Martha Louise Kemp McKnight died on Friday, June 23, 2023, in Rio Rancho, NM. She was 92. Martha lived a life of the intellect, the heart, and the hands. She read, thought, and wrote; she loved and nurtured; and she served generously. She was loved and admired by her family and her community.
Marty was born on Saturday, May 23, 1931, in Quessua, Angola, Africa, in the home of her parents, Winifred Farmer Kemp and Dr. Alexander Hershman Kemp, missionaries of the Methodist Church. Dr. Kemp was physician, surgeon, and general handyman and Mrs. Kemp assisted in various mission activities as well as being their daughters' teacher. Martha had three older sisters: Winifred Esther, Grace Elizabeth, and Lois Anne. Mrs. Kemp taught her four daughters at home.
When the family returned to the United States for furlough in 1945, they purchased a house in Chautauqua, New York, before returning to Angola. Marty remained in the U.S., graduating from the Chautauqua Central School in 1947, as valedictorian. She earned a BA in 1951 from Elmira College, and a Master of Religious Education in 1953 from the Hartford Seminary Foundation in Connecticut. From 1953-55 she worked in a community center in Amherstdale, W. VA. She then returned to Hartford Seminary to study in its School of Missions. There she met and married Theodore (Ted) McKnight in 1956. The McKnights sailed to South Africa that year to work in literacy and Christian education programs for the Mozambican men who worked in the Transvaal gold mines. Their son, Timothy Kemp, was born in Johannesburg. The McKnights returned to the United States in 1961, where Ted studied at the Graduate School of Theology in Oberlin, Ohio, and where their daughter, Kathryn Joy, was born. Ted served as assistant pastor of the Oberlin United Methodist Church for three years.
In 1965 the McKnights traveled to Portugal for language study, then returned to South Africa in 1966 to continue work with the miners. Resigning from the Methodist Board of Missions in 1973, Ted earned a Master's degree in Adult Education at Indiana University in Bloomington, while Marty worked as a typist in the University library. The family then moved to Plainfield, Indiana. Ted worked in adult education with the Indiana Department of Education, then served for several years as a hospital chaplain at the Hendricks County Hospital. Marty earned a Master of Library Science degree at Indiana University, working in the Plainfield Public Library, and then as a reference librarian in the Social Sciences Division of the Indianapolis Central Library.
In 1997 the McKnights moved to Uplands Village in Pleasant Hill. Marty was a member of the Pleasant Hill Community Church, and Ted, as an ordained United Methodist minister, was an associate member. Marty served on the Boards of the Art Circle Public Library, the Friends of the Art Circle Public Library, and the Funeral Consumers Alliance of East Tennessee. She was Secretary for the Crossville-Cumberland County chapter of PFLAG and organized the annual Wharton Association Book Sale. Her son, Tim, retired in 2023 from teaching physics at the Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in Columbia, South Carolina, and her daughter, Kathy, is a professor of Spanish at the University of New Mexico. Martha is also survived by her daughters-in-law Carolyn McKnight and Lynn Mostoller; her grandson Trevor McKnight and his wife Sarah DeBerry McKnight; and her grandson Yonas Paul McKnight Mostoller.
A Memorial will take place at the Pleasant Hill Community Church in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee in the near future. In lieu of flowers, please consider a Memorial Donation to the PFLAG, Pleasant Hill Community Church Library, or the Indianapolis Public Library, or the Plainfield-Guilford Township Public Library.