Martha L. Wharton, 82, died peacefully in Ellisville, MO Thursday, July 26, 2012, of complications from breast cancer. She was born and raised in the small southeastern Illinois town of Ridgway, the youngest of five children of Sarah and William Luther. Her intelligence and drive led her to graduate from the community high school in three years, and then to serve as the school secretary for the next several years.
Martha moved to Evansville, IN to take an executive secretary job with Standard Oil. She followed Standard Oil to its Indianapolis regional office in 1954, by which time she had married (John). She had a son in 1955, and divorced in 1958.
When Standard Oil closed its Indianapolis office in 1966, she joined the Indianapolis Water Company, where she would remain for the next 30 years.
After eight years as an executive secretary, she was moved into supervisory roles in customer service, guiding the utility’s conversion from sorted customer card files to fully-computerized records. In 1990 she was named IWC’s first female vice president, leading the customer service division.
Among the honors during her career, she was named a Sagamore of the Wabash by Gov. Evan Bayh, was a life member of the American Water Works Association, and received AWWA’s George Warren Fuller distinguished service award. After she retired in 1996 she divided her time between Indianapolis and Florida’s Space Coast, where she had a home in Melbourne. She moved back to central Indiana full-time ten years ago, residing in Carmel and joining, volunteering in the office and singing in the choir at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church.
In addition to a wide circle of friends and her church, Martha had a variety of interests. She loved word puzzles, enjoyed home decorating and remodeling, and was an avid sports fan, following racer Mario Andretti, the NFL Colts, the NBA Pacers, Butler University basketball, and the IU and Texas Tech basketball programs under Bob Knight.
Martha is survived by her son John (Dee) of Ellisville, MO; nieces Mary Jo (Richard) Hogan of Clarksville, TN, Linda Fisher of Dayton, OH, Elaine (Ron) Day of Hammond, IL, and Sara (Ed) Paterchak of Urbana, OH; and nephews David (Susan) Brill, Dallas (Colleen) Brill, and Charles Smithhart of Dayton, OH. She was preceded in death by her parents; sisters Evelyn Arndt, Betty Jo Brill, and Katherine Smithhart; and brother William Luther (PFC USMC).
The family deeply appreciates the wonderful care Martha received from the doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, Carmel Health & Living Center in Carmel, IN, and Bethesda Meadow skilled nursing and hospice in Ellisville, MO.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials to the Young Women’s Breast Cancer Program at Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine & Barnes-Jewish Hospital (7425 Forsyth Blvd., Suite 2200, Campus Box 1204, St. Louis, MO 63105), or St. Mark’s United Methodist Church (4780 East 126th St., Carmel, IN 46033).
A celebration of Martha’s life will be held at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church on Saturday, August 11 at 11am. Private interment will be in Ridgway, IL. Arrangements by St. Louis Cremation.