Martha A. Atherton

Our Marty Atherton

A Special Person Remembered & A Beautiful Life Honored

July 4, 1928 – October 11, 2020

AWIU Member for Over 3 Decades

Martha Atherton’s own life story, one of joys and sorrows and vast, enriching experiences made her an excellent Ambassador for women’s rights and human rights for many decades. So many have inherited the spirit of doing what one can to change women’s world, no, to change everyone’s world, from Martha Atherton. Marty’s journey became one for generations of women to witness; she mentored, she inspired, she led with grace, she opened herself to encounters with countless women in countries everywhere and she smiled…always.

Marty Atherton, often with her husband Bob at her side, made the mission of AWIU “to build bridges of understanding” her mission. The Athertons subscribed to a world view, one that was inclusive and visionary and kind. And, of course, there was humor. Bob Atherton attended so many AWIU events that Marty, with a twinkle in her eye, proclaimed him “Head of AWIU Men’s Auxiliary”. How we will miss Martha Atherton, but her legacy will remain. Her influence on this organization is actually incalculable.

We will miss her beautiful smile

Marty Atherton’s philosophy of contributing to international understanding through her personal, professional and collegial relationships and of “paying it forward” drives much of our AWIU mission today. As our organization continues to move forward and continues to close the gap between cultures and continues to encourage social understanding and continues to encourage religious tolerance, Marty remains a part of who we are collectively and who we are as individuals.

Video Interview With Martha Atherton

Martha Atherton

Recipenient of the 2008 Bernice Behrens Founder’s Award

Marty led many AWIU delegations to Italy, China, and Iceland. She has also participated in delegations to Saudi Arabia and Mexico, Japan, Libya, and has hosted grantees from India, Russia, China, Lithuania, Mongolia, and Israel.

Page 4 – AWIU’s 40th Anniversary Women of Courage Gala

The Bernice Behrens’s Founder’s Award Thank you so much for this opportunity to express my gratefulness for the shared experience many of us have had on this our journey with AWIU.

We current members of American Women for International Understanding are deeply appreciative of those who have preceded us. We have heard the stories Bernice Behrens, our founder, and of the early visits to the U.S.S.R. and China. Scores of AWIU women labored for many years in building relationships that have been the hallmarks of our AWIU efforts. I have been one of the lucky ones who has known Bernice Behrens, Bernice Hemphill, Pat Hutar, Marianne Alireza, Mary Ripley, Ethelda Singer and a host of others. They have opened the doors for many of us members to gain an enhanced understanding and appreciation of the struggle for progress amongst women throughout the world. From them we have also inherited the spirit of doing what we can to contribute to this cause.

It would be wonderful if they could be here with us this evening to enjoy another peak experience in the honoring of our eight guests, The Women of Courage Awardees. Another woman with whom I walked about 58 ago was Eleanor Roosevelt. I was fortunate to be among a group of university students that took her on tour of our campus at Indiana University. I can’t recall what we all were talking about but the vision of our walk is still ingrained in me. We students had been considerably involved in learning about the United Nations and human rights during our formative teenage years, and to walk with her was unforgettable. I feel certain that our guests will cherish their visit to Washington, D.C., and I trust that they too, will have many decades in which to see their dreams come to fruition and to be able to enjoy the journey. Following them will be more generations of young women who will remember these women of courage for their inspiration and leadership. Again, thank you women of AWIU for giving me this memorable recognition, and know that I enjoy walking the walk, and talking the talk with you, along with all the encounters I have had with well motivated women and men in many countries. And, Bernice Behrens, thanks for being so kind to me. I treasure remembering you.

Martha and Bob Atherton

The photo is of Marty and Bob Atherton. Martha (Marty) Atherton of Palatine, Illinois is the Grant Chairperson for AWIU. She was the AWIU President prior to Judy Hill. For 18 years she assisted Pat Hutar, Chairperson of the AWIU’s Chicago Chapter.

Bob and Marty recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. The Athertons were of like mind when they met and set their course for goals in life. With Marty’s degree in accounting and Bob’s in foreign trade, they have been able to travel the world, whether for business or pleasure. Marty has served on the local economic development commission, and was the first woman president of the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce and Industry . She was a founder of the local Sister Cities International organization, and a founder and first president of the Illinois State Chapter of Sister Cities International.

