Obituary: Martha Josephine “Marta” Cantwell Meeker, earned WWII victory ribbon, inventor
A proud, patriotic woman of boundless energy, perpetual curiosity, and trailblazing accomplishment was lost to us when Martha Josephine “Marta” Cantwell Meeker passed away peacefully on June 4, 2016 at Stamford Hospital, after a heart attack at age 94.
Marta had relocated from Indianapolis, IN, last year to be with her sister Ann Penrose, long time resident of Darien, and near her son Brett Meeker (Margo) of Rowayton. Since then Marta had joined the Darien Historical Society, the Darien Library, and the Darien Community Association, and looked forward to becoming a member of the local Goodwives Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).
Marta was born October 3, 1921, in Indianapolis, to James Frank Cantwell and Ruby Dodge Stone. He was a veteran of World Wars I and II, and an entrepreneur and builder. She was a piano teacher who, before they married, worked as a U.S. War Department cryptographer.
A 1939 graduate of Shortridge High School in Indianapolis (where she worked on the school newspaper with future author Kurt Vonnegut), Marta earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mathematics from Hollins College, with minors in Physics and Economics, in 1943.
During World War II Marta volunteered for the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). She rose to the rank of Lieutenant (junior grade) as an Aircraft Material Officer in Washington, DC, earning a World War II Victory Ribbon, American Theatre Ribbon, and Honorable Service pin.
After the war Marta became one of the first women admitted to the Yale School of Architecture, where she pursued a Master’s Degree. There she met her future husband, fellow student and veteran David Olan Meeker, Jr., of Sea Cliff, Long Island, NY. In her second year her mother fell terminally ill; Marta quit Yale and returned to Indianapolis to care for her.
Marta became a full time housewife, hanging her college diploma over the washing machine and bringing four children into the world. In 1961-62 the family lived in Copenhagen, Denmark, where David studied architecture on a Fulbright Scholarship and Marta wrote a series of articles published in the Indianapolis newspaper about her family’s life and travels in Europe.
Marta and David divorced in 1967. She never remarried. He passed away in 1987.
In 1974 Marta began a sixteen-year career at Business Furniture Company of Indianapolis, providing office furnishings and workspace solutions to some of Indiana’s biggest companies, including Eli Lilly, Cummins, and Simons Property Group.
Marta was an inventor who received U.S. patents for an autonomous electric automobile (1975), customizable eyeglasses (1978), and a utility core for small buildings (2004). She did extensive research into her family’s history, was a successful self-taught stock trader, and a devoted Bridge player. And she loved traveling, especially with her family, visiting virtually every country in Europe and several in Africa and South America.
Marta was active with the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the city’s Junior League, and its’ children’s museum, symphony, and ballet. She was a life-long member of the United Methodist Church and the Republican Party, and a proud participant in the WAVES-Indiana veterans group.
Marta was a tireless promoter of Indianapolis and a dedicated Colts and Pacers fan. Above all she valued family, saying her greatest and most successful endeavor was raising her kids.
Survivors include Marta’s four children and three grandchildren: Scott Cantwell Meeker (Kathleen Ernst) and his daughter Meghan McGill Meeker of Middleton, WI; Stone Meeker Jasie (Paul) of North Reading, MA; Brett Larr Meeker (Margo) of Rowayton; and Ann Stuart Meeker Wilson (Robert) of Centreville, MD, and their daughters Lydia Austin Wilson and Ruby Dodge Stone Wilson.
Marta is also survived by her sister Ann Lucille Cantwell Penrose of Darien, and Ann’s three children (by Charles, Jr., deceased) and four grandchildren: James Cantwell Penrose (Buff) of New York, NY, and their daughters Julia Christine Penrose Togneri (John) and Charlotte Hunter Penrose; Thomas Penrose of Norwalk; and John Rowan Penrose (Fatima) of Wayland, MA, and their daughter Isabel Ezzat Penrose and son Benjamin Hassouna Penrose.
Services and burial with U.S. Navy honors will be held in Indianapolis this weekend. A memorial service will be held in the Darien - Rowayton area in the near future. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Marta’s memory to the Darien Historical Society.
— by the Family