DARLINGTON — Geraldine Martens, a lifelong resident who passed away in June at the age of 102, loved this community. She grew up here, attended school and left for only a short time to attend college and work.
When she returned home, this is where she chose to stay, marrying, raising three children, working and becoming an active member of the community.
That’s why, upon their mother’s death, the children of Geraldine and the late Walter “Wadzy” Martens — Donna, Don and Ted — reached the decision to donate the Martens’ family home on Wells Street and much of the contents of the home to the Memorial Healthcare Foundation (MHF).
The foundation plans to sell the 1953 ranch style home and use the proceeds of the generous gift for capital improvements to Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County. In turn, the hospital will, in some way, honor the memory of Geraldine Martens. Wadzy, who passed away in 1995, was the legendary football coach of the Darlington Redbirds and the namesake for Martens Field.
“My parents loved Darlington, and we love Darlington,” said Ted Martens, the youngest son of Geraldine and Wadzy, who now resides with his wife in San Diego, Calif., speaking on behalf of his siblings about their donation.
Martens said it seemed only fitting to himself, his brother and sister that some of the money that was earned in Darlington stay in the community. They recognized the important role the county-owned hospital plays in the community. The family also considered their own family ties to the founding of the hospital. Their grandfather, Geraldine’s father, Dr. William McWilliams, was a driving force in establishing the hospital and served as secretary on the original board. When he passed away, Geraldine took his seat and served from 1952-1966 as secretary.
In a 2008 interview with the Republican Journal, Geraldine spoke fondly of filling that seat on the board and the work that was done at that time. “Almost every day I was at the hospital,” she said, recalling when the new facility was being constructed on Clay Street.
The gift of the house is a tremendous boost to the foundation, which has spearheaded efforts to raise money for capital improvements, funds scholarships and grants for those pursuing careers in the health care field and works to maintain healthy community support for the facility, said MHF president Tim McGettigan.
“I was flabbergasted,” noted McGettigan of receiving a phone call from fellow board member Jim Martin, informing him of the family’s interest in making such a generous donation. Board members met with the family and talked about the possibility. Soon after the decision was made and the pieces started to fall into place to make it reality.
For more information on MHF, visit memorialhospitaloflafayettecounty.org and click on “The Foundation.”