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Saying Goodbye to a Friend
By Mitch Traphagen
Jul 19, 2007 - 2:30:00 PM

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A sunset on the river as seen by Martha Bier during a cruise aboard a river barge last year. Photo courtesy of Jack Bier
When Jack and Martha Bier first walked into the little marine store I owned several years ago, I knew instantly there was something special about the couple.  I enjoyed hearing Jack's stories — and even believed most of them — and Martha's smile and demeanor always brightened my day.  Her smile was not a put-on for courtesy — it was welcoming and real.  Just like she was.

After selling the store, Martha remained in touch sending occasional emails in response to stories or things that were happening around them.  The couple moved to Sun City Center and traded in their small-boat life for that aboard riverboats and cruise ships.  Last May, Martha wrote an article about an adventure cruising aboard a river barge to St. Louis.

Recently, while responding to one of her emails, I mentioned that I was attempting to put together a travel series entitled Around America.  I was having trouble putting the pieces together and was on the verge of giving up.  Martha responded with a solution that made the trip possible.  In doing so, she didn't ask for publicity or recognition — she simply wanted to help out a friend.  That's how she was.

When I picked up the tickets for the cruise she arranged, I met her during a meeting of her quilting club in Sun City Center.  Apparently, she loved quilting almost as much as cruising.  According to Kathy Wallin, her friend and partner at K and B Travel, the quilts she made were beautiful.  Martha, of course, was able to combine both interests, into a Quilter's Retreat on the River — a voyage from Nashville, Tenn. to St. Louis.

She loved cruising — she mentioned hoping to put one together for the readers of the Observer News — something big and exciting, perhaps to the Panama Canal.  Given the chance, I have no doubt it would have wildly succeeded.

Martha, however, passed away last week.  Perhaps fittingly, her last moments were spent with Jack while cruising on the river.  She passed away in the midst of three things she loved:  cruising, quilting and her husband.  As Jack would later say, "a good way to go."

A memorial gathering for Martha will be held on July 25 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the Florida Room at the Sun City Center Community Association, 945 North Course Lane just off North Pebble Beach Blvd.  

The gathering will be organized by her friend, Kathy Wallin, who said, "Martha lived more in her 57 years than most people do in a much longer lifetime.  She will be missed dearly and for me, she will be remembered daily."

She will for me, too.

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