Martina Tania Morley, 51, of Ellsworth passed away on Friday, April 19, at home after a courageous showdown with pancreatic cancer. She was born on Oct. 11, 1967, in Elgin, Ill., the daughter of Terry Patricia (Wyman) Morley and Douglas Spencer Morley.
One of Martina’s greatest loves — cooking — began at a very young age when she was only 10 and was glued to the television watching Julia Child. As a teenager, she convinced her parents to purchase a pure-bred Alaskan Malamute, even though the family already had two dogs, a kitten, two rabbits and rodents. Martina loved animals. Growing up, Martina and her sister Amy spent many wonderful times with their grandparents, Fred and Trudy Morley, as well as their maternal grandma Jeanne Wyman. They regularly visited Florida to visit the Morleys and received visits from them, along with packages of cookies and fudge.
Martina moved with her mother, father and younger sister, Amy, to Maine in 1982. Martina and Amy attended Skitikuk, a unique school in Orono for two years, then transferred to MDI High School. At MDIHS, she was very active with theater and art, graduating in the Class of 1986. Martina made so many wonderful friends on MDI that she held close to her heart ever after.
Martina loved Bar Harbor and gained a wealth of knowledge and experience as a young person working in town at Pomme de Terre and Our New England. One summer, Martina’s sister and she got up every morning at 4 a.m. to head off to their respective competing bakeries to bake — Martina to Cottage St. Bakery & Deli and Amy to O’Henry’s.
It was at Cottage St. Bakery & Deli that Martina met Richard Fisher. They baked together and were a couple, eventually taking an adventure to Portugal and Morocco together.
Martina attended Unity College and then transferred to the University of Southern Maine in Portland, majoring in sculpture and photography and minoring in art education. She also participated in a workshop at The Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockland, which served her well over the next few decades, and took several workshops at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in jewelry-making, furniture-making and fiber arts.
A very special experience for Martina was helping her dear friend, Kirsten Stockman, open and run Mother’s Kitchen in Town Hill.
In a summer during college, Martina and Amy worked side-by-side as cooks in the Farm and Wilderness camp at Hidden Villa Summer Camp in Los Altos Hills, Calif. Martina fell in love with California.
In 2000, wanting to experience more of California, Martina moved there to start a career in the domestic household industry, which she continued for the rest of her life. In the Bay Area, she worked with a lovely family as a household manager and nanny, supervising their staff including chef, driver, housekeeper, gardeners and contractors. She also lived in a work/live studio art space in a large community of artists in Oakland.
Several years later, Martina visited Atlanta, where her sister lived and met and then fell in love with Joe Sikes, a friend of Amy’s. Martina relocated to Atlanta to be with Joe and Amy. She soon discovered Pine Lake, a small wooded community outside the city that reminded her of Maine.
Martina lived with Joe in Pine Lake happily, creating ever more fantastical found-object collages that ranged in size from the little bitty (6”x6”) to the very large (6’x6’ furniture and wall hangings). She painted virtually every surface with beautifully chosen colors and patterns. During this time, she became more involved with animal rescues. For several years, she was a responsible and loving rescuer of three dogs, five cats and two rabbits. She had a special pet door installed in the kitchen so the dogs and cats could go in and out during the day as they wished.
In Atlanta, Martina forged a new business structure: working for several families as her clients rather than one family. She cooked, acted as a nanny, planned fantastic parties and organized their households. Martina was known for having a strong ability to have difficult conversations — when a couch needed to go, or a housekeeper had to be replaced. But she also always brought immense creativity and joy into the household. She was fierce in ensuring the household ran with poise, efficiency, cleanliness, positiveness, creativity and joy.
Martina took classes in improv at a comedy club in Atlanta, as she strongly desired to become a stand-up comic. Although she did not pursue becoming a famous comic, she was recognized in her class as having real talent and known by everyone who met her for her hilarious, off-the-wall sense of humor and often ended up making people laugh so hard they would cry. There is a strong line of humor in the Morley-side that stems from her grandfather, Fred.
Martina was also very vocal in her expression of human rights and advocated for social justice whenever she got the chance.
Martina and Joe eventually parted ways as romantic partners but always remained very close friends.
After Martina met David Grey and they fell in love, they decided to find a space together that was versatile enough to suit them both in Atlanta — and they found it: a large two-story building in an area of Chandler Park zoned for business and across the street from a beautiful public park. It was located much closer to Martina’s clients. With the primary living space on the upstairs level, the ground floor was ideal for creating an organized and very imaginative art space for youngsters, which she had already been doing on a smaller scale for many years. Martina developed a business teaching art to children with her friend, Terry. Many children were inspired by Martina’s flair for art and silliness. An annual festival across the street at the park had many tents set up for crafts, food, music and one tent set up specifically for kids. Thousands of people came through in a three-day period. Martina had the opportunity to organize and supervise the kids tent for a couple of years.
