Saying “Good-bye” to My Mother


When my mother died on May 12th,  DDR lost one of its strongest supporters.  Martha S. Heyman was a social worker at heart. She majored in sociology at Wellesley College, because she loved learning about people and hearing their stories. That is a trait I inherited from her. 

While she never received a social work degree, she spent a lifetime volunteering for and donating to social service organizations, helping those less fortunate than herself.  Whether it was counseling young mothers on how to dress for a job interview, improving the skills of disadvantaged minorities, or running a consumer hot-line for those encountering impediments to fixing leaky roofs or mechanically deficient cars, she was the ultimate advocate and philanthropist.  What a role model I had for starting DDR!

The most life-changing event for me in growing up with this “do-good” mother, was the day she came home with some completed vocational interest inventories.  At the adult day care center where she assisted, she was disturbed at the lack of activities available to the residents.  She had decided to poll them and brought the tests home for me to help her tabulate.  Her goal was to initiate some activities based on the interests of those attending the center. 

What fun I had helping her score and tally the results! At age 12, I was very impressionable. This, I decided was what I wanted to do for my life’s work!  Later, as a junior in high school, I plowed though college catalogs for hours (no Google then!) searching for a place to train.  Simmons College in Boston offered a double major in psychology and mathematics, preparing its graduates for careers as psychometrists.  Perfect!  Much to my mother’s dismay, I rejected her alma mater in favor of a non-liberal arts education.

After 30 years of diagnostic testing, founding DDR was a natural. While somewhat skeptical that I could run a non-profit, my mother was supportive financially and personally.  Every year for the past 15, she gave a significant donation, which allowed me to carry on the social service work that she so dearly loved.  Furthermore, because I needed additional education to run an organization, she encouraged and underwrote my masters in business.  She was so proud to attend graduation ceremonies when I received my degree at age 50.

My mother was continuously distraught that neither my brother nor I had a “real” job. For her that meant getting paid a “real” salary, and getting “real” benefits, such as health insurance. At the same time she clipped job announcements from the classified, and networked us with potential employers, she also bragged that although neither of her children was gainfully employed, that we both were making the world a better place. 

While my brother and I caused her a great deal of worry, my granddaughter Penelope brought her nothing but pleasure and pride.  I wish she could have seen this amazing three-year-old march up to her casket, describe a painting she made for her GG (for great grandmother), and then sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat!”  The painting depicting the two of them (with hearts “because I loved her”), flowers and a butterfly is at the top of this blog.

Life was a painful place for Martha Heyman.  She felt others’ pain profoundly, and somaticized it as her own.  Hopefully, she is now in a better place, free of pain.  Today, I am eternally grateful to her for all the legacies she left, including DDR.  Without her generosity, this organization simply could not have existed. 

Rest in peace, mom.


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