Martha Faith Gardiner Slingerland

DELMAR — Martha Faith Gardiner Slingerland, a teacher who was devoted to her family, her church, and her community, died on Friday, July 5, 2019. She was 94.

She was born on July 27, 1924 in White Earth, North Dakota, the daughter of the late Albert Russell and Belva (née Sorkness) Gardiner. Her mother had been a schoolteacher and her father ran a farm-machinery store.

When Mrs. Slingerland was 2 years old, her parents decided to move east. “Noticing that everything he bought for his business came from the East, her dad felt that must be where the better opportunities were,” wrote her daughter, Judith Kimes, in a tribute. “So, little Martha, her three older siblings, and her parents packed themselves and whatever else they could into their 1924 Dodge touring car and headed East.

“When they reached Westerlo, New York, they stopped. There was a farm for sale there that had many fruit trees. This was quite an attraction because it was such a pleasant change from what they were used to seeing in North Dakota. They bought that farm, settled in, and started raising dairy cows, chickens, and garden crops. Soon Martha had a younger sister, bringing the number of children to five.

Throughout her time in Westerlo, Mrs. Slingerland was an active member of the Westerlo Baptist Church.

Her family was very musical. “They all had good singing voices and, although this was during the Great Depression and very few luxuries could be afforded, they somehow managed to own a piano, violin, cello, and guitar,” her daughter wrote. “They filled the house with music, especially on Sunday afternoons as they sang and played their way through the hymn book.

“Martha also had an ear for poetry. She kept a journal of poems she liked and memorized them. All these years later, she could still draw verses from her memory and expressively recite them.

“For most of her grade school years, Martha attended a one-room school house a hilly mile-and-a-half from home. She usually enjoyed the walk, taking in what Mother Nature had to show off on the way. She also often stopped at the homes of a couple of family friends who would lend her books.”

When she reached the ninth grade, Mrs. Slingerland attended Greenville High School. She graduated at the age of 15. She waited a year before beginning her studies in 1941 at the New York State Teachers College, now the University at Albany. Her class was “The War Years Class.”

“After the attack on Pearl Harbor,” Ms. Kimes wrote, “most of the male students left to serve our country. Martha participated in musical-theater productions, most notably ‘The Mikado,’ in which all the parts had to be played by the co-eds.

“During this time, the Grange was a popular organization for young people to join. One reason for its popularity was that, after the meetings, square-dancing would take place. Martha’s brother, Ralph, would sometimes do the calling while someone would play out the tunes on the piano and fiddle. It was at just such a post-meeting square dance that Martha met her future husband, Harold Slingerland.”

Mrs. Slingerland graduated from the teachers’ college in 1945 with a bachelor’s degree specializing in science and math. In the fall, she started teaching general science and physics at Greenville High School.

She married Harold Slingerland in April 1946. She stopped full-time teaching at the end of that school year, but would take long- and short-term substituting positions, first at Greenville and then at Bethlehem schools. Eventually, she concentrated on substituting at Clarksville Elementary School since that was nearby and her three children were attending there.

“As the time neared for her oldest child to start college, Martha decided to return to full-time teaching,” her daughter wrote. “She was promptly given a position at Clarksville Elementary, but she had to take more college courses since her degree was in high school education.

“This she did in the evenings, even though she was teaching full-time and helping with the early morning and evening chores on the farm. She continued teaching until all three of her children graduated college debt-free. Clarksville’s principal was very sad the day she told him she was ‘retiring’ from teaching.”

After her marriage, Mrs. Slingerland became an involved member of the Unionville Reformed Church; teaching and leading Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, participating in the Women’s Guild, helping to lead the Wednesday Prayer Meeting, and singing in and directing the choir. She loved her church home and family.

Mrs. Slingerland began and led a 4-H Club called The Stony Hill Starlettes. Through the club, she taught its members the basics of cooking, sewing, and Robert’s Rules of Order. She managed to get all the members working together to create displays and exhibits at The Altamont Fair, and helped each member develop demonstrations before judges and community organizations highlighting skills learned.

After school, Mrs. Slingerland gave piano lessons to several neighborhood children, charging 50 cents for a half-hour lesson.

For many years, she served as the registrar of vital statistics for the town of New Scotland.

She was a charter member of the New Scotland Historical Association. She kept meticulous genealogical records and extensively researched the Slingerland, Gardiner, and Moak families.

“Martha,” her daughter concluded, “was born with a high level of cheerful curiosity, a great deal of common sense, and a deep desire to do what was best for her church, her family, her friends, and her community.”


Martha Faith Gardiner Slingerland is survived by sons, Donald Slingerland and his wife, Sandra, and James Slingerland and his wife, Jacalyn; her daughter, Judith Kimes; her sister, Lois Bray and her husband, Charles; her grandchildren, Nathan Slingerland, and his wife, Lenna, Dana Wilson and Lee, Bethany Slingerland and Bruce Robinson, and Philip Slingerland and his wife, Elizabeth; and her great-grandchildren Zara, Evan, Zoe, and Susannah. She is also survived by her beloved church family and many other friends and relatives.

Her husband, Harold Slingerland, died before her, as did her sister, Belva Gardiner; her brothers, Russell and Ralph Gardiner; and her grandson, James Slingerland.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, July12, at Unionville Reformed Church at 1134 Delaware Turnpike in Delmar. A calling hour will precede the funeral at the church, beginning at 10 a.m.  Interment will be in Jerusalem Cemetery in Feura Bush. A luncheon at the church will follow.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Unionville Reformed Church, 1134 Delaware Turnpike, Delmar, NY 12054, or to the Onesquethaw Volunteer Fire Dept., Post Office Box E, Clarksville, NY 12041.

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.