Martha Hale Sutton Miller, 95, went to be with her Lord peacefully on Monday, May 6, 2019, surrounded by her family.
Martha was born on February 22, 1924 in Washington, D.C. to parents Harold Griffith Sutton and Sarah Priscilla Hale, and grew up in Chevy Chase, MD. Her father was Dean of Admissions at George Washington University, and a well-respected economics professor, who once lectured on the dangers of “going off the gold standard.” He also played the organ for Chevy Chase Presbyterian church for many years and was Clerk of Session there. Her mother was a bright and caring homemaker who, along with Martha’s father, encouraged her interests in reading, singing, piano, and more.
Martha and her four siblings, Harold Jr., Sarah, Faith (departed) and Virginia (departed), attended Chevy Chase Elementary, Leland Junior High School and Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, and passed summers taking family trips in their 7 passenger Buick, vacationing at the shore, attending camp, and playing with friends.
As a young girl, Martha and her sister, Faith, visited their Aunt Martha in New York City, where they had their first raw oysters at the Grand Central Station Oyster Bar. The duo loved the oysters so much that they went back for more before heading home. Thus began a lifelong enjoyment of oysters, and Martha later started a tradition of cooking oyster stew for her family in her electric skillet each Christmas Eve.
After graduating from Mount Vernon Junior College, Martha moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked for a British real estate company. She loved telling about the requisite “High Tea” served daily in the office. It was during this time that she met her husband, the late Frederick (Ted) Hotchkiss Miller, and they married at Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church, May 9, 1953.
Martha was a highly skilled pianist, studying with the late Madame Dmitrieff (herself a student of Rachmaninoff). When given the choice to pursue life as a professional pianist or to marry and have a family, Martha chose the latter. She was able to purchase her beloved Knabe piano just prior to her wedding, and it always held a place of honor in her living room. She loved to listen to her children and grandchildren play. Martha had a special fondness for the music of Leonard Bernstein, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and a wealth of other singers and classical composers. Her home was frequently filled with the wonderful musical sounds of her current favorites, playing on the stereo.
Ted and Martha ultimately settled in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, Upper St. Clair, where they raised their four children, Rick, Pam, Martha and Susan. They built their first home in the new development of Deerfield Manor, Upper St. Clair, in 1961. Martha went on to build a custom second home on the parcel of land next to their first home in 1994.
In September of 1965, Martha suffered a massive stroke that left her paralyzed on the left side of her body. Despite this severe setback, Martha refused to give in to despair or bitterness. She fought hard to keep her independence, leaned on her faith and trust in God for the strength, compassion and hope she needed to continue managing her household and raising her children with dedication and aplomb. She drove her car well into her 70s. It was modified to meet her physical requirements. Her grandchildren, now grown, still recall the excitement they felt each time her signature grey sedan pulled up to their home, with a beep of the horn to announce her arrival.
Martha was a devoted mother who worked tirelessly to care for her children. She whipped up milkshakes after her daughters had their wisdom teeth removed, and delivered meals straight to the sofa when anyone caught a fever. She threw wonderful birthday parties, always making the cakes herself even after her stroke, and welcomed her children’s friends for get-togethers and slumber parties. She cheered them through school productions, scholastic successes, graduations, and into adulthood as they flourished in their marriages, families and careers.
She also instilled in them a love for celebrating the holidays and marking occasions. She had beautiful Hallmark centerpieces for the table, a proud, beautiful turkey at Thanksgiving, and a wonderful tree and advent calendar for Christmas.
Martha was an avid traveler. When her daughter, Pam, was attending college at Macalester College in Minnesota, Martha made a solo plane flight to visit with Pam and stayed in Pam’s dorm room for the weekend. One of Martha’s favorite trips was to Paris, where she, her adult daughters and daughter-in-law, and her eldest granddaughter toured the city and visited the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and some of the Loire River Valley chateaux. She loved the cafes, croissants, and espressos. Martha held fond memories of adventures she shared with her daughter Susan to Hawaii, Arizona, Tennessee, and the countless road trips in between to visit her children, Martha, Rick and Susan, and friends out of town. She had the joy of being treated to a first-class train trip/tour of Western Canada by her son and daughter-in-law.
She loved dogs, and had a special place in her heart for Labrador Retrievers. Growing up, the family had a Blue Merle Collie named Mac, and well into her early 80’s Martha was always accompanied by a faithful four-legged Labrador companion.
Martha was a passionate supporter of the arts, and enjoyed attending the theater, ballet, museums and other cultural venues. She was a member of multiple children’s book clubs and helped found a book club with her friends that is still active after more than 40 years. She had a keen eye for style, and her apartment at the Devonshire always featured a photo of her fashion muse, Audrey Hepburn.
Martha loved the Lord, her church and her community, and always had a kind word for everyone she met. When her daughter Susan was in high school, the two of them rocked babies at the daycare at Westminster Church. She was a regular volunteer for her church. She sent a card for every birthday and special occasion in her family. She was known for her warm, infectious laughter, gracious disposition, and voracious sweet tooth – a trait that she has passed down through the generations. She was especially close with her friends in the Westminster supper club she started with Ted 60 years ago, and that continues to this day. The group meets monthly for dinner, originally in one another’s homes, now in local restaurants.
She was a lighthearted grandmother, often partaking in Teddy Bear Tea with her granddaughters - complete with fine china and American Girl Dolls - playing Legos with her grandsons, watching Disney movies, reading books, listening to countless stories, and delighting in each child’s accomplishments.
Martha leaves behind a rich legacy, and she will be dearly missed and warmly remembered by her four children, 14 grandchildren, 2 great-grandchildren, and many friends and neighbors.
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