November is Piper Passing

Early this morning Piper Martin passed away; she would have been 90 years old in December.  Piper came to Twin Oaks over 30 years ago and has been a constant booster of community life and fierce advocate for children’s rights to read.

She did one of one tutoring with over 200 kids.

Piper did one-on-one tutoring with over 200 kids.

Piper believed literacy was a stepping stone to world peace.  She saw it as the cornerstone of greater understanding and compassion.  She very fundamentally viewed her literacy work as peace activism.

Piper was a behaviorist.  Her Reading Window School used a technique which she developed that rewarded kids for trying.  B. F. Skinner would have been proud of how well the kids responded to this technique. My own son Willow arrived at Reading Window School both unwilling and claiming to be unable to read.  Six weeks later he was pleasure reading and a year later he was reading Harry Potter alone.  She changed his life.  She changed lots of young people’s lives.

Calling her gift “magic” would take away from both the mimic-ability of her work and the tenacity of her commitment.  Piper was concerned about her legacy and the perpetuation of this technique she developed.  When i wrote to Sherri Rossiter who had taken over the Reading Window School, she pointed out that Piper had achieved her lifelong dream, that the school and the methodology she had developed will live beyond her.  Sherri thought about cancelling her literacy tutoring today, but decided that would not at all be how Piper would have wanted to be remembered.

Piper spoke in public about literacy and our obligation to teach universally

Piper spoke in public about literacy and our obligation to teach universally.

Piper was a tricky indiviual.  Her drive was not welcomed by everyone she came in contact with.  She frequently requested things of people, especially people who had already done things for her.  To have a successful relationship with Piper one needed to know how to say “no” to her and remain connected to one’s affection for her.  She was personally always driven to do more and help more, for which she often sought other people’s assistance.  I did fundraising work on and off for Piper for most of the last 15 years and i was constantly reminding her that i only wanted to do the things for her that she could not find someone else to do.  Having good boundaries was central to my successful dancing with Piper.

literacy's best friend

literacy’s best friend

Piper was colorful and lively.  I hope to put up pictures of her taken last weekend at the Halloween party in which she was dressed in a racy outfit and was stepping in and out of a coffin, with lots of other folks.  Piper and i often danced together at community functions, and i appreciated that she was so active even well into her 80s.

Piper died with a piece of chocolate in her hand, which to me was strangely fitting.  She lived a long full life.  She touched and helped many and for this and more she will be missed.

Piper’s funeral will be this Saturday at Twin Oaks.   If you want to come and have not been to Twin Oaks before please contact me first.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]