Columnists

Remembering Martha Gascho

(The Times photo courtesy of Betsy Reason)
Martha Gascho sings on the front row of the soprano section of Noblesville First United Methodist Church’s choir during a rehearsal for a previous holiday concert.

Noblesville Native,
Longtime Attorney
Was Among Few
Practicing Females
in the Early Days

A step into downtown Noblesville attorney Martha Gascho’s office was a step back in time.

A place where a film crew could have made a period movie. A place where Martha worked diligently at her desk and met with clients who needed a will or other estate planning. And a place where her mother, the late Eunice Gascho, helped out with filing, answering the phone and greeting clients until her early 90s, and her father also helped in the earlier days.

(Photo courtesy of the Gascho family)
Martha Gascho, a Noblesville native and 1954 Noblesville High School graduate who has had a law firm on Conner Street on the Square in downtown Noblesville for more than 40 years, passed away on Aug. 29, and her funeral services are today.

Martha Barbara Gascho, a Noblesville native, a 1954 Noblesville High School graduate and lifelong Noblesville resident — who was an attorney on the south side of the Hamilton County Courthouse Square for more than 40 years — passed away on Monday, Aug. 29. She was 86.

She was born July 12, 1936, in Noblesville, the daughter of Clarence and Eunice (Whitmore) Gascho.

Linda Ham of Indianapolis and Susan Martin of northern Virginia remember their eldest sister as often having her nose in a book as a child.

Martha and her father often discussed local history over dinner. The sisters also remember that Martha took music lessons and they enjoyed listening to her sing and play the piano at home and at piano recitals. Later on, Martha taught piano lessons to local children and played the pipe organ at church. They said this love of music stayed with her throughout her life, as Martha sang in the choir for many years at Noblesville First United Methodist Church. “Her love of music may have been inspired by her mother and father, who met at a dance where her father’s father played the fiddle. Eunice loved music and dancing as did Clarence, who played the clarinet,” Linda said.

Jeff Wright, Noblesville First UMC’s choir director, said, “While I didn’t have many personal conversations with Martha, I remember her as a faithful choir member who always entered the Choir Room quietly and took her seat on the front row of the soprano section without drawing attention to herself. She was reliable and faithful in her own quiet way. I remember her as being cordial and easy to talk with, and always professional in her attire and her personal manner. We will miss her sweet voice and her quiet presence.”

Besides music, Martha liked spending time in nature. She’d plan her mowing to avoid wildflower patches to help them grow and spread and cared about preserving wildlife habitats and conserving natural resources. The family has lots of great memories of Martha hosting family gatherings around her backyard fire pit to roast hot dogs, make s’mores and enjoy the outdoors, Linda said.

Martha’s sisters fondly recall the family’s small backyard farm where they helped tend to vegetables and fruit trees along with the family cow and chickens, and later sheep. The sisters all participated in 4-H and remember doing lots of sewing and baking to prepare their 4-H Fair entries.

After graduating high school as valedictorian of her class, Martha kept in touch with members of her class and enjoyed attending reunions. She graduated from Butler University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1958 and a master’s degree in English in 1962 and was a member of Alpha Chi Omega social sorority and Pi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest, largest and most selective honor society.

Martha had a great love of literature growing up and throughout her life.

(Newspaper article courtesy of the Gascho family)
Martha Gascho, who was one of only 70 females among 900 students in Indiana University law school, went to work for Webb & Webb law firm in Noblesville, and at age 37 was featured in a Noblesville Ledger newspaper article on Nov. 10, 1973.

One of Martha’s favorite authors was Jean Stratton-Porter, and Martha was able to meet and interview her in Maine as part of researching her master’s thesis on Indiana authors.

Linda said Martha, who liked to discuss history and law with their dad, started studying for her law degree at Indiana University’s Indianapolis campus part time, mostly in the evenings and during summer months, while working as a high school English teacher at Arsenal Technical High School, where she worked for 12 years in Indianapolis, until 1971, when she finished up the rest of her coursework as a full-time student. Martha had always thought about the legal profession but waited to start college until she could pay her own way, realizing the hardship that financing seven years of schooling might present to her parents, who had two other college-age daughters.

While studying law, Martha was one of only 70 females among 900 students at the law school. She went on to work for Webb & Webb (Robert S. Webb and his wife Irene Webb) law firm in Noblesville, where she did research and worked on estates. A Noblesville Ledger newspaper article on Nov. 10, 1973, featured Martha, who was new to the law firm’s office. “I want to be accepted as a good attorney, not just as a woman attorney,” the then 37-year-old said in the article. “Women lawyers may be able to better understand the problems of women clients ….” She also talked about her transition from teaching to studying law. “I enjoyed teaching, but I decided I didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life,” she told the Ledger.

