Martha and I were neighbors for 20 years. Shortly after our first meeting, I ran into her in the supermarket where she was gazing intently at a large lemon. We began to discuss zucchini. She said that the zucchini in her garden had quadrupled in size and she didn't know what to do with it.
She told me that a friend had once left one in the back seat of her car. The next day, I opened my car door, and there it was, the biggest zucchini I had ever seen. I decided to make zucchini bread. When I went over to deliver it, Martha, Walter and a guest were sitting on the deck. Martha invited me to join them. The level of discourse was such that when I got home, I had to get out my dictionary and look up a few words-- "homeostasis" and "Visigoth "come to mind.
I didn't discover that Martha was a renowned painter until later. I was reading the NYTimes Sunday Arts section and read that she was having a one woman show at the Schoelkopf Gallery in New York. I couldn't get over it! My Elkins Park-residing wag of a neighbor! Soon after, I discovered that her painting, "The Triumph of Spring" had made the cover of American Artist. No wonder she was scrutinizing that lemon! It probably was a candidate for one of her exquisite still-lifes.
I was in awe of Martha for a long time; I really was a bit star struck. One day, she called and said she had an extra ticket to see a performance. One of her models was appearing in a local opera. I was so happy to be in her company for a few hours. "Look at the sky"! she exclaimed as we walked out of the theatre.
Over the years, we shared many meals, lots of laughter and some sorrow. She visited me when I was in the hospital. We exchanged books and music.
It was wonderful to know someone with Martha's talent and erudition, but it was her honesty, generosity and warm heart that my family valued most of all. ( And whoa!!! I have to mention her bull* detector! "Ah, c'maaan!!!", she'd blurt out, in her Brooklynese, if she detected a note of insincerity). I love the way she trilled her r's, a remnant of her Hungarian roots of which she was so proud.
Martha loved children. She once told me that she had "grandmother envy". How wonderful that she lived to know all four of them!
She attended both of our boys' BarMitvahs and signed the RSVPs "thank you for inviting me". Barry, Beryl, Reid and I extend our condolences to Adrian, Jonah and the Erlebacher- Mayer families. I'll never forget you, Martha.