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Sept. 1, 2002 Juneau Empire remembers civil rights leader Stella Martin

Posted: Monday, September 09, 2002

The measure of a community is more its people than scenery or commerce. For all its beauty, a forested mountain does not bestow dignity on the residents below; trade may create jobs and generate wealth, but it does not of itself address the problems of human relationships.

People extend dignity and respect to one another. People resolve conflicts among those with differing interests, values and cultures. Or they don't.

Because we all depend on good people to help make us better people, Stella Martin will be missed.

Martin's passing last month at age 79 is a reason to mourn, but the life she lived and the good she did are reasons to celebrate.

Whatever it is that sets some people apart, enables them to address issues with wisdom, and elevates them to community role models, was manifest in Stella Martin.

Without going into the details of all she accomplished in each of her roles, consider the ways and causes in which she invested her time: Mother of six, grandmother of 17, great-grandmother of 15; member, volunteer or officer in the Alaska Native Sisterhood, Salvation Army, Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, St. Ann's Care Center, Sealaska Heritage Institute and Alaska Legal Services. That roster of civic involvement reflects her giving and caring nature.

Martin found time for the less fortunate and gave of herself tirelessly. In addition to being kind, she was brave. With other women of courage, including civil rights champion Elizabeth Peratrovich, she pursued equality of education and opportunity and was effective in diminishing racial discrimination in Southeast Alaska and its capital from the 1940s to the present.

Those who knew her best acknowledged Martin's understanding of human nature, her wisdom, her self-discipline and her ability to provide solutions to the real problems that frustrate each of us.

For her selflessness, for her involvement, and for the good she did against considerable odds, we honor and will remember Stella Martin.

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