By John Weir Close
Martha Jane Weir Close, formerly of Clarke County, died at home in Princeton, New Jersey on April 30, 2019 at 1:04 p.m. after a long and gallant struggle. She had made the decision to leave the hospital just six days before her death. She suffered many onslaughts and, after a final fall that left her with a fractured pelvis, she felt her time had come. She was 88.
Marty, as she preferred to be known by all, had been associated with Clarke County since 1951 when her brother-in-law and her sister, Art and Beti Weiss, first saw what would become their beloved Frankford Farm outside Berryville, where her nieces and nephews live and work to this day. In the early 1980s, she and her husband, Raymond Close, created Ruscombe Farm near Millwood, where they lived for twenty years.
Marty was born on March 11, 1931 in Lahore, a city that was then in India and became a part of Pakistan when the subcontinent was divided into two independent countries in 1947. Her father and mother, Agnes and John Weir, lived in India for over fifty years, in various cities, including Lahore, Delhi, Dehra Dun, and Mussoorie. Dr. Weir became head of the Presbyterian mission in the country, after several years as a professor at Forman Christian College in Lahore.
Marty went to the Woodstock School in Mussoorie, India, from which she graduated in 1948, and thence to The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. In September of 1951, she married Raymond Close, her middle school boyfriend. They met in 1943 when Marty was in seventh grade, and her future husband in eighth.
After their wedding, Mr. Close joined the Central Intelligence Agency. Their first post was Beirut, Lebanon, where six generations of Mr. Close's family had lived and worked since the 1850s. There, she gave birth to two sons.
For the next 26 years, she and her husband worked and traveled in some of the world's most fabled cities, among them Beirut, Alexandria, Cairo, Lahore, Damascus, Jerusalem, and Istanbul, many now transformed by war and mass exile. For seven years, Mr. Close was chief of station in Saudi Arabia, resigning in 1977 to start a career as an international consultant based in Jeddah, where they lived for another seven years.
When she was 16, Marty had a rare view of a particular moment in world history. She and her parents traveled by train through the worst of the riots that accompanied the partition of India, witnessing the mass slaughter of what was in effect a vicious civil war. The experience, though profoundly disturbing at any age, imbued her with her well-known determination to be happy, to find a purpose to precious life, having seen how violently and instantly all can end.
As she grew up, Marty had two ambitions. Either she would become an interior designer or an actor. In fact, she became both. In every CIA posting, she transformed their houses into palaces with her taste and her skill as a bargainer in the suqs of the Middle East and the bazaars of South Asia. At the same time, she performed the role of a dutiful 1950s Foreign Service wife, while off-stage she was effectively working with her husband for the Central Intelligence Agency. She was an essential partner in his work, often providing intelligence that the CIA found itself unable to gather from its legions of male officers.
At all of their posts, Marty became a leading member of each city's society, serving, for example, as president of the International Women's Club in Lahore. Later in Islamabad she ran a thrift shop that donated tens of thousands of rupees throughout her tenure to hospitals and schools in northern Pakistan.
She was fearless, always ready for an adventure. Four times, she drove herself alone in her Volkswagen station wagon from Lahore to Delhi where her elder son was a boarding student. This is a journey of hundreds of kilometers largely along the Grand Trunk Road, choked with bullock carts, buses, large trucks, camel herds, human caravans, donkeys, and massive buses.
She was not only courageous but also generous and kind, clever, hospitable, beautiful and good.
Marty had two sons, John Weir Close, Kenneth Harold Close, his wife Elizabeth Close, five grandchildren: Tarquin; Kendall; Raymond; Courtney; and William. She lived long enough to meet her one great-granddaughter, Waverly Rae Thornton-Close. All, along with her husband Raymond, survive her.
A memorial service will be held at Miller Chapel, where she and Mr. Close were married 68 years ago, on the grounds of the Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. The celebration will begin at 2:00 o'clock on Saturday, September 28, 2019. All are welcome.
(In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Marty's alma mater, The Woodstock School in Landour India: www.woodstockschool.in/ways-to-give/ )