Former archivist assistant and long-time University employee, Martha Wachsmuth, passed away on the morning of May 4, 2015 at 94 years of age. The University Archives and Museum mourn her passing while remembering Martha for her faithful service to the University for 41 years, retiring in September 2012 at the age of 91!
Martha came to the University in 1971 to serve as administrative and research assistant to history professor Rev. Barry Hagan, C.S.C. who suffered from diminishing eyesight. Martha patiently handled Fr. Hagan’s correspondence, typed his class assignments and tests, and delivered his research papers at history conferences. After 23 years in the History department, Martha moved with Fr. Hagan to the University Archives and began the mammoth task of organizing and recording University history. Upon Fr. Hagan’s retirement in 1999, Rev. Robert Antonelli, C.S.C. took over the helm of the Archives. Together, Fr. Bob and Martha worked through the piles of boxes and stacks continuing the work begun by Fr. Hagan. With only enough room to move a few steps here and there, Fr. Bob and Martha slowly transformed the Archives into an organized system using recent technology. Many of the subject or category lists used by archives staff and researchers were compiled by Martha. She spent hours and hours poring over old photographs with no identification while using yearbooks, Beacons, and other University publications to assign dates and names, much like a detective trying to a solve a mystery. Martha’s long tenure at the University proved to be a valuable resource on more than one occasion because having been on the scene she was able to recall events and names.
People have described Martha as a “wonderful person and devoted beyond expectations”; “a woman of grace and pith and wit … prompt and smart, too”; “one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known”; “she had a wonderfully resonant voice when she answered the Archives telephone”. Martha was a poet, sketch artist, avid mystery reader, and served as president of the UP Secretaries Association in 1976.
The Archives owe Martha a huge debt of thanks for everything she has done. It has made our own work and that of those who use the Archives much easier.