June 11, 1925 - April 24, 2005
Faithful and loving employee / Friend of all the Isalys for more than 35 years.
artha Bolton worked for our family for more than 40 years and she worked for Gramma, Auntie, Aunt Betty, and Uncle Earl and Aunt Shirley. For years she worked Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at our house, Tuesdays at Aunt Betty's and the she alternated Thursdays between Auntie and Aunt Shirley/Uncle Earl. At that time, and for most of her life, she didn't work for anyone else but the Isaly Family.

I considered her to be a very important family member when I was growing up. Martha was at our house three days a week, and those were my favorite days, because she and I were buddies! Boy, do I have fond memories of being a little girl and lying on the kitchen floor drawing on large sheets of paper that Auntie brought home from North High for me, chatting with Martha while she ironed. I still remember that wonderful scent of her spray starch and the way the iron sizzled on the fabric as she ironed -- seemingly happily, while listening to WCOL-AM on the radio. I thought she was pretty cool for listening to pop music - she sure did love Elvis! She was also a good artist, especially when it came to drawing people, and she'd sometimes come over and treat me to a quick drawing of a lady's face. She always put earrings and necklaces on the ladies in her "portraits."

Martha was a sounding board for me sometimes. She was a patient listener, a gentle and kind soul. She was really devoted to her church and to her only son, Rodney and in later years, to Rodney's son, Tron.

Every Christmas I went to Lazarus and picked out a new lipstick for her. That was the standard Christmas present and every year, she opened the box and acted surprised!! hahaha!

She always took the bus - like Gramma, she never had a driver's license - and most days (when I was little, and during summers), around 3:00, I walked her down to the bus stop, located there at the corner of Westover and Arlington Avenue, in the park. I'd wait until the bus came, she'd give me a hug, and then I'd skip on home, waving to her as the bus rolled by, Marthie waving to me from the big high window. I couldn't wait until the next time she'd be at the house. Martha was like a warm security blanket, for some reason; having her around made me feel safe when I was a little girl.

When I became a teenager, Marthie seemed very much tuned in to "young people," as she called them. She knew about current trends and music, and I thought she was cool. She even liked the Beatles! I remember when she grew an Afro, as you see in the photo above, and one day she did an imitation of Diana Ross, right there in our kitchen, holding a spatula as a microphone! She made me promise not to tell Gramma, because Gramma might think it was silly! haha!!

When Gramma died, Martha was trying to be strong at the funeral (she sat up front with the family - remember?) , but she couldn't, and I saw her cry for the very first time. I remember walking over to her afterward and hugging her, and she said, "No one has ever been as kind to me as Mrs. Isaly. What are we going to do without her?" I wondered the same thing. Gramma gave a LOT to Marthie - quietly and without a fuss and without making Marthie feel that she needed it, y'know?

Once Uncle Earl, Aunt Shirley and the kids had moved away from Columbus, and Gramma was gone, Martha continued to work for Aunt Betty and Auntie, until Auntie went to Wesley Glen. Of course, she started working for other families to fill in her week, and one of the families had a young boy. She said that she liked working there because it reminded her of working for Gramma and being around "the young people" again. Sadly, when that boy was 13, he was hit by a car while riding his bike, and killed. Martha was devastated.

By the time I was married and we had Billy and Robby, much of Martha's work was here in Upper Arlington, and she often caught the bus on the corner across the street from our house after work. She'd call ahead of time on certain days, and stop in for "cookies and Sprite." When I knew she was coming, I'd bake her favorites - snickerdoodles, and then she, Billy, Robby and I would sit around the kitchen table and have cookies and Sprite together. The boys still remember these times fondly; they thought Martha was pretty special, too. I remember when Robby was really little and Martha had left with her take-home bag of snickerdoodles, and he asked me why our family had black people in it. I thought that was so cute, but clearly, he had the impression that she really WAS part of our family. I liked that thought, because I always felt that she was!

Every time I spoke with Martha on the phone, and especially when we were together, she systematically asked about each and every one of the Isaly relatives. She wanted to stay tuned in to what you all were doing. I always showed her my most recent pictures of everyone, filled her in on new spouses and new babies.

When Aunt Betty died, then, I stayed in touch with Marthie by phone, and often went out to the east side and picked her up to go to lunch. She stayed active in her church and continued to work, cleaning houses, into her seventies.

