Martha Jane Beckwith, 79

Dec 2, 2019 by

Published in the December 2, 2019 edition.

HOBE SOUND, Fla. -Martha Jane Beckwith, 79, of Hobe Sound, Fla., formerly of Wakefield, Mass. and Milbridge, Maine.

The children of Martha Jane Beckwith are sad to announce the death of their mother on November 14, 2019 at the Manors at Hobe Sound after a period of declining health. Her son, Seth Duston, was by her side at her passing.

Martha was born in Portland, Maine on Feb 16, 1940, the daughter of Milledge Merithew Beckwith of Ft. Fairfield and Margaret Fling Beckwith of Millinocket. In childhood during WWII, Martha lived in Bangor with her mother and brother while Major Beckwith was overseas with General Eisenhower’s SHAFE staff as they planed the top secret invasion of France.

Following the war, the family lived for a time in Caribou while her father and uncle were in the potato business. When Major Beckwith was recalled to serve with the occupation force, the family moved with him to Japan. Following the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, many of the military dependents were returned to the States. Martha with her mother and brother settled in Wakefield, where they remained while now-Lt. Colonel Beckwith was stationed in various assignments following Korea – first as Commander of U.S. Forces at Ft. Churchill, Hudson Bay, Governor’s Island, N.Y., Ft. Bragg, N.C. and finally retiring as a Colonel when he closed down the Army Base at Otis, Mass.

Martha became “Marty,” a very popular cheerleader and athlete at Wakefield High School where she graduated in 1957. An honor student and accomplished artist, Marty was usually the lead in the school play. She worked for Brigham’s Ice Cream and the Beebe Library. She attended Women’s College of the University of North Carolina for one year and transferred to Boston University following her father’s retirement and returned to Wakefield. Following her marriage to Peter Duston in 1961, the couple traveled to Munich, Germany on a grand adventure while the Cold War was raging as the Berlin Wall went up.

In Munich, daughter Tracy was born and Peter worked for Radio Liberty and served as a reservist in Army Intelligence. Martha was active with the Munich Community Players, a USO show that toured Army bases in Southern Germany usually in the lead role as she was an accomplished actor. Martha and Peter enjoyed travel and with baby Tracy behind the rear seat of their ‘51 VW Bug, drove throughout Bavaria, Austria and Switzerland.

Returning to Wakefield in 1963 and while Peter was commuting to Boston University, Martha busied herself with local theater, painting, a singing career and waiting for the birth of their second child, Seth. Martha could be seen transporting her jazz combo to gigs in their ‘58 VW Bug with the bass instrument sticking out the sunroof. Son Nathan came along in 1967 and the family moved to her mother-in-law’s hometown of Sandown, N.H. where they built a Rex Roberts house that they had designed themselves – low cost, low maintenance and energy efficient – a trend that was to come.

Returning to college, Martha commuted between N.H. and Boston University’s School of Fine Arts where she received a BFA in Sculpture in 1972. In 1974, Martha returned to her native Maine with the back-to-the-land Hippie movement and settled in Milbridge where she continued her painting and drawing, turning out some very good pieces that her family cherishes today. She and Peter divorced in 1978 and Martha went back to Boston where she worked for a time at Boston University. She later moved to Portsmouth, N.H. to be near her children who worked and lived in the area.

Suffering a stroke, Martha required nursing care, first in Amesbury, Mass. and later at Hobe Sound, Fla. to be near her son Seth and his wife, Heidi who cared for her the final 12 years of her life. Seth was with her in her final moments holding his mother’s hand. A long lost daughter, Lynie Baylor was able to visit on Martha’s last day. Martha will be remembered for her wit and especially remembered by many as a woman ahead of her time, active in the early 70’s with the Women’s Revolution.

Martha was predeceased by her parents and survived by her brother R. Bruce Beckwith of Aspen, Colo. and former husband, Peter Duston of Cherryfield, Maine; children Lynie Baylor and husband Steve of Altamont Springs, Fla., Tracy Overby and husband, Wayne of Portland, Ore., Seth Duston and wife Heidi of Palm City, Fla., Nathan Duston of North Conway, N.H.; grandchildren: Stephanie, Beck, Stowe, Neve, Hannah Duston, great-grandchildren Mya, Zylee, Liam and Luke, step-grandchildren: Kimberly and Patrick Overby.

A memorial service and committal will be held next summer in Maine. Martha’s dream for years was to return to a tiny cabin in the woods of Maine. Finally!

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