff at Baptist Hospital who became family through Martha's struggle.
Visitation and a memorial service will be held at Wright & Ferguson on Highland Colony in Ridgeland (601-853-7696) at 2pm and 3pm, respectively, on Friday afternoon, March 21, 2014.
Memorials may be directed to the Salvation Army or the Mississippi Animal Rescue League.
Martha's fierce and competitive spirit in life and death is described by Winston Churchill's words, "Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never---" She never did.
Published in Clarion Ledger on Mar. 19, 2014