Marty desires that more women have the same freedoms of association, to be able to blend the roles of wife, mother, co- worker, volunteer, to see the world, to hear the stories of fruition and satisfaction, and to cope with the challenges, the sorrows, that cause them to live life with more depth. As a member of AWIU, Marty has benefited and appreciated the shared stories of all the women, and many men who are supportive of these women as they reach out, hands extending across the world to their “sisters”.

It was taken recently at the office of the industrial machine tool business, Raco Industrial Corporation, which Bob founded in 1953 in Chicago, Illinois. They have celebrated 50 years of marriage during which they have traveled through a great deal of the world.

Marty has led AWIU delegations to Italy, China, and Iceland. She has also participated in delegations to Saudi Arabia and Mexico, and has hosted grantees from India, Russia, China, Lithuania, Mongolia, and Israel.

Marty desires that more women have the same freedoms of association, to be able to blend the roles of wife, mother, coworker, volunteer, to see the world, to hear the stories of fruition and satisfaction, and to cope with the challenges, the sorrows, that cause them to live life with more depth. As a member of AWIU, Marty has benefited and appreciated the shared stories of all the women, and many men who are supportive of these women as they reach out, hands extending across the world to their “sisters”.

Bernice Behrens Founder’s Award
Awarded to an AWIU member for outstanding service and leadership towards international understanding

Martha Atherton

On this occasion of AWIU’s 40th Anniversary, we proudly recognized one of our own this evening. Martha Atherton of Palatine, Illinois is a Past President and the current Chairperson of the Grant Committee. Martha’s long and rich history with AWIU includes eighteen years of leadership in the Chicago chapter with Chairperson Patricia Hutar. Martha was the first woman President of the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce and Industry and served on the economic development commission. Martha was a founder of the Des Plaines Chapter of Sister Cities international and was the first President of the Illinois State Chapter of Sister Cities International.

Martha has led three A WIU delegations ~ to Italy, China and Iceland. She has participated in delegations to Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Martha and her husband, Bob, have hosted delegates and grantees from India, Russia, China, Lithuania, Mongolia and Israel. The Atherton’s continue to maintain and nurture relationships with people around the globe. Bob is pictured with a plaque upon which a sacred (Tambua) Tabua, whale’s tooth, is mounted. The people of the Village of Naiuva, Fiji presented the Atherton’s with the gift in 1988. It was a thank you for facilitating the building of a school and providing educational and medical supplies for the village. Martha credits her friend, Pat McAlister, a Peace Corps nurse, for introducing her to the village. Martha has observed and considered the issues of women’s rights and human rights for all decades. She continues to work toward a goal where all women will have the freedom of association and the opportunity to blend the role of wife, mother, co-worker and volunteer. She has truly been a leader for women’s rights for all generations.

Thank you so much for this opportunity to express my gratefulness for the shared experience many of us have had on this our journey with AWIU.

We current members of American women for International Understanding are deeply appreciative of those who have preceded us. We have heard the stories Bernice Behrens, our founder, and of the early visits to the U.S.S.R. and China. Scores of AWIU women labored for many years in building relationships that have been the hallmarks of our AWIU efforts. I have been one of the lucky ones who have known Bernice Behrens, Bernice Hemphill, Pat Hutar, Marianne Alireza, Mary Ripley, Ethelda Singer and a host of others. They have opened the doors for many of us to gain an enhanced understanding and appreciation of the struggle for progress amongst women throughout the world. From them we have also inherited the spirit of doing what we can to contribute to this cause. It would be wonderful if they could be here with us this evening to enjoy another peak experience in the honoring of our eight guests, The Women of Courage Awardees.

Another woman with whom I walked with about 58  years ago was Eleanor Roosevelt. I was fortunate to be among a group of university students that took her on tour of our campus at Indiana University. I can’t recall what we all were talking about but the vision of our walk is still ingrained in me. We students had been considerably involved in learning about the United Nations and human rights during our formative teenage years, and to walk with her was unforgettable.

I feel certain that our guests will cherish their visit to Washington, D.C., and I trust that they too, will have many decades in which to see their dreams come to fruition and to be able to enjoy the journey. Following them will be more generations of young women who will remember these women of courage for their inspiration and leadership. Again, thank you, women of AWIU, for giving me this memorable recognition, and know that I enjoy walking the walk, and talking the talk with you, along with all the encounters I have had with well motivated women and men in many countries. And, Bernice Behrens, thanks for being so kind to me. I treasure remembering you.