February 18, 1939 – January 6, 2021
Teacher, Artist, Free Spirit
Chris Martin (nee Carolyn Louise Bradley) died peacefully on January 6, 2021 (age 81) from complications of Parkinson’s Disease, which she had battled with fierce determination for fifteen years.
A native of Marblehead, Chris cherished the raw beauty of the town’s rugged coast and its storied history. An independent spirit, Chris grew up with her kindhearted younger sister Betty near Deveraux Beach and raised her own three rambunctious children on Washington Square, delighting them in the perpetual exploration of local tidal pools and enthralling them with colorful stories based in the town’s history and folklore. With her Tom Sawyer personality, Chris also inspired and influenced generations of Marblehead youth as a much-loved public-school teacher for over twenty years.
In mid-life, Chris was drawn to the stunning beauty of Martha’s Vineyard. She came to live in Vineyard Haven in a quaint converted barn with beautiful gardens that she lovingly cultivated. She continued her exceptional work as a special education teacher in West Tisbury, flourished as an award-winning artist, wrote poetry and her memoirs, and played in the island’s enchanting woods and on its sublime beaches with gleeful abandon for decades with Ken Martin, her beloved husband of 61 years, family and friends. She appreciated how lucky she was; and her jubilant tagline during these years was “play is hard work.”
Although her life was deeply rooted in New England, Chris was a global citizen, possessed with indefatigable wanderlust and profound curiosity about the wider world, its peoples, its cultures and its natural wonders. Her drive to travel the world for intellectual and spiritual growth was fueled first during her undergraduate studies at Tufts University. Over the course of her life, Chris camped across the United States and Canada six times with her young family; spent a year in Oxford, England on a Fulbright teacher exchange at mid-career, which she used as a springboard to explore Europe, Russia and the Middle East; trekked in the Himalayas after retirement; and explored parts of India, China, Taiwan, Denmark, New Zealand, Africa, the Arctic Circle, Greenland, Iceland and the Caribbean, especially the island of Barbados. Drawing on her considerable skills as a master teacher, Chris sought to learn from her immersion in other cultures and share her experiences and insights with her family, friends and students.
Coming of age in the 1960s, Chris’s world view was formed fundamentally by the Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, and Ecology movements. She was particularly stirred by the ideas of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Betty Friedan and Robert F. Kennedy. In word and in deed, Chris spent a lifetime ardently supporting the progressive causes that she believed would help create a more equitable society and more sustainable world. Her actions during her life epitomized the slogan ‘think globally, act locally’ and she used her platforms as a teacher and an accomplished artist to encourage others to care passionately, feel deeply, think critically and broaden their perspectives.
As an artist, Chris was drawn to primal myths and elemental forms. She explored her creative interests using many different media over the years—screen printing, leaded glass, clay, collage, painting and photography. Much of her artistic work approached rendering the natural world in ways that suggested it held hidden archetypal stories just beneath the surface. A deeply spiritual person, Chris was a perpetual seeker who looked for universal truths in religions and philosophies from around the world and throughout time.
Chris led a compassionate and ethically driven life with boundless energy and an effervescent personality; and she surrounded herself with a cadre of extraordinary like-minded friends who became extended family. Chris was always in motion and had so many interests and accomplished so much that she earned the family nickname “hurricane Chrissie,” which she considered a badge of honor. During times of reflection, Chris would remark that no matter how long she lived it would not be enough. Her goal was to “do it all.” With a big heart and dogged determination, she came as close to realizing it as anyone could, leaving nothing on the table save her legacy of a life well-lived and her indominable spirit.
Chris loved her family unconditionally and with gusto, especially her five grandchildren. She leaves her husband Kenneth Martin; daughter Deborah Martin Kao, son Jeffrey Martin and son and daughter-in-law Gregory and Pernille Martin; grandchildren: Samuel and Henry Martin, Hannah and Louise Kao, and Grace Martin; Sister and Brother-in-law Elizabeth and Peter Kent; nieces Heather Kent Bernardin, Charlene Kent Giangrande, Christine Kennedy and Cindy Kennedy Stensrud and their families.
A celebration of Chris’s remarkable life will be held after the pandemic has abated. Please consider making a contribution in memory of Chris to the Parkinson’s Foundation (https://www.parkinson.org/NewEngland) or to a charity of your own choice. Arrangements are under the care of Eustis & Cornell of Marblehead 781-631-0076. To express online condolences to the family please visit eustisandcornellfuneralhome.com.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
January 15, 2021
Chris was the first person I spoke to when I was diagnosed with PD...I'll not forget her kindness. Chris became an integral part of the Parkinson Wellness classes I taught at the Lynch/Van Otterloo
We all were inspired by her dogged determination to keep on moving no matter how tough-how compromised she was...
Chris NEVER GAVE UP! She had been a very strong woman.
January 15, 2021
Chris and I worked together in the Marblehead special education department at the Junior High now the home of the Village School. She was my co-worker, mentor and friend. Chris’s positive buoyant spirit was evident in every interaction. She loved life, her children and Kenny deeply. Chris was simply one of the best. I will forever remember and cherish her great laugh and fabulous smile. My deep condolences to the entire Martin family.
January 14, 2021
My dear friend and colleague Chris Martin. My first connection with Chris was in the 70's at the JCC. She was a swim instructor, one of her many talents, and taught me to swim properly, which I enjoyed as an early bird for over 25 years. We worked together at the JCC, leading a Mommy and Me group. We cared about each other, and kept in touch over the years. I visited her class at the Glover as a Supervisor of student teachers, and was not surprised to see her as a beloved and fantastic educator of young children. Her art work after she retired was exquisite. I am proud to say I was her friend and admirer.
January 13, 2021
Chris was a woman of the future. She always had a plan to challenge herself. She never complained. Just a year ago, Chris and I ventured to the PeabodyEssex Museum to take in the exhibit of the abstract painter Hans Hofmann. She lit up with smiles and comments and people around us listened to her. Chris seemed to be in her element despite not feeling good that day.
At Christmas time, 2018, Chris was walking with her aide around our Washington Square neighborhood when I happened to step outside. She loved seeing our tree lit up as she ambled along with her walker - she did this in the snow! She managed to walk up our front steps into our living room to glimpse the sparkling lights. Her determination was beautiful! Her appreciation of life showed itself in her writings, poetry, art, teaching and spirit. How wonderful!
January 12, 2021
Teaching with you was an honor, working on our first Computer program was enlightening! You taught me to cook three company worthy dishes (out of frustration) which I still serve. Your spirit will be missed.
January 12, 2021
I am so saddened to learn of Chris' passing. Chris replaced me as a Special Ed teacher, while I was on Maternity Leave, on Martha's Vineyard. I was so very happy that she was able to stay on, as I took a position as a 5th Grade teacher. Chris and I shared many adventures together along with fellow teacher, Lauren Serpa. I'll never forget our weekend course at the University of Maine -Orono that we took together. She loved her science! Chris was a lovely, brilliant woman, whom I admired very much. She will be missed.
January 12, 2021
I recently read somewhere that I had reached an age when we attend more funerals than weddings, yet where sad events bring to mind fond memories of the past. I met Chris and her family in 1968 when we became neighbors in the shadow of Abbot Hall. I was privileged over many years to share with Chris and Ken and their family many memories that are truly blessings. May she rest in peace.