Martha Jane Menk

MenkMartha Jane Menk, 71, on August 3, 2022, peacefully, following a prolonged journey with Parkinson’s disease, in Richmond, Va. Martha was born on January 25, 1951, to Donald Appleby Menk and Dorothy Hull Menk in Canton, Ohio. Martha had two brothers, Donald Jr. and Bruce. After the family moved to Richmond, Va., Martha enrolled at Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) in Fredericksburg. There, she studied art under acclaimed painter Julien Binford and made enduring friendships. She graduated in 1973.

Two years later, Martha and a girlfriend made a 6,000-mile trek to California, traveling largely on back roads. She remained on the West Coast for several years, completing a master of arts degree from Goddard College.

Returning to Virginia in the mid-1980s, Martha worked with several public interest groups, including the Virginia Action Coalition and Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) of Virginia. At a contra folk dance in October 1988, she met her future husband, Gary Janak. They married on January 1, 1989.

Martha taught art for several years at Battlefield Park Elementary School in Hanover County, leaving after son Isaac was born in July 1990. A decade later, as her son was approaching middle school, Martha gathered a group of like-minded parents, and Seven Hills School, an independent middle school for boys in Richmond, was formed. The school, where she later taught art, continues to flourish. For several years in the late 1990s, Martha managed the Art Studio at the Children’s Museum of Richmond.

An attender at Richmond Meeting beginning in the 1980s, Martha served on the Religious Education Committee from 1996 to 2003. She became a member of the meeting in 2005. From 2007 to 2009, she participated on the Care and Counsel Committee, serving as co-clerk. Other assignments included the Newsletter Mailing, Library, and Spring Retreat Committees. Around 1996, she served on the planning committee for the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Quaker Women’s Retreat. In 2017, she and Gary led a workshop at the spring retreat on making whirligigs and pinwheels. For many years, Martha was an active member of the Quaker quilters, freely sharing her knowledge of color and design.

After Martha’s diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease in 2000, she and Gary proved to be a remarkable team in navigating that illness. Even as Martha’s health declined, she found joy in experiencing the Quaker qualities of love, kindness, and inclusion. With Gary’s devoted assistance, she continued to enjoy art, games, the Washington Nationals baseball team, and nature. For a time, they managed two cabins for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, of which they were members. Even as the illness reached its final stages, Martha would sometimes sit outside on the ground filling buckets with leaves and grasses, which they turned into poster art.

An artist whose wide-ranging interests included watercolor, pastels, pastel chalk, monotype, and fabric, Martha is remembered for a thoughtful, problem-solving nature; a sense of fun and adventure; an appreciation of nature, music, and children; and a deep capacity for friendship.

Martha was preceded in death by her parents, Donald and Dorothy Menk; and her eldest brother, Donald Jr. Menk (Martha). She is survived by her husband of 33 years, Gary Janak; one child, Isaac Janak (Carrie); two grandchildren; a brother, Bruce Menk (Martha); and several nieces, nephews, and cousins.

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