By Linda Haac
Martha “Marty” Mandell was one of the guardians of Carrboro’s sense of place and its commitment to environmental activism and social justice. With her indomitable spirit, she helped to shape the town that she called home for many decades.
Mandell will be remembered especially for her work to secure the Adams Preserve for future generations, a total of 27 acres of preserved forest in the middle of Carrboro. It was her hope, desire and drive as part of the Friends of Bolin Creek (FOBC) to secure the rest of the Bolin Creek corridor and its forest as a contiguous natural preserve. Most recently, she contributed her geological expertise to FOBC’s Conservation Committee as an emeritus member. As one friend said, Mandell loved to rave about the “knock-your-socks-off” geological features along the creek.
A longtime community activist, Mandell is described by friends and colleagues alike as a trailblazer, artist, nature lover, and determined organizer with a keen social conscience. She was active not only in Carrboro’s community politics but also in Orange County policymaking. Some 25 years ago, she alone organized Carrboro’s Solar Day with her usual exuberance. She served on the Carrboro 2020 Vision Committee in 2000 and on the Orange County Future Task Force in 2010. She supported Friends of the Orange County Library, the Mildred Council Community Dinner and the Carolina Farm Stewardship Alliance. She also was a member of the Chapel Hill Solar Roofs Committee.
Mandell worked to preserve the character of this area, to encourage sustainability, to expand needed services and to support its farmers. She was not afraid to “tell it like it is” despite her rather cultured Virginia accent. She had grown up in Virginia, was married for a few short years and was the first art teacher hired by the Orange County Schools. She also once operated a riding school in Maryland and fostered teenage girls. She was an alumna of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and had lived in her yellow house on Pine Street in Carrboro since 1956 when she purchased it. Not long ago, she could be seen driving around town in her old battered pickup truck.
Born Martha Jane Rogers, she was a lover of crossword puzzles, had an engaging smile and a quicksilver wit and was open to the world. She died Aug. 6 in her sleep at age 93. Her obituary can be found here.