One year she pre-cut hundreds of house-shaped blocks out of wood, and provided bins of craft supplies. For three days straight that tent was packed with kids having crazy fun — painting, gluing and hammering their own little house to take home to remember the festival.
Martina and David spent about seven years together and were engaged to be married a year before the end of Martina’s life. They enjoyed being part of a very special, supportive community of friends in Atlanta who spent a lot of time camping, playing music, going to musical festivals and other adventures together. Martina’s friend network in Atlanta was so wide and she was known for bringing many circles of friends together.
Martina was also known for planning amazing parties for her community of friends or in her work — birthday parties, children’s parties, bat mitzvahs, cocktails parties and extravagant New Year’s parties. She was an amazing cook, from years of experience working in catering and in families’ homes. Everything she cooked was delicious. She had a true gift with food. Along with being an artist, she was a collector of art and interesting artifacts. She always dressed creatively, and her signature color was orange.
Martina also really enjoyed being very engaged in the lives of David’s three children — Molly, Harrison and Oliver. She deeply cared about them, wanted to contribute to their lives and always expressed pride in them. The five of them — David, Martina and the children — would have fun, spirited conversations over intellectual matters that were always humorous and intelligent and lively.
After Martina was diagnosed with stage 1 cancer in 2016, she spent time volunteering with Emory-Winship Cancer Institute, spending time with children with cancer.
Around this same time, Martina and David were starting to contemplate downsizing in Atlanta and finding a second home in Maine to ultimately live in two locations to be closer to Martina’s family and Maine — which Martina associated as home. When Martina was re-diagnosed with cancer at stage 3-4 in July of 2018, it was her wish to expedite this plan and come up to Maine to spend time with family immediately. With her sister Amy’s assistance, along with help from other friends, Martina was able to move to Maine to be closer to her parents and sister. She had attempted to get into a clinical trial in both Atlanta and Boston. She continued treatment in Boston because she was accepted into a clinical trial there, and not Atlanta. She visited Atlanta one more time in November and received some visits from David in Maine toward the end of her life.
Martina spent the last six and a half months of her life living in a home in Ellsworth that was specifically selected for her to have a sense of home in Maine while she received treatment. She lived with Amy and her partner, Robert Baker. Martina’s furnishings were her contribution to the house so that it didn’t feel foreign to her. It was hard to be away from David and friends and in the cold Maine winter, but she had the opportunity to be close to her original family at the end of her life, which gave her some peace.
Despite Martina’s enormous strengths, physical, emotional and mental, ultimately the disease process itself — and more so the debilitating effects of treatment — were more than her body could withstand.
Her beauty and spirit will live on forever in our hearts.
Martina is survived by her mother, Terry Morley of Lamoine, her father, Douglas Morley of Ellsworth, her sister, Amy Morley, of Ellsworth and Lamoine, her cousin, Ted Wyman, of Aurora, Ill., her cousin Kathleen Mullen Schneider and her husband, Marvin Phillip Schneider, of Arizona, and their children Erika Schneider Feerer and her husband and children of Phoenix, Ariz., Michael and Jessie Raab Schneider and their children of Albuquerque, N.M., and Elizabeth Schneider her children of Albuquerque, N.M., her cousin Patricia Mullen Cross and her son of San Antonio, Texas, her cousin Barbara Thorsson of Elgin, Ill., her cousin Daniel Rich of Elgin, Ill., her two beloved dogs, Cooper and Lilly, and her cats, Triskett and Chico (who reside with Joe Sikes). She was predeceased by her paternal grandfather, Frederick, in 1999, her paternal grandmother, Trudy Morley, in 2018, her maternal grandmother, Jeanne Wyman, in 1991, her maternal uncle, Ted Wyman, in 2016, her maternal aunt, Karen Wyman Greatsinger, and her paternal uncle, Robert Jay Morley, in 2003, as well as her dogs Otis, Lulu, Oscar, Brandy, Fargo, Panda and many kitties.
For those who wish to remember Martina in a special way, her family encourages gifts in her memory be made to: “The Martina Morley Fund for Rescue Animals” at Bar Harbor Bank & Trust. This account is especially set up to gather funds to help support a yet unidentified though vital animal rescue effort. These funds are being collected with the intention that if and when we have gathered $10,000, the funds will be transferred to the Maine Community Foundation to start an endowment fund in her name so that the funds will be available annually in perpetuity to help animals in desperate need of care.
Martina was beloved by so many families she worked with and her friends. A celebration of life was held on June 1 in Atlanta with about a hundred of Martina’s friends. Martina has been described by friends as hilariously funny, a free-spirit, a shaman, a life saver, creative, someone who brings people together, a lover of life.
A memorial service will be held at College of the Atlantic (in Turrets building) in Bar Harbor on Saturday, June 29, at 1 p.m., with reception to follow at 3 p.m.