She helped us connect our past to our future possibilities.
The basket that holds a community’s soul is woven with many strands, and when one of the strands breaks our fear is always that the basket will weaken. But that isn’t always so. Fort Wayne lost one of its best and dearest this week with the death at 81 of Patty Martone, but the community’s soul will stay strong because of the thousands of people – and that is not an exaggeration – she inspired to live good and giving lives.
The first were the students she taught in English class at Central High School, the ones she called “Patty’s kids” who went on to become a generation’s doctors and lawyers and journalists and postal workers. She gave them a sense of history – this was back when schools still taught from a canon of common values values – and a sense of wonder at the potentials in their own futures.
There were countless others she touched throughout her career with Fort Wayne Community Schools, which ended with a stint as assistant superintendent before she retired with health issues in 1986. She might have made superintendent, but FWCS’ loss was Fort Wayne’s gain, because what a “retirement” she has had, packing far more into her post-career years than most do in a lifetime.
It would take far too much space to list everything she’s been involved in for the last 26 years. It is enough to say she has improved Fort Wayne in innumerable ways – to call here a mere “volunteer” or “community activist” would be a terrible insult. How fitting that her crowning achievement was to be one of the leaders of the bicentennial celebration of the city she loved. How proud we are that one of her many undertakings was to contribute more than 100 essays as a regular guest columnist for our editorial page.
As good teachers pass along an appreciation of a common heritage, so a good community leader instills in us the love for our shared history, generation after generation. She helped us remember the best we had done as a way to strive for the best we can do.
Martone saw Fort Wayne as a treasure, if at times a treasure with rough edges it was her job to smooth out. That’s why she was our treasure. She is gone, but she has left us so much to work with. Let that be her legacy: Now it’s our turn.