Martha Melcher to receive Musgrove Evans Award

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Martha Melcher at CAT headquarters in Smith Park. Photo by Jim Lincoln.

One of Tecumseh’s preeminent counselors, educators, and patrons of the arts, Martha Melcher, has been named the 24th recipient of Tecumseh’s Musgrove Evans Award, the city’s highest honor. The award is administered through the Tecumseh Area Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber director Vicki Philo, who helped coordinate the selection process, said, “Martha was selected from a group of highly qualified nominees for her endless work in the Tecumseh community. One nominator wrote, ‘Martha has been so active in many areas, from the schools, to the arts, to music, to health, and more.’” The observation was typical of many responses to the selection of Melcher for the honor.

Martha was typically humble about the nomination. “I was surprised and honored when they gave me the news,” she said. “I can’t believe that I was selected.”

In her career in counseling and teaching, she has touched the lives of many area youth. She was a counselor at Adrian High School from 1989 to 1999, during which time she was named Lenawee Counselor of the Year (1995) by the Lenawee County Counselors Association. In 1997 she was awarded the Michigan Counselor of the Year.

While pursuing her career as counselor, she and husband Cal Poppink, who served the Lenawee Intermediate School District as assistant superintendent of general education and personnel, raised two sons, Kevin and Andrew.

Cal passed away in 1989 from multiple myeloma, while Martha was teaching at Adrian College. She married Joe Melcher in 1993, and Joe’s children Katie and Scott were welcomed into the blended family. Since then, the children have grown up, married, and brought grandchildren into the family.

Besides career and family, Martha has found time to serve the community as a volunteer and also was instrumental in helping to found several enduring institutions, including her latest collaboration with Jean Lash establishing Community Arts of Tecumseh (CAT) in 2009. CAT is a nonprofit arts education program headquartered in Smith Park which provides instruction in a wide range of visual, physical, and literary arts to young and old.

Melcher has been a passionate supporter of the arts all her life. Her musical ability is amply demonstrated when she brings her bow to her cello as she did for 30 years with the Tecumseh Pops Orchestra and the Tecumseh Pops String Quartet, along with her longtime friend Elizabeth Wilson. After Wilson’s death, Martha and other musicians and community members got behind Theresa Powers to help get the string program in Tecumseh Public Schools off the ground and flying.

Her credits for co-founding institutions go back much further than that, however, beginning with Little Indian Preschool in 1972. Martha and six other mothers saw the need for a different kind of learning environment that was more than baby sitting. They based the organization of Little Indian Preschool on a cooperative arrangement, whereby a parent would volunteer time to help the preschool’s teacher. The school is still active in the same location 40 years later.

In her capacity as a counselor, Martha saw the need for positive, character-building activities for area youth. With the help of local police, a judge, the Rotary, and Adrian Public Schools, she helped to assemble a coalition and board of directors to begin a Big Brothers/Big Sisters (BBBS) chapter, serving as president for 10 years. After 12 years, BBBS merged with Boys and Girls Club.

If these accomplishments were not enough in themselves, while she was busy with them, she also:

• was a Herrick Medical Center Foundation board member for 18 years

• was chairperson of the Herrick Medical Center Pro-Am Committee

• helped found and direct Graze To Raise

• was on the Croswell Opera House board for six years

• was a board member of the Tecumseh Schools Foundation for six years

• has been a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Tecumseh for 42 years and served as a member of session and deacon

• is serving her second term as a board member of Lenawee County Schools Foundation

Melcher does not dwell on the negative things in life, but there have been many in hers, such as cancer, which not only claimed the life of her husband Cal, but affected her personally in the form of thyroid cancer, which was diagnosed in 1983. Husband Joe was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010 and a month later Martha was told she had breast cancer. While battling that disease, she was told that her thyroid cancer had returned last year. As has been her pattern in life, she turned her misfortune into something positive by helping other cancer patients as she was helped previously in her times of need.

She developed a blog: marthamelcher.blogspot.com to communicate with friends, family, and fellow patients and form a network of care and information about facing cancer. One of her favorite axioms, she said, is, “Trouble is inevitable, but misery is optional.”




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