Martha purchased and remodeled a downtown Noblesville building on the south side of the Square, in the late 1970s. The “Trieste” building was in the “Trieste Block,” according to Hamilton County historian David Heighway, who went on to provide more history. The building is pre-gas boom and even pre-1870s and “there are just a few other buildings that fall in that grouping,” he said. (The building was constructed in 1869 by Auguste Trieste and operated as a bakery and confectionery until his death in 1889. The family owned the building until 1905 and was leased by W. Vance as the Big 5 Grocery in 1889. Leonard Wild and John Bart took over in 1891 and operated the grocery until the partnership dissolved in 1893. The building was also occupied by the Noblesville Heat, Light and Power Co. until 1915. The Model Restaurant moved in, then left in 1920 when Hadley and Coaltrin Undertakers became the tenants, then Onermeyer & Howe Undertaking took over until 1926 when it became the Electric Shop operated by Ray Harvey, then optometrist John Hodge opened his business in 1945. The building became a series of clothing shops: Collegiate Shop in 1950, R.S. Weil Clothing in 1959 and Partlow’s Ltd., in 1975. The building went up for sale in 1978, according to Heighway, and remained on the market until Martha bought it and moved her office there more than 40 years ago.)

(Photo courtesy of Martha Gascho’s family)
Martha Gascho as a child growing up in Noblesville.

An announcement in the Feb. 3, 1981, Noblesville Ledger reported that Martha, who had seven years of practicing law, had moved her office (on Dec. 31, 1980) after formerly with Webb and Webb, then with Webb, Webb, Adler and Gascho.

She operated her law office there on the entire first floor of the building at 841 Conner St. The second floor of the building was vacant; the exterior stairway that was once located on the side of the building in the alley, was removed years ago, and the building’s windows facing the alley were covered. Martha’s building is adjacent to the refurbished brick alley that features a bench and access to public restrooms located in the City of Noblesville-owned building that houses Nickel Plate’s NobleMade Gift Shop and Noblesville Main Street upstairs.

Martha opened her law firm in that location on Conner Street in 1980, according to her short biography on Page 165 of the 2019 Polk Street Review, a book that celebrates Noblesville with original prose, poetry, artwork and song. The book featured Noblesville artist Lesley Haflich’s 2017 “Women of Noblesville” portrait-painting exhibit and bios from the community exhibit.

Martha agreed to be painted after the artist approached her. “I thought she had an interesting face, and I thought she would be one to paint,” Haflich told The Times in 2017 after she noticed Martha around downtown Noblesville eating lunch at the same restaurants. She found Martha to be interesting and introduced herself to her. “It intrigued me to hear her story.”

Martha continued to work at her practice up until her death, due to heart issues, and focused on estate and tax law. “Helping others through her practice was an important part of her life,” Linda said.

Martha, who never married or had children, was a devoted daughter and lived in the house she grew up in with her mom and dad and took care of them through their old age. Her mom, who passed in 2008, lived to be 96. Her father passed away in 1990, at age 93.

She spent a lot of quality time with her sisters’ children, and they have fond memories of Martha reading old books to them, like “Mick and Mac,” “The Teeny Weenies” and “The Wind in the Willows,” Linda said. They remember Martha taking them on nature walks in the woods around the family home, playing board and card games, like “Uranium Rush,” “Go to the Head of the Class,” “Uncle Wiggly,” “Flinch,” “Pit” and “Uno.” They remember hearing her stories about Noblesville and family history.

What else? Martha loved convertibles and owned one and would take her family on fun drives with the top down. She also loved watching old movies and westerns. And she had a great love for her hometown.

“She enjoyed being a part of the downtown Noblesville community and supporting it by shopping and dining downtown,” Linda said. “Family members have lots of memories of eating out downtown with Martha.”

She loved walking to the Corner Drug and to The Uptown Cafe (where she would work on her crossword puzzles), Matteo’s Ristorante Italiano, The Hamilton Restaurant, Alexander’s on the Square, all downtown. She also enjoyed dining at Jim Dandy and Ginger’s Cafe, both not far from downtown but places where she loved to dine.

Mikki Perrine, owner of Ginger’s, called her a “sweet lady who always had a smile on her face. She was always the most pleasant, well-dressed woman who was probably ahead of her time. She enjoyed her scrambled eggs, bacon and white toast and would occasionally take an individual freezer meal home for dinner. She was a simple woman who you enjoyed waiting on.”

Perrine recalled after a snowfall last winter, she noticed that Martha’s driveway was completely shut off and worried that she would try to shovel it out herself. When Mikki offered to drop off groceries, Martha replied that she had already stocked up before the storm and thanked Mikki for checking in on her.

Just before The Hamilton closed permanently, Martha told The Times that she would miss the restaurant’s Hummingbird Cake, salmon plate and chicken sandwiches. She would walk up to The Hamilton about once a week.

Linda said they have lots of memories of eating out downtown with Martha, including cake at The Hamilton, sandwiches and Coca-Cola at the Uptown and ice cream cones at Alexander’s (on hot days), and at the Jim Dandy.

Martha was old-school in that she continued to use a typewriter and paper until she was required to change over to a computer to do estate and tax law.

Martha also attended literary society meetings and was a member of American Association of University Women (AAUW). She researched and shared family history and was considered the family’s historian. She also served on the local cemetery commission.

Martha was a more than 50-year-member of the local Horseshoe Prairie chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, of which she was among the founding members, said Sharon McMahon, a DAR historian and past honorary regent.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. today (Wednesday, Sept 7, 2022) with visitation beginning at 10:30 a.m. at Randall & Roberts Funeral Home on Logan Street in Noblesville, with burial to follow at Crownland Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Hamilton County Historical Society, which she worked to restart, for which she was a member and former president.

Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com. Read Martha Gascho’s obituary republished in today’s edition of The Times.