Wilson and Lucia Showalter Wilson, in Indianapolis, Ind., both of whom
preceded her in death.
Her family in
Indiana goes back to 1826, and has contributed engineers, surveyors,
teachers, ministers, and judges to the state.
She married Russell
Anthony Willis, Jr., Sept. 12, 1949, in the Congregational Church in
Indianapolis. He preceded her in death Oct. 19, 2002. They shared over 50
years of marriage.
The two met during
their first week at Indiana University, Bloomington, in a student
counselorís office because both their last names began with W.
They had five
children, all of whom survive. Christopher L. Willis, of Portage; Russell A.
Willis, III (Lisa Sagrati), of Tucson, Arizona; Lucius S. Willis (MaryBeth),
of Vestal, N.Y.; Margaret L. Willis (David Canright), of Chesterton, and
Edward H. Willis (Marc Molomot), of Bronx, N.Y.
Also surviving are
grandchildren, Ahilya M. Willis, Vaishali F. Willis, Abigail M. Willis
Canright, Sarah Austrin-Willis, and Benjamin Austrin-Willis.
The Willises also
hosted five exchange students and one foster child over the years.
Martha was a
graduate of Shortridge High School, Indianapolis, and went on to earn a
Bachelorís degree in History and a Masterís degree in American History from
The couple lived in
Indianapolis in their early marriage, during which time Martha was employed
at the Indiana Historical Society. They then moved to Illinois, where
Russell worked for Allstate Insurance, prior to establishing his law office
in Portage, Ind., in 1960.
Martha followed in
her parentsí footsteps in community activism. She and Russ were instrumental
in establishing the Portage YMCA and worked together in creating and
supporting the Portage Township Community Concert Association.
Martha served on
the board of Porter-Starke Services for 25 years and was a Portage Township
School Board member (1970-74). She also served on the board of the Kankakee
Valley Workforce Development and the Portage Adult Education Advisory Board.
Martha was active in the League of Women Voters, the General Federation of
Womenís Club in Portage and Porter County, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, PTA,
Portage Friends of the Library, and was a long-time Republican precinct
committeeman. She also volunteered with the Red Cross Bloodmobile and
Meals-on-Wheels. In her later years she served faithfully on the Portage
Food Pantry board and as a weekly distribution volunteer, and at the Portage
Historical Society Museum. She was also a member of the PEO sorority and the
In 1995, the
Portage High School Honor Society named her an honorary member for her
tireless efforts to help youth and the less fortunate. In 2010 NWI Quality of Life Council
honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award
for her years of community organizing and volunteer work.
Martha and Russ
carried on Stuart and Lucia Wilsonís legacy of loyalty to Indiana
University. In 2001, they established an ongoing fund to refurbish and
maintain the large rotating globe in Ballantine Hall at IU, which her
parents initially donated to the university in 1961.
In her teens she
joined the Christian Science Church and was a regular attendee all her life.
She was an avid reader of newspapers, particularly the Christian Science
Monitor, enjoyed travel, reading, music, gardening, and brushing up on her
French via the Internet. She sang for some years in the Valparaiso
University Community Choir. She always had a dog and loved walking daily,
especially in the area that is now Imagination Glen Park in Portage, the
creation of which she advocated.
As her eyesight
deteriorated she used magnifiers to keep up with a daily newspaper and
listened to non-fiction audio books. She lived the last years of her life at
the Millerís Assisted Living and the Millerís Merry Manor Nursing Home,
where she received caring, cheerful, and loving care.
Martha will be
interred at Calvary Cemetery alongside her husband, in a private family
A celebration of
her life will be held at a later date.
may be made to the Portage YMCA or the Visiting Nurse Association Hospice.
being handled by White-Love Funeral Home, Chesterton.