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Martha Jane (Appel) "Marty" Corneel

Martha Jane (Appel) "Marty" Corneel
  • March 25, 1924 - May 23, 2017
  • Wellesley, Massachusetts

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Memories & Candles

“So very sorry for the loss of your Loved One. May your Loving Memories shine through your sorrow. ...Isa 33:24; John 6:40 ”
1 of 3 | Posted by: A friend

“Marty was one of my favorite people at Wellesley Friends. I admired her greatly- always kind, always elegant. Her intelligence and humor shone even...Read More »
2 of 3 | Posted by: amy snyder - Natick, MA

“Great neighbor, Special lady ❤ God Bless Mrs. Cornell Brian ”
3 of 3 | Posted by: Brian M. Barrett - Wellesley, MA


Martha Jane Corneel (Appel)
Martha Corneel's earliest memory was delighting in the purple irises that lined the walkway of her childhood home in Tulsa, OK. That love of flowers and nature became the framework on which she built her life, her art and her faith. Marty, 93, died at home after a short illness with her daughters by her side. In her last days, she enjoyed the song of a mockingbird that came daily to serenade her. Shortly after she took her last breath, a sparrow flew in through an open screen and perched on her rubber tree, which she'd nurtured since the early '50s. It hopped from branch to branch and stayed awhile, quite happily, before flying directly back out. The date was May 23, 2017 and the irises were just coming into bloom.
Although beautiful, funny, elegant and erudite, Marty was like the sparrow, unassuming and modest. She could be overlooked because her husband, Fred, a prominent Boston tax lawyer, usually outshone anyone in the room. But looks can be deceiving, their 52 years of marriage was a true partnership and Marty his equal. Her life was as epic, her wisdom, strength and compassion as formidable as his.
Her life spanned an era that began before the Great Depression, when a horse drawn cart would deliver ice for the ice box and she would scurry to pick up the ice chips and pop them in her mouth. Born in Pittsburg, Marty and her family moved to Tulsa in the late 20's. Her father, Adam Appel, worked as a civil engineer for Marathon Oil. The family settled in a small house on Norfolk Avenue abutting the railroad tracks. Marty and her sister Nancy Jean's bedroom was the sleeping porch. Her mother Marguerite, an expert seamstress, made all their clothes. They didn't have much, but they were taught their manners, the value of a good education and the importance of civic duty. During the Great Depression, the hobos used to mark the curb in front of the house to let others know they could always get a hot meal at the Appel's.
Marty's ancestor was the artist Frederick Lord Leighton, so perhaps art was in her DNA. From a young age, Marty loved to draw. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma, she was eager to flee to NYC, where she could indulge her love of art and a more cosmopolitan life. She settled into a walk-up on Beekman Place with her group of artist friends. Katherine Cornell and Irving Berlin were neighbors, and she enjoyed watching their coming and goings and painting the view of the East River.
She found work as an illustrator at an ad agency and was taking art classes at Columbia University when she met her husband, who was studying law. After their wedding, the couple lived for three years in Dusseldorf, Germany. Fred worked for the OSS on the reconstruction of the coal and steel industry, while Marty, already fluent in French, became fluent in German and also continued her art studies. Returning for some years to New York, the couple and their three young children moved to Wellesley, MA. in 1961. Fred established a tax practice at Sullivan & Worcester, while Marty raised the children and volunteered in the schools.
Marty was a steady presence at the Wellesley Friends Meeting, which she and Fred joined in the early 1960's, raising their children as Quakers. Her contribution was called the Ministry of Flowers; she did the arrangements for the meeting room faithfully each Sunday and for many weddings and funerals as well. Marty was a longtime docent at the Wellesley College greenhouses, served on the Wellesley Interfaith Council and volunteered at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. She also served as a board member of the Ford Hall Forum.
Marty was an expert watercolorist and oil painter, primarily of landscapes and flowers from her own garden. She was a familiar sight in her neighborhood, where for more than 50 years she tended her cottage garden on Lehigh Road while the McMansions slowly grew up around her. She and Fred were responsible for saving at least one parcel from the developers, the Beebe Meadow off Benvenue Street. They successfully lobbied the town to buy it and designate it conservation land.
Amongst her family, Marty was jokingly called Safety Officer #1, as she always took an interest in public safety. She wrote letters to the auto companies, advocating for seat belts, and convinced public works to change sewer grates for bike safety. In her final years, she lobbied AAA and her state legislators to require lights for bikes day and night. Taking advantage of her elderly status to do anything she wanted, Marty would yell out the car window at bicyclists, "Get a light for your bike!"
Marty is survived by her daughter Anne C. Guerra and her husband Jimmy Guerra of Hondo Tx. and by her daughter Katy Corneel Stromland of Medfield and Marty's son in law Erik J. Stromland of Westwood. She is also survived by her devoted grandsons, Henry Stromland of Boca Raton Fl. and Daniel A. Stromland of Medfield, and by her sister Nancy A. Rouse of Tulsa OK. as wells as nephews Harry V. Rouse and Stephen L. Rouse.

Visiting hours are Tuesday May 30 from 4-7 pm in the Eaton Funeral Home, 1351 Highland Ave, Needham. A Celebration of Life will be held on Wednesday May 31 at 11 am at Wellesley Friends Meeting, 26 Benvenue St., Wellesley MA. 02482. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Wellesley Friends Meeting or the nature conservancy or garden of your choice.