Martha Lawler Ford, 80, of Wilmington, DE passed away peacefully on Saturday, August 28, 2021 surrounded by her family. Martha, a lifelong educator, was a devoted mother of four children and a beloved grandmother to five grandchildren. They miss her already.
Martha, the oldest of three children, was born on March 21, 1941, in Cambridge, Mass., to Francis Ford and Eleanor Ford (née Vahey). She grew up primarily in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and graduated from Immaculate Conception High School in Lodi. While attending Caldwell College she met her first husband, Robert “Bob” Wherry, Sr. They married in 1962 and eventually settled in Newark, DE, where they purchased a house in Fairfield and created countless cherished memories with the many neighborhood families.
After raising four kids she returned to her passion – teaching elementary education with a focus on reading and writing. She went back to school, completed her degree, and throughout most of her adult life continued her studies, receiving an MA from the University of Delaware, where she also pursued a PhD. Over the course of four decades, she taught thousands of students across New Castle County at schools such as Mary C.I. Williams, West Park Place Elementary, Brookside Elementary, and Saint Edmond’s Academy, where she finished her career mentoring teachers (a role she loved). She kept all the thank you notes she received from her students over the years. Her family is getting much comfort from reading them now and knowing the impact she had on so many people.
She loved chocolate shakes from The Charcoal Pit and PBS mysteries, especially Agatha Christie’s Poirot. She enjoyed watching basketball -- she kept a Charles Barkley trading card in her purse -- and later in life, when her students started talking about a new player for the Golden State Warriors, she tuned in to see Steph Curry when a game was on early enough for her to watch. She was also a fierce advocate for the underrepresented particularly when it came to education. She always rooted for the underdog.
Mostly, though, she yearned to spend more time in Cape Cod, an area she always considered home. In particular, she enjoyed visiting her beloved cousins, Lisa Milone (and her husband Paul), Deirdre Robinson, Father Wendell Verrill, Sandra Verrill, and Stephen Verrill.
Martha’s family would like to thank the fantastic staff at Sunrise of Wilmington Senior Living and in particular Claudia Jarrett and Lateika DesSausure, her favorite care team leaders. Claudia and Lateika kept her safe and sat with her for hours when visiting in person was difficult. They allowed Martha to pass with dignity. Her family will be forever grateful for the care she received there.
Martha is predeceased by her parents and her sister, Mary Ellen. She is survived by her daughters, Kate Wherry of Wilmington, DE (Connie Buckley) and Meg Rafalli of Middletown, DE (Stephen); her sons, Robert Wherry Jr. of Phoenixville, Pa. and Matt Wherry of Richmond, Va. (Andrea); five grandchildren, Sophia and Carmen Rafalli, Evelyn and Lawler Wherry, and Lincoln Crossland; her brother, Andrew Ford (Anne), and a niece, Lauren.
Family and friends are invited to visit at the Doherty Funeral Home, 3200 Limestone Road, Wilmington on Saturday, September 11 from 9:00-10:45AM, with a Catholic Funeral Service immediately following. Interment will be private.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the annual fund of Saint Edmond’s Academy (https://stedmondsacademy.org).
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Martha Lawler Ford, please visit our floral store.
St. Edmond's Academy
2120 Veale Road, Wilmington DE 19810