Age 76 Died on May 12, 2022, peacefully at home after courageously battling non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver for many years. On Mother’s Day weekend, Martha celebrated her wonderful motherhood with “immense love” for and from her husband of 42 years Bruce Beneke, her sons Dr. David Gubbrud (Jodi) and Will Beneke-Eaves; grandchildren Sam, Jon (Cortney), and Ellie. She and Bruce had a stillborn son, Matthew, and a grandchild Joe, who along with her mother Helen “Mopsy” Eaves, her father “Bill,” and her brother” Chuck,” all preceded her in death. Martha is also survived by sisters Linda (Lawrence) Flanagan and May Jane (Dr. Jerry Raich) and several nephews and a niece. Martha was born in Omaha, NE on November 5, 1945. A graduate of Washington HS in Sioux Falls SD (second in her class and school paper editor) she received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from South Dakota State University in 1967. Martha taught high school in Volga SD and Edina MN, but her passion for equal justice led her to law school. She received her juris doctor degree from the University of Minnesota in 1976. Martha joined Southern MN Regional Legal Services in 1976. She represented with great distinction thousands of low-income persons on a wide variety of public benefits and services and family law matters, during her 37-year career with SMRLS. The chief judge of the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that Martha’s successful oral argument on behalf of a class of thousands of disabled persons, including veterans, was the most moving and most persuasive argument he had ever heard. Martha created the nation’s first homeless legal aid project (Hope). She argued successfully in several Minnesota Supreme Court and federal court cases, clarifying new law to the benefit of thousands of unemployment compensation, MFIP, social security disability, health care, refugees and food stamp recipients and conducted hundreds of successful hearings for SMRLS clients. Martha was also an adjunct professor of law at Hamline Law School teaching poverty law, and was a speaker at numerous continuing legal education trainings. She also mentored many new legal aid and volunteer attorneys. Martha was well respected by clients, lawyers, and judges for her wonderful compassion and kindness, as well as her toughness, great intellect, and powerful advocacy/teaching skills, while always maintaining a deep respect for clients and others in our justice system. For her legal services and her outstanding community/ client education work (including co-founding, “Sister to Sister,” a client empowerment group), Martha was honored many times, including the United Way of St. Paul’s Professional of the Year award, and the Bernard Becker award honoring the state’s outstanding legal aid attorneys. Martha’s generous and creative spirit also found a home in quilting. Self-taught, she made well over a hundred beautiful quilts, wall hangings and other pieces which she gave away to newborns, families in need, and friends and family to honor special occasions. At Unity Church- Unitarian, Martha co-founded the Evergreen Quilters to raise funds for women shelters and food banks. She also co-founded the Golden Thyme Quilters who participate in the annual “Jazz Fest,” mentoring many newer quilters in her “garage turned quilt studio,” and was the President of the Minnesota Quilters (MQ) Association. Martha loved and fully embraced the role of grandmother. For many years on “grandchild Tuesdays” she would take her 4 grandchildren on adventures and activities to their and her delight much like her mother “Mopsy” did with Martha’s sons. Her grandchildren remember these as some of the best days of their childhood. She also loved to travel with her family to both coasts and Canada in search of quilting shows and stores, football, basketball or minor league clinics or games, (for her St. Paul Central coaching and college playing family), dinosaurs, hall of fame, history or art museums, and for cross country skiing. Martha was a true champion of justice! She lived a full, loving and beautiful life and will always live in our hearts. Her Memorial and celebration of life service will be held at Unity Church-Unitarian, 733 Portland Ave. St. Paul, MN 5104 on June 16,2022 at 3 pm. The service can also be viewed via livestream at: https://youtu.be/cU S4ILxms. In lieu of flowers please donate to either MQ, SMRLS or Unity Church.
Published by Pioneer Press on May 29, 2022.