Sometimes I picked Marthie up and took her up to Wesley Glen to visit Auntie. They loved to watch their "stories" (soap operas) together, and Martha also sometimes took the bus all the way from her apartment up to Wesley Glen to read the Bible with Auntie. One Christmas, she gave Auntie a large-print Bible with a lovely inscription inside, and Auntie absolutely treasured it. Most of the time after that, when I visited Auntie, that Bible was lying in Auntie's lap. When Auntie passed away, I gave the Bible back to Martha, complete with all the markings Auntie had made in it, and the articles, pictures and odds and ends that Auntie had placed between its often-read pages. I know that Martha read it often as she grew older and her eyesight began to weaken.

In about 2001, Marthie developed pneumonia or some sort of lung infection and suffered a respiratory arrest while she was alone in her apartment; a neighbor, however, who was supposed to visit her that evening, became alarmed when she didn't answer her door, phoned the building manager, and they went into her apartment and found her unconscious on the bathroom floor. They rushed her to the hospital and she recovered, but not without severe kidney damage due to the respiratory arrest and lack of oxygen to her kidneys.

Marthie had to go three times a week for dialysis, and she usually took the bus to the hospital and then a church friend picked her up. She would never let me help her with that; I suppose it was a pride thing, or maybe she didn't want me to see her "sick." I'm not sure. I do know that I worried about her a lot and called her often to check on her. She finally moved into a senior housing facility - not a very nice one, I might add - but at least the nurses there checked on her frequently.

Some of the families for whom she had worked after she stopped working for the Isalys were also supportive of her and stayed in touch, visiting frequently.

The last time I was with Martha was right before Christmas in 2006. As I had for several years, I picked her up and took her to the Dollar Store so she could stock up on "stuff," her paper towels and toothpaste and just "daily needs" things. Then we went to lunch at Panera Bread, which she loved, and talked about things. She looked so very frail that day, and used a cane, and I knew she was quite sick. She'd had a bout with colon cancer a few years earlier, and combined with the kidney problems, she was just old and tired and thin, and just not well. After lunch, we went to Kroger over there near her apartment, in the Short North district just north of downtown. This was a Christmastime tradition - I'd treat her to a couple of grocery carts filled with canned and frozen foods to last for a little while, and fill her prescriptions for a few months. When we got back to her place, we unpacked everything and put it away together, and it was like old times - we'd laugh over silly memories and we'd recall special times we'd shared. Each year, I decorated a small Christmas tree with lights and ornaments for her, too, and there was one little white one that she kept on her end table, plugged in, all year round. Over a period of years, she had collected quite of few of my little trees, and she loved to put them around her tiny, otherwise rather dark, apartment in the winter.

One day in April, 2005, I was scanning the obituaries and saw Martha's notice there. (See Martha's obituary here) I can't even describe the overwhelming shock and grief I felt, reading that "my" Marthie had died - finding out by reading it in the paper. I hadn't felt such emptiness for a long time. I went to her funeral, held at her church just east of downtown, and when I saw her son Rodney, I tried to tell him what Martha had meant to me for all those decades, but how does a person express that kind of a gift? Marthie was yet another "mother" figure for me, and I really loved her. We had a special, unique, treasure of a relationship.

In the congregation were other people who clearly were her employers in the later years. We certainly stood out as they only white people there, and the members of the church greeted us with warm handshakes and smiles, the men in fancy suits with boutonnières, the women in white gloves and huge, ornate hats - their Sunday finest! The service was an old-fashioned rockin' gospel service, and I am not sure I've ever been to such an inspiring, meaningful funeral or memorial in my life! That church sure did love Martha. At the end, while singing a gospel hymn, the pastor wheeled her open casket down the center aisle and everyone reached out and touched Martha, crying and dabbing at their eyes with hankies, saying their final goodbyes to "Sister Martha," and "amen-ing" and "Halleluja-ing" and swaying back and forth. It was all very dramatic and really quite lovely. I'll never forget it, because I felt that they gave Marthie the loving tribute and the grand farewell that she deserved.

I miss her. I miss her insight. She really did give me a different way to look at life and people and God. Quiet and reserved, she gave me a wonderful sense of peace when she was around. As she busied herself around our house, I sometimes just followed her, my own little dust cloth in hand, and we'd talk about ... whatever. Those memories are warm and comforting to me. She was really an important figure in my life.

If you would like to write your memories of Martha Bolton and send them to me, I will post them here.