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Obituaries » Martha S. MacDonell

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Martha S. MacDonell

November 4, 1930 - July 17, 2020

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Martha S. MacDonell

Longtime arts advocate and visionary Martha Shorts MacDonell, 89, died peacefully on July 17, 2020. Martie was a force of nature in creating impactful community projects and showing compassion for others. Born November 4, 1930 to Richard Parker Shorts and Martha Wilhelm Berlin, she and beloved sister Barbara Forman grew up in Youngstown.

Martie attributed her sense of leadership to the mentoring she received while at Denison University, from which she graduated in 1952. It was there she met Alexander D. MacDonell Jr., whose family had made Lima home since the mid-19th Century. They married in 1953 and together worked tirelessly to improve Lima until Sandy died in 2018. Once her children were older, she earned a Masters of English Literature degree from Bowling Green State University.

Martie created several Lima-based arts and community organizations which impacted thousands, including the Council for the Arts, American House and Common Threads. Through her work, she sought to enrich peoples lives by having them participate in the arts, understand their history, and communicate through cultural differences. In the 1980’s, she helped create the Artist-in-Schools program, sustained to this day by the Arts Magnet School within the Lima City School system.

She was a central figure in creating and sustaining the Veterans Memorial Civic Convention Center as an important anchor in revitalizing downtown Lima and she chaired the ambitious four-day opening celebration. Opening night was spectacular with Odetta blessing the house, Hugh Downs serving as emcee and Phyllis Diller bringing down the house.

Martie’s most well-known coup was recruiting Willie Nelson to perform a free concert for thousands at the Allen Country fairgrounds in 1982. After the uplifting concert, Willie invited Martie to go on the road with him; she politely declined.

These and other projects to build and propel Lima forward are described in a recently published book by Martie and her niece Molly Weis entitled “Beyond Our Imagination,” available at ArtSpace Lima and Americans for the Arts.

Martie’s wide-ranging accomplishments were recognized by many organizations during her lifetime. She received an honorary doctorate in the fine arts from Ohio Northern University and an Alumni Citation from Denison. The Lima Area Chamber of Commerce conferred on her its Athena Award, and she was named to the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. More recently she received the Violet Meek Town Gown Award from OSU Lima. Governor Bob Taft appointed Martie to the Ohio Arts Council, and she was elected to the board of the National Association of State Arts Agencies.
She was especially nurturing of her children and grandchildren, modeling creativity and civic leadership to two generations.

She is survived by son R. Parker MacDonell (Columbus, OH) and daughter Amy W. MacDonell (husband Randall T. Shepard; Indianapolis) and grandchildren Lindsey T. MacDonell, Martha MacDonell Shepard and Alexander D. MacDonell III. Martie and Sandy greatly enjoyed many trips to Maine and Scotland with their extended family. All will miss her spontaneous adventures, bending the rules of the Game of Life, and double chocolate Nana muffins. She will also be missed by loving cousins, nieces, nephews, brothers- and sisters-in-law. The family extends deep gratitude to all of the staff and aides from Interim Health Care for their caring efforts with Mom during her final years, including Vonda, Susan, Rissa, Ruth, Jeannette C. and Jeannette K.

The family will greet Martie’s friends from the safety of their cars in the north courtyard at Market Street Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, July 22nd from 10 am to noon and 2 to 4 pm. Masks are requested. You may also post messages and stories at www.chiles-lamanfh.com

Services will be private and may be viewed at www.youtube.com : Market St. Presbyterian Church, Lima, OH on or after July 24th.

Memorial contributions may be directed to ArtSpace Lima and the Lima Symphony Orchestra.

Local arrangements are under the direction of Chiles-Laman Funeral Cremation Services.


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