Martha Woodson Stewart, age 97, passed away on February 1, 2022, in Sunnyside, Washington. She is survived by three children, George, Sarah and John; two grandchildren, Claire Cuno and Kate Cuno; and two great grandchildren, Louie and Della Mahon, all of Brooklyn, NY.. She was preceded in death by her son Paul and her husband Dr. George D Stewart, and also her sisters Mary Louise, Virginia, Margaret and Fonta.
Martha Woodson was born November 13, 1924 in Holly Springs, MIssissippi, the youngest of five siblings, to Gus and Virginia Woodson. Gus Woodson was a cotton farmer who, with the help of his wife, managed to keep the family together and barely solvent through the depression years. Martha grew up on the farm which throughout her childhood was without electricity or indoor plumbing. The children would do their schoolwork by the light of kerosene lanterns. She attended MIssissippi State College for Women in Columbus, Mississippi from 1943 to 1947 while working part time as a clerk at the Marshall County Courthouse in Holly Springs. She graduated magna cum laude and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English. In her senior year she was named Miss MSCW, an honor given to the most outstanding member of the graduating class.
After college she taught high school in Amory, Mississippi. There she met George Stewart and married him on June 9, 1949. Soon thereafter he enrolled at Tulane Medical School in New Orleans.
After his graduation the family left the Deep South for the Pacific Northwest. They settled first in Tacoma where Dr. Stewart undertook his internship as a GP. After Tacoma they traveled to Joseph, Oregon where Dr. Stewart practiced for a short time as a GP. He then relocated to Portland, Oregon where he undertook a surgical residency at what was then the University of Oregon Medical School, now Oregon Health and Science University. After Dr Stewart completed his surgical training the family traveled the west in search of a new home, spending time in Salt Lake City and Missoula, Montana. Ultimately they settled in Walla Walla, Washington in 1960 where he worked at the VA hospital located in Fort Walla Walla. There the family lived in the old Army barracks and made great friends among the small community that resided there. The grounds of the Fort became the children’s playground. Martha joined the local Congregational Church and started a Great Books reading group. After four years there Dr. Stewart moved his family, for the final time, to Sunnyside in 1964.
In Sunnyside Martha joined the local Presbyterian church, beginning a relationship that would last throughout her life and have profound importance to her. She taught Sunday School for over four decades with a fervent commitment. At home on Saturday nights it was a weekly ritual for her to pull shut the door to the kitchen so she would not be disturbed while she worked on her lessons. She was also session clerk for 27 years, and as an Elder focussed on maintaining funding for mission work, which she felt was a core value of the church. During her time as session clerk she would work closely with Grace Barker, the church secretary, to prepare the paperwork necessary to submit the year end budget reports to the Presbytery.
She was an inveterate and competitive bridge player, for many years in the Nouvella Club, and later in life with a small group of friends who would get together almost weekly. Ultimately she was forced to give up playing due to impaired health, but the friendships endured.
She learned to play tennis at an early age, on the red clay courts of Marshall County in Mississippi, and it became a lifelong passion. She was a founding member of the Sunnyside Tennis Club, overseeing the Summer tennis teaching program. After the death of her son Paul from cancer in 1979 she became director of the Club’s annual tournament, making it a benefit for the American Cancer Society, which was held for over 20 years.
On the family farm she enjoyed running harvest, spending long days on Cherry Hill, up at the Wahluke Slope, or the acreage at home, overseeing the picking of cherries, apples or wine grapes depending on the season.
A memorial will be held at Sunnyside Presbyterian Church at 11:00 AM June 30 in Sunnyside Washington.
In October her ashes will be buried alongside her son Paul and her husband in a small cemetery next to the old Hudsonville Presbyterian Church outside Holly Springs, near to her old family farm. Those wishing to sign Martha’s online memorial book may do so at www.funeralhomesmith.com