April 14, 1929 – December 9, 2011
Have you seen this picture of the laughing lady? The lady’s name was Martha Lucretia Holt Whidden Giles, and she was the most remarkable volunteer driver ITN has ever known. Martha passed away last week. Her record of service will stand for years. Between October 16, 1996 when she delivered her first volunteer ride, and September 15, 2008, when she delivered her last ride, Martha volunteered to drive 11,082 times, driving a total of 95,255 miles. Think of it this way. The circumference of the world is 24,859 miles, so Martha volunteered to drive enough to go around the world almost 4 times. For her great contribution as a volunteer for ITN, Martha received the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2008.
Martha loved to socialize, to meet the people, to talk with them, and above all, to keep moving. She served as Secretary of the Independent Transportation Network Board of Directors for many years, and she attended every fundraising event (when she wasn’t busy driving members who wanted to attend). When we needed a volunteer to pose for pictures, Martha stepped forward. This picture of Martha, throwing her head back and laughing beside the pond in Deering Oaks Park, Portland, appeared on the cover of a special report for the Transportation Research Board.
Her background was just extraordinary. A graduate of Bennington College, she worked for the CIA for several years, and her vow of secrecy was so strong, that no one ever found out what she did there. She became a part of the Moonwatch Division of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Satellite Tracking Program, and she lived in India for a while.
Once we cooked up an idea to encourage others to volunteer. We pitched it to Martha and to the Portland City Council and we called it the Giles Miles Program. The City Council issued a proclamation creating Giles Miles Day, and ITNPortland and Martha offered a 500 mile signing bonus to any citizen of Portland who would volunteer to drive and contribute the credits earned to the Road Scholarship Fund. The bonus was offered by Martha, out of her treasury of transportation credits, and that bonus, too went into the Scholarship Fund for low income riders.
The last time I saw Martha, she was still an ITN member, but she was a rider, rather than a driver. The ITNPortland dispatcher, Mary, knew that when Martha scheduled a ride, I wanted to be the one to drive her if I possibly could. We spent an hour in her kitchen slowly looking through her family picture album. Moving to the dining room, we stood by the china closet, while Martha described the history of every piece of china she had inherited.
It’s a very sweet memory of an impressive, strong, sympathetic, generous lady, and a life so well lived. I know she will rest in peace. Martha’s family has asked for donations in her memory to go to ITNPortland or to the Maine Chapter of the National Alzheimer’s Association. Thank you again, Martha.