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HomeObituariesIn Memory: Martha Wood Kongshaug, Age 93

In Memory: Martha Wood Kongshaug, Age 93

Obituary - Martha Wood KongshaugMartha Wood Kongshaug died at her home in Rye, New York at dawn on April 15th, 2024. She was 93. Her oldest and youngest sons were at her side. Her middle son, her two daughters-in-law, and her four grandchildren all made the trip to Rye during her last weeks to say goodbye.

Martha Craig Wood was born in Richmond, Virginia on August 9, 1930 to Madge Kessler Wood and Dr. Alpheus Hartley Wood.

In the summer of 1951, immediately following her graduation from The College of William and Mary in Virginia, Martha attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course in Cambridge, Massachusetts founded by literary agent Helen Everitt, who would invite friends and colleagues to lecture. One of those guest lecturers was Cyrille Abels, the managing editor of Mademoiselle Magazine during its literary heyday, who invited Martha to come to New York and take the job of her assistant.

The move to New York City, a childhood dream, had become a reality. Recalling that watershed transition as a nonagenarian, Martha said, “So that was part of the big change, South to North, that was permanent for me, but that I always intended.”

After a brief stay in the Catherine House, a residence for young women, Martha settled with two roommates on Gay Street in Greenwich Village. It was there she met her future husband, Olaf Kongshaug, a recent arrival from Copenhagen, Denmark. They were both regulars at Louie’s Tavern on Sheridan Square. Olaf and Martha married in 1958. Summers they rented a shack in the dunes of Lonelyville, Fire Island, which they filled with friends. Martha stopped working in 1959 with the birth of her first child. In 1969, with three children and two bedrooms, they decamped from Manhattan to Rye, New York.

Martha was active and involved in raising her three elementary school children; launching and co-teaching an afterschool Great Books program, den mothering Cub Scouts, and joining the PTA. She set them free-range for middle and high school and returned to freelance magazine writing, once bringing her boys with her to Beacon, New York on the Hudson River when she interviewed Pete Seeger, whose songs they had been listening to from birth.

Once she had seen her sons safely off to college, Martha returned to work full time as a writer and editor at the national headquarters of the March of Dimes Foundation in White Plains, NY, retiring in the mid ‘90s.

Olaf died in January of 2019, also peacefully at their home in Rye.

Martha and Olaf shared a love of the beach. They chose the house in Rye because it was walking distance to Rye Beach. Year to year they booked the same room in Kennebunkport, Maine for a week in the off season, where they ate lobster rolls on Parsons Beach during the day, and then ate more lobsters for dinner at Noonan’s Lobster Hut. Some of Olaf’s ashes are scattered in the surf at Parsons Beach, and some of Martha’s ashes will now join his.

Martha is survived by her son Nils Hartley Kongshaug of Brooklyn, New York, her son Lars Wood Kongshaug and his wife Caren Andrus Kongshaug of Bellingham, Washington, her son Erik Craig Kongshaug and his wife Heidi Elizabeth Tinsman of San Pedro, California, and four grandchildren: Sophia Ruth Kongshaug of Portland, Oregon; Arlo Ishmael Tinsman-Kongshaug, graduating this spring from Whittier College; Elijah Hart Kongshaug, studying at Western Washington University; and Noel Antonio Tinsman-Kongshaug, studying at Savannah College of Art and Design. Martha, an only child, is also survived by her two first cousins, Hartley Campbell Fitts and Lynn Campbell Pugh.


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