When reflecting on the life of Martha Blakley, it is easy to see that nothing brought her more joy than being surrounded by the love of her family. She enjoyed so many of the best things that life has to offer, but what made these experiences so extraordinary was sharing them with others. Martha was a loving and devoted wife and mother, but she would say that becoming a grandmother and great-grandmother was her richest reward. Her tender heart also extended to a love for animals as she was the sort of person who would do whatever she could to brighten the days of any person or animal. Deeply loved, Martha will never be forgotten.
Life was anything but easy during the 1930s as the entire decade was cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression. With a soaring unemployment rate and the rise of those who were forced from their homes, there were few American families who didn’t feel the strain. Despite the trials around them, William C. and Katherine E. (Chambers) Wood were able to shift their focus to an exciting time in their own lives as they announced the birth of the baby girl they named Martha E. on August 3, 1935, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She was the sixth of seven children as she was joined in her family by her older siblings, Nancy, William Jr., Mary, Charles “Mande,” and Lois, and her younger brother, David. Raised in the family home in Fort Wayne, Martha loved animals even as a young child and would even pay a nickel to ride on the pony down the street from her house despite the fact that she never actually rode it! Martha was raised Presbyterian. Following her parents involvement, she became active with the Eastern Star as a young adult. A student at local schools, Martha graduated from Southside High School in 1953.
As a young woman Martha was eager for all that life had in store. She spent some time working in the Ft. Wayne Library, but it was her personal life that soon became very exciting. Life was forever changed for Martha when she was set up on a blind date with the young man who would forever hold the key to her heart. His name was John Blakley, and they met that first night while out dancing in July of 1954. Their love grew over time, and on May 21, 1955, they were married at Westfield Presbyterian Church. As young newlyweds, Martha worked at Rea Magnet Wire while John was finishing college. After John graduated, they moved to Baltimore, Maryland, for his work. While there, they were blessed with the birth of their son, Robert “Tobie.” In 1958 they returned to the Fort Wayne area, which is where they welcomed over the next several years, Julie, Eric, and Andy into their hearts and home. As their children were growing, they enjoyed taking annual vacations including a memorable trip to the Grand Canyon when Martha almost lost all four of her children on a nighttime expedition! They also enjoyed camping as a family. Martha loved having her family around and was always the one to get the campfire going at their campsite every night. She didn’t necessarily love being outdoors or swimming in the pool, but she did love being in the pool with her family until her children were old enough to swim on their own. Martha also enjoyed watching the wildlife through the window in her home. In 1993 they moved from New Haven to Larwill.
Prior to all of her children being in school Martha didn't work outside of the home, but once they were in school she was ready to enter the workforce again. She started out cleaning rooms at the Howard Johnson Motel, but she later spent 10 years working as a temp for Kelly Services. Throughout her time there, Martha worked at various construction sites’ mobile offices where she mastered her accounting skills. She then spent 11 years working in the accounting department at I&M Power Company until retiring in the mid-nineties. In 1971, Martha and her husband established Forest Ridge Park Family Campground. She helped operate it, spending many years working in the campground’s general store.
Throughout her life Martha was a woman of many interests which kept her busy. Her love for animals remained, and over the years she cared for numerous pets including several dogs, a few cats and a couple of rabbits. It was not uncommon for her rabbit, Ebony, to jump into her lap as she sat in her green rocking chair. The rabbit also ate her ice cream, and Martha was known to share her ice cream with her dogs over the years. For a time, her love for animals led her to volunteer at the local humane society. After a stop in Atlantic City, she found she liked playing the slots in casinos, which led to several trips out to Las Vegas, Florida, and even FireKeepers Casino in Michigan. In fact, Martha made the comment that she wanted to take another trip to FireKeepers just a few days before her passing! Another interest that she had was square dancing and enjoyed circling left, allemande left and doing the do si do. A talented seamstress, she enjoyed sewing and also knitting and crocheting. Over the years Martha made Christmas stockings for her entire family along with quilts and blankets among other items.
If there was something Martha looked forward to every year it was Christmas. She loved being with family, and she also loved showering her family with gifts. When Martha’s kids were young there would just be a few presents under the tree on Christmas Eve when the kids went to bed, but on Christmas morning they could barely make their way through the living room as it was full of presents! She was great at making Christmas bows, and she made sure that everyone had a homemade bow from her. Martha was also good at instructing John how to decorate for Christmas as she was not a fan of doing the decorating herself.
With unending love for those around her, Martha Blakley made a significant impact in the lives of everyone she met. She was content in whatever life brought, and she made the best of things no matter the circumstances. Martha treasured her family above all else, and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren were her greatest source of pride and joy. The last one of her siblings, she will be forever missed by her family.
Martha E. Blakley, 82, of Larwill, passed away Friday, October 27, 2017 at Parkview Regional Medical Center. Martha’s family includes her husband, John Blakley, of Larwill; daughter, Julie (Mike) Shoda, of Columbia City; sons, Tobie (Carla) Blakley, of Columbia City, Eric (Julie) Blakley, of Whitestown and Andy (April) Blakley, of Zionsville; 15 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren including one to arrive in April. Martha was preceded in death by her parents; sisters, Nancy Smith, Mary Tobias and Lois Todoran; brothers, William Jr., Charles "Mande" and David Wood; and a great-grandson, Colten Graves.
Visitation is 3-8 p.m. Tuesday, October 31, 2017, at DeMoney-Grimes, a Life Story Funeral Home, 600 Countryside Drive, Columbia City. Funeral services will be 10 a.m. Wednesday at the funeral home with visitation one hour prior. Entombment will follow at Covington Memorial Gardens. Memorials may be made in her memory to Humane Society of Whitley County or B.A.B.E. Visit www.demoneygrimes.com to send family condolences or sign the guest register book.