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Martha Brundage

Artist, professor, lover of nature

Martha Brundage died peacefully at home on Easter Sunday surrounded by loved ones after a long struggle against ovarian cancer. She was 75.

A resident of Claremont since 1968, she loved the city’s friendliness, beauty, community spirit and dedication to intellectual and aesthetic pursuits.

Ms. Brundage was born in Whittier in 1938 to musician parents. Her trombone-playing father, Samuel Ray Donaldson, performed at the Hollywood Bowl in its early years, thereafter playing in the orchestras of major movie studios from the 1930s to the 1950s.

It was one of Ms. Brundage’s major joys, in watching classic movies on TV, to exclaim to her husband Tony when an orchestra was shown on the screen, “There’s my dad!” Her mother, Delight Shamory Wallis, who lived her memorable last years in Claremont, was an accomplished pianist and trumpet player who attended UCLA at the end of World War II in pursuit of a degree in music.

Her mother’s determination, in an era when relatively few married women with children returned to college, inspired Ms. Brundage to her own high academic attainments. After graduating in 1956 from Immaculate Heart High School (a noted bastion of high-level achievement in the arts led by progressive-minded nuns), young Martha attended the Art Center College of Design, then in Los Angeles. The 1950s was what some consider to be the Art Center’s golden age. The college was rigorous and demanding but also highly creative, its faculty boasting some of the most remarkable artists of the era, like Lorser Feitelson and John Altoon. Forced to withdraw at the start of her senior year for financial reasons, she was determined to resume her education when possible.

Her first marriage, to graphic designer William Franks, ended in divorce. Their bright creative and outgoing daughter Catherine, however, was to be a major source of joy and pride to Martha throughout her life, as well as to her second husband, historian Tony Brundage, whom she married in 1964. The Brundage threesome set out for a year in England in 1967 for Mr. Brundage’s PhD research in British history at UCLA, the first of numerous extended stays in the UK. All were enthralled by English village life. Ms. Brundage’s warmth and outgoing nature served her well in making new friends, and she also found time to take college extension courses in architectural history.

Returning to the United States in 1968, the family moved to Claremont when Mr. Brundage acquired a position in the Cal Poly Pomona history department. Martha took to Claremont as quickly and avidly as she had to England, involving herself in civic matters and serving on the Library and Traffic Safety commissions. She also returned to college part-time, gaining her bachelor’s degree in art from Cal Poly in 1980 and then moving on to graduate school at Cal State University Fullerton. She earned her master’s in 1984 and MFA in 1986, specializing in printmaking with an emphasis on lithography. Her work was shown widely throughout southern California as well as nationally.

Ms. Brundage also embarked on a 20-year college teaching career. She taught classes in 2-D design, art history and art appreciation at about a dozen colleges throughout the southland, referring to herself proudly as a “freeway flyer.”

Retiring from teaching in 2005, Ms. Brundage had three years of good health before the onset of her illness in 2008, turning it to good account in such activities as traveling with her husband, gardening, assisting in her daughter’s second-grade classroom in Covina and continuing to pursue her art. Even her final five-and-a-half years were marked by periods of prolonged remission when such pursuits were still possible.

“Martha kept her spirit, humor and warmth intact to the end, and leaves a remarkable legacy,” her family shared. “As the many recent phone calls, emails and letters to family members attest, she had the ability to touch people deeply, even on short acquaintance, and will be sorely missed.”

Ms. Brundage is survived by her husband Tony, daughter Catherine, brother William Donaldson, sister Janet Schmidt and cousins Elaina Rickert and Arnold Griffith, as well as by numerous nieces, nephews and in-laws.

A service celebrating Martha Brundage’s life will be held on Saturday, May 10 at 2 p.m. at the Kingman Chapel of the Claremont United Church of Christ, located at 233 Harrison Ave. in Claremont. Considering Martha’s love of beautiful colors, attendees are encouraged to wear bright springtime colors or accents.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made to the Pasadena City College Art Department scholarship fund. Checks made out to The Pasadena City College Foundation with the notation “in memory of Martha Brundage” should be sent to The Pasadena City College Foundation, Attn: Ms. Peggy Brickert, 1570 E Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91106.

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