By Nancy Price
Rita Martin has centered her life around music for as long as she can remember.
“Some of my earliest memories are of how enjoyable it was to sing,” said Martin, who grew up in Meridian, MS. She also began taking piano lessons in third grade and decided to major in music at Anderson University (then Anderson College), where she met her husband, Jim.
“Our romance began when we played opposite each other in a college production of ‘Brigadoon,’” she said.
Martin’s career has included serving as an organist in churches where her husband was a music minister, giving piano lessons in her home studio and teaching music in public schools at the elementary level for 25 years. She taught in Washington, Perry and Lawrence townships, as well as Texas, where she and her family lived for seven years.
After retiring, she and Jim moved to Greenwood in 2007 to be closer to her son and his family. “I only knew three people,” she said. Channeling her love of music with a desire to serve and connect with others in the community, she joined the South Group of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Association (ISOA).
“The South Group turned out to be not only people who love music, but a friendly and welcoming group who thrive on volunteering,” she said. “We also assist in money-raising events for the ISO and in activities that allow students to experience orchestral music, perhaps for the first time in their lives.”
What is your greatest virtue? I recognize the importance of demonstrating to people that you care about them. That can begin with more smiles and words of appreciation. Caring about other people can often lead to becoming involved in deeper humanitarian causes that make the world a better place.
What upsets you? It upsets me to see people being rude or unkind. That kind of behavior is totally unnecessary!
What do you like best about Center Grove? I like the variety of neighborhoods, the friendliness of the people and having access to shopping. It’s also great to be able to drive a few miles and be in the middle of farmland.
What are your favorite Southside eateries? Arni’s Restaurant and The Cheesecake Factory offers a lot of variety in their menus. I wish there were more restaurants that were open at lunch for groups of eight to 10, especially women’s groups who enjoy a nicely served meal with a little more ambiance.
If you had to live anywhere else in the Metro Indianapolis area, where would it be? We lived on the northeast side of Indianapolis during the years our son was growing up, from preschool through his graduation from Lawrence Central. I also taught in Lawrence Township for 16 years. The area has great restaurants and shopping within 10 minutes in any direction.
If money were no issue, how would you spend it? I would spend more time traveling. There are so many wonderful places to see in this country and around the world. Jim and I have visited almost every state. Some of our favorite places in the U.S. were the national parks in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota and the state of Washington. Other trips took us to Nova Scotia and cruises in Europe to the Mediterranean and the Baltic.
What makes you happiest?
Being with family and friends makes me happiest. I love being with our son, daughter-in-law and the grandchildren. We enjoy great times having meals together and playing games around our kitchen table. When the grandchildren were younger, we had fun taking them to the Children’s Museum, to “Jingle Rails” at the Indiana State Museum and in the fall to Apple Works in Trafalgar. During the Christmas season we took them to the Indianapolis Symphony’s Yuletide Celebration. Now they are very involved in soccer and basketball, so we like to be there to cheer them on! Other fun family times are when my two sisters, one from Ohio and the other from Mississippi, along with their husbands, have joined Jim and I for several trips together. In the last few years we’ve gone to Hilton Head, SC, Gulf Shores, AL and this summer to the Amish country in northern Indiana. The conversation is great, especially as we share funny family memories.
What is your favorite vacation spot? We have spent a week in Gulf Shores, AL almost every year for the past 10 years. There’s nothing any more relaxing than watching and hearing the ocean. The worries just fade away! The Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area has some of the best seafood anywhere. Our favorite times to go there are October or late April when the crowds are gone, but the weather is warm.
What do you do with idle time?
I have been an avid reader since childhood when my mother took me to the public library every week. During my years of teaching, there was never enough time to read as much as I wished. In retirement I have enjoyed having more time to read for pleasure, and I visit the White River Library every couple of weeks. I am also in a monthly book club with six other women, all former teachers, who share a love of reading. Some books that I found to be very interesting in the last few months were, Where the Crawdads Sing, America’s First Daughter, My Name Is Resolute and Educated. Jan Karon’s books, The Mitford Series, provide a setting and delightful characters that make you feel like you are living there with them.
What would you change about our culture if you could? I would like to see people learn to have more empathy. We seem to live in a culture now where people focus on themselves and often have little concern about the rest of society. It’s important for us to learn better how to reach out, listen and be willing go the extra mile to improve our culture. At Amy Beverland Elementary School, where I taught for 16 years, our students were expected to learn and live by the lifelong guidelines of truth, trust, active listening, no put-downs and personal best. Sounds like a good philosophy for people of all ages.
How do you escape from reality? I like to watch television programs that take me to a different time and place. Masterpiece Theater on PBS has had a number of series like Downton Abbey, which are particularly interesting to me. Reading historical fiction is another one of my ways to escape reality.
Which living person in Center Grove do you most admire? Rhoda Johnson is someone whom many people would name as a person they most admire. She has been a member of the South Group of ISOA for more than 50 years and was my neighbor in Heron Ridge prior to moving to Greenwood Village a few months ago. Rhoda is a very outgoing and caring leader wherever she is involved. She is a retired realtor and has been quite active in St. John’s Church of Christ for many years. I tell her she is my hero because she is a truly inspirational person.
What quality do you admire most in another person? What do you value in your friends?
Some qualities I admire in people, particularly friends, are being good listeners, being lighthearted and trust. I’m grateful to be blessed with good friends, some of whom go back more than 50 years. Six of us have a “birthday girls” group that meets for lunch for each person’s birthday. Our friendship goes back to Anderson College days. Another group of 10 women friends on the Southside meets monthly for lunch and conversation.
What is your greatest extravagance? I’ll have to say, I do enjoy my chocolate. One of my favorite desserts is a chocolate cake recipe, which was given to me by a good friend’s mother before Jim and I were married 52 years ago!
Is there a special talent you really wish you had? I wish I had learned to draw or paint. It seems that it would be very satisfying to look at a lovely scene in nature and be able to reproduce it on a canvas.
Which historical figure do you most admire? Stories about Abraham Lincoln captured my imagination as a child, and I have admired him ever since. Knowing his determination to become educated in spite of the hardships and struggles he faced makes him stand head and shoulders above other historical figures to me. I find his writings to be inspirational and uplifting.
What tenet do you live by? Treat people the way you want to be treated. That pretty much says it all!
What would people be surprised to learn about you? I would have enjoyed being on Broadway. Singing and dancing and playing a character completely different from yourself seems like an adventure to me. I got to play the role of Nellie Forbush in “South Pacific” in high school, Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” and Fiona in “Brigadoon” in college productions. Those experiences were fantastic!