Senior in Action – Martha “Marty” Bunch

Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen
Former County of LA Public Library Administrator is having the time of her life as a retiree; meeting fascinating people who are active seniors, and volunteering for Soroptimist International of Norwalk and other women’s groups.

Senior in Action – 
Martha “Marty” Bunch

By Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen

Marty Bunch, age 78, loved making “art” as a toddler.  Her school principal thought her drawings in kindergarten were extraordinary, and her parents often terrified her by asking that she draw pictures on the spur of the moment. Marty drew portraits of her favorite movie and TV stars to mail to them. She and her family were often invited on the TV or movie sets to meet the idols. Marty treasures the thank you letter she received on official royal stationary from Queen Elizabeth after she sent her a drawing.

Marty continued, “When I was 12 years old, Vice President Richard M. Nixon was speaking at an elementary school in Artesia, and classes were bused in from area schools.  I grew bored listening to the speeches, so I started to draw Nixon.  Two Secret Service men pulled me from the bleachers.  On national television, they showed my drawing to Nixon and he signed it, then returned it to me.  My presidential portrait and I were featured on Walter Cronkite’s news program that evening.  My father was SO proud!”

Next, Marty won a Captain Jet cartoon contest with her essay: I Want To Be An Artist When I Grow Up citing all the people she met from drawing.  Besides the home furnishings (including a washer and dryer!) in the contest prize package, Marty earned a cameo spot on the Captain Jet show.  The actor Dallas McKinnon who played Captain Jet championed Marty’s artistic talent at Disney studios, earning her the opportunity to be an Honorary Mouseketeer. Disney offered Marty a free college education if she would agree to work for Walt Disney Studios for five years after graduation.

By this time, Marty was in love with her future husband, Ray Bunch, who said, “No wife of mine will ever work.” Against her parents’ wishes, Marty turned down the Disney scholarship and became Mrs. Bunch.  She raised two sons, Karl and Kristopher.  Marty reminisced, “I was terrified to draw when my children were growing up, as I feared some accident might happen if I became too engrossed in my art.  I didn’t return to drawing until age 30, when a counselor at Cerritos College encouraged me to enroll.  After my Associates Degree, I transferred to CSU Long Beach on a one-year scholarship.  There were 1200  applicants vying for 8 art department openings and happily for me,  my portfolio was chosen.”  Marty graduated in the top 5% of her class.

In 1987, her daughter-in-law Ingrid dragged her to LA and insisted that Marty file all the documents to start her own business.  Marty has managed her graphic arts business for 30 years and counting.  She has taken on fascinating projects, working for many artists and designing websites.  Currently, she and her husband produce a digital monthly magazine for Centers for Spiritual Living, headquartered in Golden, CO.    Marty does graphic artwork for churches all over the world, illustrates books, and paints portraits.  “That’s how I keep my mind active.  I had to learn some coding, a foreign language to me and how to build a new app from scratch.  I’m well-versed in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.  It’s a glorious time to be alive as a Senior.  The capabilities of technology are incredible.  I taught art to all six of my grandchildren, and my granddaughter Kassandra recently shared her art portfolio with me via Facetime from her smartphone to my tablet.  It was magic!”

Marty continued, “Four years ago, I had a pulmonary embolism which almost killed me.   Ray does all the cooking now.  He’s taken over the household chores.  If I focus on what I CAN’T do, it’s dangerous.  I focus on what I CAN do.  My husband and I walk every night, seven days a week.  I use a walker, and we listen to bloody mystery stories in our headphones, which keeps my mind off the pain.  I maintain a membership at Curves.  The strength training machines are gentle enough, for me.  My friends at Curves call me the ‘purple lady.’  Why purple?  Jenny Joseph’s poem, Warning, written in 1921 includes the famous line, ‘When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple, with a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.’  When it was written, purple was a scandalous color, and people were supposed to blend in.  I love having purple hair, and wearing purple clothes.  It makes me feel young and exciting, not invisible.” 

Learn more at  NBY salutes Marty’s indomitable spirit, and encourages our readers to brush up their computer or smartphone skills by taking a class at your local library or adult school.

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