Martha Gilmore Parfet, age 91 of Gull Lake (Hickory Corners), MI passed away on Monday, February 20, 2017 at her home in Hickory Corners, Michigan, following a brief illness. She was surrounded by her family. Martha was born on October 1st, 1925, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She was the youngest daughter of Donald and Genevieve Upjohn Gilmore, and the granddaughter of Upjohn Company founder W.E. Upjohn (Rachel), and Gilmore Brothers Department Store founder James F. Gilmore (Carrie). Martha was preceded in death by her husband, Ray T. "Ted" Parfet, Jr.; her sisters, Carol Boudeman and Jane Maloney; and grandson Kiley Johnson. Martha or Mart was an energetic and passionate woman with a diverse set of interests. She was deeply connected to the natural world with special interests in birds, water quality and all initiatives to preserve our precious environment. She was very committed to her family; always eager to encourage, nourish or discipline her children, nieces, nephews and their countless friends. She was also deeply involved in her community. Citizen Martha could easily envision progressive change and would motivate her friends and neighbors to join in her efforts to build a better community. Martha attended Western State Normal School (the "Training School") through the tenth grade. She graduated from Dana Hall Preparatory School in Wellesley, Massachusetts in 1944. Martha attended the University of Michigan until she withdrew to start her family. Summers at Gull Lake served as the backdrop for many happy occasions during Martha's childhood and adolescence. Surrounded by sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles, Martha ran barefoot and free. As a small child, she enjoyed building dams along the beach and hunting for turtles with her cousin Jim Gilmore As a teenager, she developed a passion for horses a passion she shared with her cousin Sue DeLano (Parish) and good friend Ted Parfet. For several weeks over the course of three summers, Martha and her pals visited a cattle ranch owned by friends of her parents in Birney, Montana. She travelled by train, making the journey West with her prized saddle. Martha treasured her time helping the ranchers and cowboys round up the cattle for branding, and forever regarded it as a highlight of her life. As WWII was coming to an end, Ted Parfet made a brief trip to Gull Lake to propose marriage to Martha. Throughout Ted's military service they had a practice of writing, each using the pseudonym "Frank" to underscore the very open and honest relationship they had developed. On October 6, 1945, "Frank and Frank" were married in Martha's family home on Short Road in Kalamazoo. Their marriage of 61 years was one of deep admiration, devotion and adventure. Their love for life was infectious to all who ever met them. A strong love for nature was instilled in Martha from a young age. In the early 1960s, Martha was asked by Dr. Lewis Batts to assist with the formation of what is now the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Martha was an active board member for over twenty years and took great pleasure in watching her children and grandchildren continue in service to the institution. She was an enthusiastic environmentalist and bird watcher. She never lost her ability to identify a bird from its call or markings. It was not unusual for Martha to reach for her binoculars in order to identify a bird she spied out the window of her Gull Lake home. In later years, she nurtured butterfly gardens and was committed to providing the milkweed necessary to ensure successful migration by the endangered monarch butterfly. Nature's gifts never ceased to delight her. As a child, Martha watched her parents and extended family participate in the community and serve on the boards of cultural and civic institutions. As an adult, Martha followed in their footsteps. She served several terms on the board of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, which was established in the early twentieth century with a seed grant from her maternal grandfather. In addition, she served on the boards of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and the W.E. Upjohn Institute, among others. For two decades, Martha ran the family department store, Gilmore Brothers, later Gilmore's, a responsibility that she was honored to assume from her uncle, Irving S. Gilmore, in 1984. It was during this period that she became an ardent supporter of downtown Kalamazoo. A member of the Downtown Development Authority during the 1980s and 1990s, she helped lead the redevelopment of the downtown business district. Martha was a longtime stalwart supporter of the Kalamazoo YWCA, and was one of their early Lifetime Women of Achievement Award winners. When Martha was in her eighties, her youngest child, Jane, interviewed her over the course of a week about her childhood memories. Reminiscing led to more reminiscing, and before long, Martha was not only writing about her own life, but researching and writing the stories of those who came before her. At the age of 89, and in a significant collaboration with Mary Corcoran, she published a family history and memoir, the title of which Keep the Quality Up pays homage to the motto coined by W.E. Upjohn during the early years of The Upjohn Company. During the course of editing her own life story, Martha assigned herself the task of toning down or striking completely the parts in which she reflected on what a wonderful life it had been, how lucky and fulfilled she felt her fear being that others would find it "corny." Martha's greatest joy was spending time with her family. She was Mom, Grandma, Grandma Mart, Aunt Mart and more. Martha will always be remembered by friends and family for her grace, kindness, and her generous and loving spirit. From beginning to end, she lived her life with relentless positivity and an excellent sense of humor. Martha is survived by her four children (in-laws): William (Barbara) Parfet, Sally Williams, Donald (Ann) Parfet, and Jane Parfet. Martha's surviving grandchildren (great-grandchildren) are Theodore Parfet (Alexander), Genevieve and Jay Gudebski (Taylor), Robert and Meredith Parfet (Morrison and Cortland), Emily Parfet (Jackson and Lillian), Sarah and Steve Jbara, Ryan Johnson and Martina Mullaney (Olivia, Gianna, and Vivian), Marian Nilsen (friend Glenn Melus), Steve and Ginger Lopez (Morgan, Matteo, and Boden), Sydney Parfet (Will and Charlie), and Rachel and Andrew Worgess (Elizabeth, Jake, Henry, and Charlotte). The Memorial Service to celebrate Martha's life will be held on Thursday, February 23rd at 11:00 a.m. at The Gilmore Car Museum, 6865 Hickory Road, Hickory Corners, MI 49060. All are welcome to attend and celebrate Martha's life and legacy. Martha's family will greet friends from on Wednesday, February 22nd from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. at the Farley Estes Dowdle Funeral Home & Cremation Care, Richland Chapel, 9170 East D Avenue (M-89). Private interment with her beloved husband, Ted will be held in Mountain Home Cemetery, Kalamazoo. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Martha's honor may be directed to the Kalamazoo Nature Center, 7000 N. Westnedge Avenue, Kalamazoo, MI 49009; the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, 314 S. Park Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49007 or the YWCA of Kalamazoo, 353 East Michigan Avenue, Kalamazoo, MI 49007. The family would like to thank Martha's companions, Cathy Rhodes, Tracee Osborne, Sue Paananen, Paige Stoneburner, and Cindy McNutt, for their endless compassion.