VERY USEFUL LESSON – Pacific High School student Madison Mercer adjusts a mirror as Matt Groen, Pacific High School teacher, shows a large class how to butcher deer meat this morning at Sitka High School. For the second year in a row Meggan Turner, Sitka High School foods and nutrition teacher, has brought in Sitka black tail deer she's harvested to demonstrate methods of processing deer meat. She says it's a great way for Sitka High and Pacific High students to learn in the same classroom. Sitka Tribe of Alaska's Charlie Skultka was on hand to share traditional stories and processing techniques. Also pictured is Pacific High student Demetri Lestenkoff. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Mary Martha Christianson Dies in Virginia at Age 84


Mary Martha Christianson

Mary Martha Christianson of Folly Creek Cottage near the hamlet of Daugherty, Va., and formerly of Christoff Island in Sitka, peacefully ended an 11-month battle with cancer at The Hermitage in Onancock, Va., on Oct. 18, 2018.
Until the end, she was cared for by her devoted husband Jim Williams, surrounded by her many friends, her two surviving children, and the well wishes of friends and family across the country.
She was born Mary Martha Kistenmacher, daughter of Charles Frederick and Annie Caroline (Coffman) Kistenmacher, on Feb. 3, 1934, in St. Louis, Mo. She graduated from Clayton High School, Oberlin College (receiving a bachelor of arts degree in comparative religions), and underwent graduate studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Mary, known to many of her friends as Mimi (and to her grandchildren as Meems), led a full, active and socially engaged life. Her many homes included Storrs, Connecticut; Seattle, Washington; Steeleville, Missouri; Poughkeepsie, New York; New Britain, Conn.; Saratoga, N.Y.; Chinnor, England; Amherst, Va.; Lynchburg, Va.; Henley, England; Charlottesville, Va.; Richmond, Va.; Sitka; and Daugherty, in the town of Accomac, VA.
Her travels took Mimi and her children, her friends, and her partners to all continents but Antarctica, and more than 30 nations of the world.
    Mary Martha worked as a Girl Scouts leader, a social worker, a guardian ad litum, and a therapist expert at pulling people out of family traumas.
She volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, arts councils on the Eastern Shore and in Southeast Alaska, and served to start up or strengthen Unitarian Universalist congregations in both places as well.
Music was a great love of her life, which she acted upon through support for the renowned Sitka Summer Music Festival, elements of which she proudly brought to Onancock when she moved back to Virginia.
    Mimi loved adventure. She worked as a camp counselor in the Rocky Mountains as a teenager, camped her way across the United States several times, and spent a summer traveling around Europe with her family in a converted World War II ambulance, “The Owl.” She sailed the West Coast from Alaska to South America, and out to the Galapagos, with her husband of 18 years, Warren C. Christianson, on his Tantalus, as well as the Chesapeake with her later husband Jim on his mighty ketch “Lobo.” She skied (and broke limbs doing so).
Throughout her life, Mary Martha was a close friend, supporter and muse to artists. Her homes always had their walls filled with works by painter friends; her gatherings for poets, novelists, journalists and musicians have grown legendary over the years. She helped found KCAW Raven Radio, on whose board she served for years. She was a key member of International Human Learning Relationships Network for 30 plus years, organizing their spirited annual getaways around the globe and editing their newsletters.
Mary always had beloved pets by her side, including her 18-year-old cat Melinda right up to her final month.
She supported her children, Paul, David and Fern, whole-heartedly her entire life, and was devastated by the passing of David, a theater professional who predeceased her in 2002. She also “adopted” other children wherever she went, from a boarding student in Sitka, Julie Petro Lowndes, who stayed her close friend and almost-daughter for nearly 40 years, to younger people wherever she lived or traveled.
As a grandmother, Meems would drive long hours to spend holidays, or vacation at the beach. She was always fun to be around, but she was also never a “coddler”; when she played you in Hearts, Gin Rummy, Parchisi or Chinese Checkers, she always played to win. And she couldn’t abide those long games like Monopoly or Risk that would end family discussions. As a girl, she’d say a night at home involved singing around a player piano, charades, and other community-strengthening endeavors.
    Mary Martha moved from Alaska to the Eastern Shore of Virginia in 1997 after several trips along the East Coast searching out a new coastal home. Settled into the peninsula home surrounded by Nature Conservancy lands and Folly Creek’s calming waters, she built a new life filled with work aiding area non-profits, doing social work as a consultant, and helping to start and run the Accomack Interfaith Crisis Council.
She made myriad friends, through regular bridge-playing events, membership in one of the liveliest book groups ever to gather, and through her marriage to Jim, a former mayor of Onancock, noted sailor, and the center of many key social groups.
Mary Martha Kistenmacher Christianson is survived by her loving husband of many years, James Williams; her sisters Nancy Kennaugh of Englewood, Fla., and Jane Hennerich of Manchester, Mo.; children Paul Smart of Albany, N.Y., and Anne Fern Smart of Lakeville, Conn.; grandchildren Sam Weisman of Washington, D.C., Julian Weisman of Boston, Mass.; and Milo Smart of Albany, N.Y.; plus various nieces and nephews and entire communities of friends.
Her son David Henry Smart and her brother Charles F. Kistenmacher Jr. predeceased her.
A memorial service and casting of ashes onto Folly Creek will take place Nov. 24 at Folly Creek Cottage in Daugherty, with ceremonial drumming and cello/bass musical accompaniment. A separate service for farther-afield friends is being planned at Oberlin College in  the spring of 2019.
    In lieu of flowers, donations would be appreciated to the Accomack Interfaith Crisis Council (AICC), P.O. Box 738, Onley, VA 23418-0738.

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