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updated: 2/25/2014 5:10 PM

Former Wheaton mayor's wife remembered as talented artist, architect

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  • Marcia Martin

      Marcia Martin

 
 

There were three main passions in Marcia Martin's life, her two children say.

Art and architecture were one. Family. And the Wheaton community.

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"She had a way of making everyone feel special," her daughter, Elizabeth Cox, said Tuesday.

Martin died Friday at 81 after a two-year battle with lung cancer.

She was the wife of former Mayor Robert J. Martin, who served from 1983 until his death in 1990.

Marcia Martin was born in Chicago and grew up in the city's South Shore neighborhood. She attended the University of Chicago after just three years of high school and went on to get an architecture degree at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1956.

"She graduated at a time, basically, when women didn't graduate in architecture," Cox said, adding that her mother was one of only two women enrolled in the school at the time. "It was a really big deal."

At the start of her career, Martin did architectural drawings of mechanical systems for McDonald's and other businesses. She also did some work for the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado, Cox said.

Most of her designs, however, were for houses in the Western suburbs, including many near Wheaton's Danada area. She wrote and illustrated multiple books, too, including "Life in a Small American City: An Artist's View of Wheaton."

The Martins moved to Wheaton in the early 1960s and got involved in the community in many ways. Charlie Martin remembers his mother regularly designing fliers for school events and getting involved with parent teacher associations.

Marcia Martin encouraged her husband to join the city council after he expressed dissatisfaction with the development of high-rise housing in downtown Wheaton.

"My mom was like, 'Don't complain, do something about it,'" Cox said. "It was really important to both my parents that the community of Wheaton was a great place to raise their kids and live."

In the early 1980s, after working as a substitute teacher in Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200, Martin began teaching at College of DuPage. Her children said she was passionate about helping students get into four-year schools and pursue careers in architecture. She often worked 50- to 60-hour weeks until she retired at age 75.

"She was always striving for more and always doing things for others," Charlie said, adding that he would describe his mom as generous, giving and encouraging.

Martin continued her own education by getting a master's degree from North Central College.

During her later years, Martin picked up china painting and stayed involved with the Wheaton Center for History, book clubs and the homeowners association at Waterford Place in downtown Wheaton, where she resided.

Until recently, she also enjoyed traveling throughout the country and Europe, taking two to three trips a year.

"Anytime she traveled she didn't take a camera, she took a pad and pens," Elizabeth said, adding that her mother wrote in an artist statement that drawing was her shorthand method of taking notes about the world.

Martin is survived by her children, five grandchildren, a twin sister and two nieces. Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Williams-Kampp Funeral Home, 430 E. Roosevelt Road in Wheaton, with interment at Wheaton Cemetery.

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