Martha Lucretia Holt Whidden Giles passed away Friday, December 9, 2011, in Portland at the age of 82.

She was born on April 14, 1929 in Portland at the Maine Eye and Ear Infirmary, now Holt Hall, to her parents, Mrs. Adelaide and Dr. E. Eugene Holt, Jr. At that time, Dr. Holt was the attending surgeon at MEEI. Two sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, were ready and waiting for her arrival. She shared a close and affectionate relationship with each member of her family during their lifetimes.

Martha attended Waynflete School from kindergarten through her sophomore year in high school. At that time, her father became sick with leukemia, and she went away to finish her high schooling at Dana Hall. Upon her subsequent graduation from Bennington College, she went to New York to work in advertising, but soon applied to the CIA, where she worked for the next five years. Her vow to secrecy was constant and intact, and she would never say what she did there.

She then became part of the Moonwatch Division of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Satellite Tracking Program. Moonwatch enlisted volunteer amateur astronomers to track artificial satellites during the International Geophysical Year, before the system of 20 international stations in the tracking program was established. (The system of observers in Moonwatch sighted Sputnik.) It was during that time at the SAO when she met her first husband, Samuel Whidden.

Soon after their wedding in December 1957, Martha and Sam went to India, where Sam oversaw the construction and establishment of one of the twenty international stations, which were to track and photograph satellites. After about a year, they returned to the U.S. and eventually settled in Wayland, Massachusetts, having four children over the next nine years. They were divorced in 1971.

At about that same time, Martha’s mother had a stroke, which brought Martha back to Portland with her children. They settled in her mother’s home on the West End, which was so familiar to Martha from her childhood there. At that time, she began a working career, first holding positions with the Portland School department and Waynflete School, and retired from her career in 1991 as a trust officer for Maine National Bank.

After two of her children had left home, she married Everett Giles in 1980. They had known each other as children, and shared many things that made their marriage good for both of them. They travelled extensively, and were lucky to enjoy summers on Cliff Island. After Everett passed away in 1995, Martha lived for a time at the renovated Holt Hall, the building in which she was born, and then moved to a condominium on Bramhall Street.

At one point, she decided she was “not going to sit and look at four blank walls” and instead volunteered for Independent Transportation Network. She drove people to appointments and on errands throughout the streets of greater Portland for thirteen years, and received the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2008.

When she was a young girl, Martha was a champion equestrian and, as a youth, she was a champion tennis player. She was awarded most athletic of her graduating class in high school. Throughout her adult life, she was politically interested and active. She was a member of the Business Women’s Republican Club, once ran for state political office, and was a dependable election night voting precinct warden.

Lately, she had been living in Portland with her eldest daughter, Liza Blackwell, and granddaughter, Christine Peura. She is survived by her four children – Liza Blackwell of Portland; Peter Whidden and Leslie Gordon of Menlo Park, CA; Charles and Michele Whidden of Gorham; and Rebecca and Seth Whidden of Wayne, PA – and their families.

Martha was full of energy, engaging, and determined in all things she did. She reached out to family, friends, and community. She will be missed and loved.

A funeral service will be held on Saturday December 17 at 11am at The Cathedral Church of St. Luke, 143 State Street, Portland. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Independent Transportation Network Portland ( or the Maine chapter of the National Alzheimer’s Association (


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