Martha Miller Girdle­stone

Dec. 5, 1933 - Sept. 5, 2017

San Francisco Chronicle - - LIFE TRIBUTES -

A bril­liant light went dim on Septem­ber 5th with the pass­ing of Martha Miller Girdle­stone. Sur­rounded by her lov­ing fam­ily, Martha passed away at her San Car­los home fol­low­ing a coura­geous 18-month bat­tle with pan­cre­atic can­cer. She was 83.

A multi-tal­ented woman with bound­less en­ergy, Martha ac­com­plished what few women of her gen­er­a­tion were able to: she bal­anced a suc­cess­ful ca­reer with be­ing a de­voted daugh­ter, niece, wife and mother. When she was 12 years old, Martha’s essay on “what I want to be when I grow up” an­nounced the pas­sion that was to be her life­long pro­fes­sion: in­te­rior de­sign. She would go on to earn great suc­cess in that field while bal­anc­ing the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of a work­ing wife and mother.

Martha was born to Dr. James and Irene Richart of Terre Haute, IN. Al­though an only child, she had a large ex­tended fam­ily and grew up along­side eight girl cousins. Her group of high school girl­friends, known as “The Big 20,” re­main friends to this day. Martha at­tended In­di­ana Univer­sity, earn­ing a de­gree in Art His­tory. She was a mem­ber of Zeta Tau Al­pha soror­ity.

In 1956, she mar­ried her high school sweet­heart, Robert Miller, a mar­riage that would last 34 years. The cou­ple set­tled in Or­ange County, Cal­i­for­nia where Bob was em­ployed. They had two daugh­ters, Car­rie and Ellyn, and were ac­tive in church, so­cial and civic groups. Martha ob­tained her teach­ing cre­den­tial and taught part-time at Santa Ana Col­lege while launch­ing her in­te­rior de­sign prac­tice, Martha Miller In­te­ri­ors, later re-named De­sign Trends, Inc.

With her daugh­ters in high school, Martha be­came the spokesper­son for The Broad­way Depart­ment Stores’ home fur­nish­ings depart­ment and for Wesco Fab­rics, lec­tur­ing to re­tail and in­dus­try groups through­out the U.S. When the fam­ily re­lo­cated to Los Al­tos Hills in 1977, Martha found her­self re­turn­ing to the class­room. Af­ter earn­ing her mas­ter’s de­gree in ed­u­ca­tional administration, she be­came the found­ing di­rec­tor of the in­te­rior de­sign depart­ment at Academy of Art Col­lege (now Univer­sity) in San Fran­cisco, build­ing the B.F.A. cur­ricu­lum and earn­ing the pro­gram’s orig­i­nal CIDA ac­cred­i­ta­tion. She served as di­rec­tor for 12 years and was an al­lied mem­ber of ASID and NCIDQ.

Martha ex­celled as an ed­u­ca­tor and mo­ti­va­tor. She men­tored stu­dents from around the world and took im­mense pride in their suc­cess. Af­ter re­tir­ing from the Academy, she joined the in­te­rior de­sign fac­ulty at Cañada Col­lege in Red­wood City and de­vel­oped and taught cour­ses for U.C. Santa Cruz and San Diego. She re­tired from teach­ing in 2003. Martha saw just about ev­ery cor­ner of the world, of­ten trav­el­ing with her daugh­ters, a cousin or good friend. In re­tire­ment, she vol­un­teered as a disas­ter pre­pared­ness in­struc­tor with the Amer­i­can Red Cross and be­came a life­time mem­ber of the Tif­fany Cir­cle So­ci­ety of Women Lead­ers. She en­dowed a schol­ar­ship for her soror­ity chap­ter at U.C. Berke­ley and was a pop­u­lar pi­anist at Filoli. She also be­gan col­lect­ing early Cal­i­for­nia plein-air paint­ings.

In 2000, Martha met Howard Girdle­stone of San Car­los, a re­tired busi­ness­man and lo­cal phi­lan­thropist. They mar­ried in 2002 and shared 15 won­der­ful years to­gether un­til Howard’s pass­ing in July 2016. Martha then turned her at­ten­tion to tack­ling can­cer with her trade­mark en­ergy, op­ti­mism and de­ter­mi­na­tion. She made the most of ev­ery day void of com­plaint or self-pity. She was buoyed by the lov­ing sup­port of her fam­ily and dear friends from church, bridge club, book club and the de­sign world. Her faith kept her strong and fear­less.

Martha’s truest joy was al­ways her fam­ily. She was de­voted to her hus­band, daugh­ters and two grand­sons, Ted and Evan Davis, who were the lights of her life. She im­parted in them many philo­soph­i­cal lessons, her love of mu­sic and de­sign, an eye for beauty, the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion, her deep faith and her gen­eros­ity of self. Martha was a gifted pi­anist and cre­ative dy­namo, a su­perb home­maker, gar­dener and host­ess, and a loyal friend. She was beau­ti­ful, re­silient, spunky, out­spo­ken, gre­gar­i­ous and un­for­get­table. Her pres­ence will be greatly missed.

She leaves be­hind daugh­ters Car­rie Miller Drake of San Ma­teo and Ellyn Miller Davis of Green Val­ley, CA; grand­sons Theodore Davis and Evan Davis; and son in-law Wil­liam Hulsey. Friends are in­vited to join a cel­e­bra­tion of Martha’s life on Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 7 at 2 p.m. at Trin­ity Pres­by­te­rian Church, San Car­los. Do­na­tions may be di­rected to the Amer­i­can Red Cross of the Bay Area or the Trin­ity Pres­by­te­rian Church Foun­da­tion.

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