(Shared with us by her daughter, Julie Martin, of Red Wing Minnesota)

Mary Lou Martin, 83, died suddenly in Red Wing, Minnesota, on Sunday April 7. She is survived by her children, Robert (Kate Abell) of New York, David (Rhonda Bonds), Louisville, and Julie (Jeff Chalmers), Red Wing; her brothers, Wilburn, Don, Owen and Jerry; 11 grandchildren; and one great grandchild. Lou is the widow of Galen Martin. She lived in Frankfort, Louisville, Albuquerque, New Mexico and most recently in Red Wing.

Lou, a coal miner’s daughter, was born in Wallins Creek in Harlan County to Oliver Clarence and Reva Allgood. She was a graduate of Dobbins Bennett High School in Kingsport, Tennessee, and Berea College.

Her early childhood in Harlan County formed the setting for her novel “Above the Slate,” published by the Jesse Stuart Foundation in 2002, that centered around the relationship between a union-organizer coal miner and his wife. Lou was the author of numerous other short stories and poetry. She leaves behind her beloved group of Kentucky women writers with whom she wrote and laughed for many years.

Lou and Galen were both long-time Kentucky state government employees. She was a publicist and writer for the Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies, and he was Executive Director of the Commission on Human Rights. Outside of her professional life, Lou was an advocate for many causes, including environmental issues, senior citizens and civil rights.

One story of advocacy occurred in the late 1950s, while Lou and her family were living in Frankfort. Lou’s two young sons were Cub Scouts and she was a den mother. After another den mother, who was black, expressed her frustration at being unable to take her little boy to the Capitol Theatre because of its ‘whites only’ policy, she and Lou took action. Together the two women organized a five-person picket line outside the theater. Their appearance on the sidewalk holding signs while the Saturday morning children’s movies played inside, and the prospect of bad publicity, quickly gave the manager a change of heart and he let everyone in. That was the end of segregation at the Capitol Theatre.

In later life Lou remained active. She participated with her friends in the New Life Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque in the Sunday Random Sacks of Kindness lunchtime sandwich program for homeless people. Most recently, she has been a mentor for students at Red Wing High School Family Living classes in which students learn about life stages with seniors. On the day Lou died, she drafted a card to her Minnesota State Representative saying, “I support the freedom to marry for loving and committed same-sex couples because the constitution requires that we treat everyone equally.”

Lou was a role model and friend not only to her children, but to their spouses as well. She also developed a close and loving relationship with each of her grandchildren and leaves good memories with all.

Lou’s last act of giving was to donate herself to the University of Minnesota School of Medicine. Memorial services are being planned for Red Wing, Minnesota, and Kentucky.

Contributions may be made to Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, P.O. Box 1450, London, KY 40743, or Kentucky Women Writers Conference, 232 E. Maxwell St., Lexington, KY 40506.