Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 26
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
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Anne Martindell Honored at Public Library Gathering

Dilshanie Perera

Friends and family assembled in the public library on Sunday afternoon to celebrate the life of renowned Princeton personality, politician, and generally inspiring character, Anne Martindell, who died last week at age 93. She had been scheduled to attend the Princeton launch of her memoir, Never Too Late, which chronicles Ms. Martindell’s involvement in politics following the 1968 Democratic Convention riots in Chicago, her work in the New Jersey State Democratic Party, her time as a state senator, her efforts as the director of the Office of United States Foreign Disaster Assistance, her appointment as the United States ambassador to New Zealand, how she found true love in her 60s, and the triumph of earning a degree from Smith College at the age of 87. It is the story of a dynamic life, one filled with a tirelessness and vivacity.

Blanche Brann, Ms. Martindell’s editor, publisher, and friend, spoke to the crowd of about fifty people, saying that “there is no better tribute to an extraordinary woman than to have people gather in her memory.” Remembering Ms. Martindell’s service to the United States and New Zealand as an ambassador, she invoked a Maori blessing, which stipulates that “the living must come together and offer support for the loved one in a community place.” The public library was thus acknowledged as the perfect setting for such a remembrance.

Most of those present had personally known Ms. Martindell, and the book launch was interspersed with stories and favorite recollections of Ms. Martindell by friends and family. Roger Martindell, Ms. Martindell’s son and a member of Princeton Borough Council, said that “my mom would have wanted this event to have gone on today,” adding, “because you are here, she is here.”

Ms. Brann read passages from Never Too Late which included a description of the events that inspired Ms. Martindell’s entry into politics and her ardent campaigning for women’s voices to be heard and taken seriously in the arenas in which she worked: local, state, national, and international politics.

Friends spoke about their first memories of Ms. Martindell, and of her outlook on life. Ruth Perkins, Ms. Martindell’s long-time friend, noted that, “Anne was important, and she was a wonderful, modest person. She accepted people just the way they were.” Ms. Brann went on to describe how Ms. Martindell enjoyed a rich family life in addition to her robust career in politics.

As the mother of four children, grandmother of nine, and great-grandmother of six, Ms. Martindell remained close to all of them throughout her life. Indeed, in her memoir she describes them as a key motivating force when she considered going back to Smith College to finish her coursework after a 67 year hiatus. She received her bachelor’s degree in American studies, as well as an honorary degree in law in 2002. As the oldest graduate of Smith College, Ms. Martindell attributed her motivation and achievements after age 50 to an element of luck, but wrote, “if one stays active and involved, there is often a point at which one can seize opportunities that would not come to anyone sitting passively.”

In the prologue to her book, Ms. Martindell wrote that, “my goal is to inspire all of us to live fuller lives; to accept that your life does not have to follow a linear path. You can start something new, accept new challenges, say ‘YES’ instead of ‘NO.’ It’s never too late to begin, to open up a new part of your life.”

Ms. Martindell concluded Never Too Late with an exhortation: “We have the opportunity, each of us, to be well informed and to seek to understand the complexities of our time and place. We can become students of our own history — personal, political, global — learning its lessons, leaving behind the repetitive cycle of its mistakes, and continually striving for positive change.”

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