From the Albuquerque Journal, Dec. 15, 2008.
Roberta Carol Jackson Marten turned 90 alone last Halloween.
She died alone 2 weeks later.
In her waning years, she lived detached from the woman she had been, from those who had known her, the history of her life entombed in her dementia-curdled mind.
As far as anyone knows, she received no visitors at Princeton Place Nursing Home, where she lived out her last two months clouded and crippled. No one came to see her during her 16 months at Atrisco Lights Assisted Living before that.
Except legal guardian Linda Piasecki.
It had been her job to look out for Marten's interests since March 2007 when someone from the Encino Terrace Retirement Homes -- the last place Marten had chosen on her own to live -- reported that the small, frail woman's senility and blinding macular degeneration had debilitated her to where she was no longer safe on her own.
Marten was packed up and moved to Atrisco Lights, then to Princeton Place, her worldly possessions and her tether to the community lost along the way.
Piasecki knew little about her client other than what a few official documents told her:
That she was born Oct. 31, 1918, in Newton, Iowa, to Robert Jackson, 23, and Bertha Swatzlander, 25.
That she may have been married three times but divorced for good in the 1950s, presumably from a man named Marten.
That she had been 5-feet-3 with green eyes, her grayed froth of curls no longer a youthful auburn.
Marten left behind little in the way of wills or correspondence. There was no address book, no journals, no annual holiday cards with return addresses. "I tried sometimes asking her whether she had a brother or a sister or anyone I could contact," said Piasecki, of Unidas Case Management. "But anything she said made no sense. Her dementia was too advanced." When Marten died, Piasecki had no one to send her ashes to. No one responded to the obituary she had published in the Journal for two days. "It's so sad to die like she did," Piasecki said. "Somebody must have loved her once." She believes this because, among the box of old clothes and costume jewelry that survived Marten's moves, were two small photograph albums, a visual, albeit sporadic, representation of a life apparently lived well. Piasecki deduces that one album belonged to Marten's younger sister, whose name and childhood address -- Miss Corinne Jackson, 930 6th Ave, Sydney, Nebraska -- is scrawled almost imperceptibly in pencil on its first black page. Corinne's photos are colorless, some long loosened from their gluey moorings. Many are of young classmates from the 1930s, smiling girls with perfect finger waves and bearing names like Babe and Bubbles. One photo depicts the self-important faces of the young boys of St. Patrick's Orchestra, presumably in Sidney.
Many are the typical snaps of two sisters -- Berta and me, they are called -- arm in arm in front of nondescript houses and landscapes from Sidney to San Bernadino, Calif. "Berta and me" stand almost glumly with equally droll Aunt Ida and Uncle Ed, Aunt Edna and Uncle Tom, cousin Bill and a sharply dressed man named Paul Marshall. And pets. Numerous photos feature Chaquita the Chihuahua, Fritzy the cat, Migie the mutt. "One thing you can really tell is they loved animals," Piasecki said. "They're all over the place." Animals feature prominently in the other album, a slender yellow fabric thing only partly filled with the images of Marten's later years. There are fluffy cats, tiny Chihuahuas and elegant white poodles, some cradled in Marten's lap, some clasped by other people like furry accessories.
One is of a young woman in a bouffant named Jill sitting on the floor with Marten and several pets. In another, a young girl snuggles a white goose. That same girl is featured in a 1972 class picture with these words written on the back: "Nana, to the world's best grandmother! Love, Darci" But who was Darci? Why had she let the best grandmother die alone? "There is someone out there that knew this woman," Piasecki said. "Perhaps they just lost touch." From the photos, Marten is always neatly presented, a trim woman with an affinity for colorful print blouses and flowers. In many photos she appears wistful, distant. In others, she bears the same glum look of the earlier black and white photos, as if somehow she knew her life would someday end unnoticed. But in real life, Piasecki said, a cheeriness rose from within the dementia. In those rare moments of lucidity, Marten could be delightful, she said. "Last November, before her death, I remember rubbing her head in bed," Piasecki said. "She didn't want me to leave." Like everyone else had.
If you knew Roberta Carol Jackson Marten, contact Linda Piasecki at Unidas Case Management at 237-8244. Missing Roberta
You can reach Joline at 823-3603 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Albuquerque Journal Nov. 29, 2009
MARTEN -- Roberta Carol Marten, formerly Roberta Jackson, 90, died November 19, 2008. She was born in Newton, IA, October 31, 1918. Roberta was the oldest child of her parents. Her younger sister may be Connie Jackson of Sidney, NE. When Roberta was a teenager, she lived in San Bernardino, CA. It is unknown when Roberta moved to Albuquerque. At the time of Roberta's death, she resided at Princeton Place Nursing Home. Arrangements were by Riverside Funeral Home. "Somehow" I've tried for many an hour and a minute to imagine this world without me in it. I cannot think of a newborn day without me here-somehow-some way. I can't imagine the autumn's flare without me here-alive-aware. I cannot think of a dawn in spring without my heart's awakening. These treasured years will come and go with swifter pace, but this I know, I have no fear-I have no dread of that marked day that lies ahead. My flesh will turn to ash and clay. But I'll be here-somehow-someway.