Martha Kingsley dies at 97

Martha Kingsley, a dedicated teacher who taught at the Mill Lake School for more than 21 years, died at Stonebridge at Montgomery in Skillman on June 2. She was 97.

Martha was born in Vienna, Austria on July 7, 1925. At the young age of 13, she was forced by Hitler’s advance into Austria to leave her family behind and travel solo to New York aboard the Queen Mary.  This first revealed the indomitable spirit that she demonstrated throughout her life. After leaving Austria, she lived with her aunt and uncle until seven years later after the war, when her mother and father were finally able to rejoin her.

She met her beloved husband, Ben, in a swimming pool in New York City where she mistakenly entered the deep end of the pool, and then suddenly had to call for help because she was not able to tread water.  Ben happened to be substituting for his cousin as a lifeguard that day, even though he actually had no training.  He subsequently went in to try to “save” her, and Martha ended up pulling him down as well, inspiring one heroic soul to jump in and save the both of them.  That was the beginning of a wonderful union that lasted 50 years until Ben’s passing, producing 3 sons, 8 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren.

Martha graduated from Julia Richman High School in Manhattan in 1942.  Her senior yearbook memorably characterized her as a “sweet and sincere friend of the truest blend”.  After 20 years of child-raising, Martha was determined to go back to school and subsequently earned her teaching degree from Trenton State College.  She then taught at the Mill Lake School in Monroe.  Martha used to joke that she “never graduated from first grade,” but that turned out to be a great benefit to the many students that were shaped and touched by her teaching.

At the end of her teaching career, her friends and colleagues wished her a proverbial “long and healthy retirement.”  Little did they know how prescient that would be, as she pursued a healthy and active retirement for the next 34 years.  During that time, she made good on some lifelong desires such as trying her hand at painting (she ended up producing more than 50 paintings in her Senior Center class) and taking trips around the world.  She enjoyed many diverse experiences on those trips such as riding on an elephant or in a rickshaw in India; visiting Buddhist temples in Thailand: praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem: cruising along the Rhine in Germany; donning a kimono in Japan; and coming full circle by going back to her home in Vienna, which she had been forced to leave some 50 years prior.

Not surprisingly, she always told anyone willing to listen (and usually more than once) that she had lived a wonderfully full life, had no regrets, and was so grateful for everything, most especially her beloved family. Perhaps that attitude was part of the secret sauce that enabled her to live until the ripe young age of 97.

At Stonebridge, where she lived out her remaining 13 years, she couldn’t walk through the hallways without numerous residents and staff members stopping her along the way with a warm greeting and a smile. One staff member commented that she’s “kind of like a legend around here.”  Another said that Martha looked at her like an adopted daughter. What always stood out for those who knew and loved her was the warmth and kindness they could see shining through her eyes.

A Memorial Service will be held on Friday, June 16, at 2 p.m. at Stonebridge at Montgomery, 100 Hollinshead Spring Road, Skillman, NJ  08558.