Thursday, November 16, 2023

Volunteer Linda Martin: Decades of service and a commitment to progressive causes

A very dedicated duo of volunteers have been welcoming visitors to the museum and aquarium for over 14 years. In this profile we’ll focus on the “aquarium” half of the duo, aquarium docent, former board member and progressive political activist Linda Martin.

Pre-Covid Linda “shared” a docent shift, with her husband Mike, who volunteered as a docent in the museum. They continued this pattern once again this spring, until Mike was briefly taken out of action to undergo heart bypass surgery.

Although Linda’s devoted care to Mike throughout this event was assisted by a few of his cousins who traveled to be nearby, it also came with a dose of Taylor Swift. The very day that Mike underwent surgery, the first of Swift’s massive concerts at Lumen Field made finding accommodations VERY difficult. Ultimately, Linda secured the very last room at the Virginia Mason Inn, and Mike went on to a successful surgery and a good recovery.

Linda Martin (right) trained new volunteer Barbara

Linda and Mike both grew up in Raytown, Missouri and actually met each other in 3rd grade. They attended school together all the way through the twelfth grade, when Linda headed off to a state university, and Mike was appointed to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. 

Both Linda and Mike had been married previously, but they reconnected in the mid-70’s after Mike successfully looked her up with the help of another classmate. Linda said their connection at this time was “Instant.It was like magic.” They married just a few months after reconnecting and last spring they celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary!

Mike and his first wife had three children at the time of his marriage to Linda, three boys aged 8, 11 and 12 years old, and Linda happily welcomed Mike’s oldest boy for the school year and the younger two over summer breaks.

Linda’s personal struggles with reproductive health helped focus her drive and attention on becoming an advocate for women’s health initiatives.

In 1972 she created a thirty minute film called “A Personal Choice” for the Michigan Abortion Referendum Committee which described the choices in a Michigan ballot initiative (Proposal B on the state ballot) legalizing abortion. The film was shown on TV with legendary newscaster Hugh Downs as narrator. 

As a Captain in the Navy, Mike’s position necessitated frequent moves. When they moved to Hawaii, Linda says, “I got political - the first thing I did was go back to grad school to get an Masters in Public Health and helped get a wellness program started in Hawaii.”

“The Well Women Clinic was free and independent, and proved to be very vital as that was the first year that the federal government stopped funding Planned Parenthood.” She then realized that “Hawaii had a big chunk of money and no place to put it,” so, she says, “I wrote a grant to apply for those funds. They decided to give us the money and we were able to open the clinic.” She was also instrumental in hiring a nurse midwife to staff the clinic, a first at the time.

In 1992, she ran for the Senate on the Green Party ticket in Hawaii, where she achieved an astounding 13% of the vote count. As a senate candidate “I was invited to the European Green Party convention in Finland.”

There she met office holders who were astounded to learn that even with earning 13% of the vote, she was not given a role in the government, as folks there are accustomed to proportionate representation.

Mike subsequently went on to achieve a PhD in physics, and as “Dr. Captain” worked for many years for the Center for Naval Analysis, until his retirement in 2004. Many visits to the Oregon coast and points northward focused their attention on Port Townsend as their retirement location.

One key experience leading to their decision to move to Port Townsend involved a wrong turn on their drive up the coast, which found them in Sequim. When they stopped in the visitor center there, and asked about Port Townsend, the aid said “Oh, you don’t want to go over there, it’s just a bunch of old hippies.” Linda says, “We decided right  then that this was who we wanted to be. When Mike retired on December 4, we loaded up the car and left for Port Townsend on December 6.” 

They rented a place initially and... “We had the kids come up and visit us, and they liked it too!”

Ultimately they found a home to purchase on Vista Boulevard with stunning water views in each room. And, for the former Naval Captain, there was a great view of all the ships coming and going to Indian Island.

Both Mike and Linda had served for many years as docents at Torrey Pines State Reserve, known as a ‘wilderness island in an urban sea,’ just 18 miles from San Diego. “Mike had been a guide, and I had been on the board, and also wrote the newsletter.”

One of the first things they did in town was to attend the annual holiday sale at the PTMSC museum. The host that day was Pam Gray, and she encouraged them to apply to become volunteers with PTMSC. Being brand new to the Pacific Northwest, Linda responded quite adamantly, “But we don’t know anything!” Pam’s response – “We’ll train you.”

The training itself turned out to be very notable. “Right as the training was about to begin the funniest thing happened, someone came rushing into the museum to announce that the river otters were mating on the beach.” Of course everyone had to rush out to witness nature’s miracle.

In addition to her service as a docent, Linda was also a PTMSC board member for a number of years. Board President Eric Harrington (now deceased) and Development Director Joanne Heron were impressed with her writing skills and she created a history of the organization for its 25th anniversary, including a profile of founder Judy D’Amore and Libby Palmer which was published in the Port Townsend Leader. She also managed PTMSC’s non profit vendor booth at the Port Townsend Farmers Market for five years, where she was responsible for setting up the booth on a monthly basis and encouraged folks to donate and become members, and of course, to volunteer.

It was wonderful to have the opportunity to join Linda for lunch and learn more about her fascinating history. In the future she’ll enjoy continuing as a docent and her appreciation for the personalities of the grunt sculpins, her favorite critter in the aquarium. Thank you for your years of service, Linda!

#volunteers #volunteerspotlight

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