Letters & Stories
Merle Honor Marshall Marten – Dec/Jan 2004/05 Issue
Merle Marten was a most wonderful and gracious lady; a lady of style, a lady of substance. She was also a lady of great intellect and artistic ability, committed to the public good of community service and with a real interest in the world of politics, its philosophy, its strategies, its outcomes and its overall coherence and integrity. Merle’s interest in politics was not party partisan. It focused on individual attributes and personal strengths of people prepared to serve for the public good for the right reason in the right way and for the right results. If anyone could suss out the integrity and geniuses of individuals, it was Merle. Merle grew up in Semaphore and was educated at Le Fevre Primary School, Adelaide Technical High School and the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts. She began her working life as a commercial artist in advertising and copy-writing. She was private secretary to three mayors and two town clerks of the City of Port Adelaide. There is no doubt that these experiences hone her grassroots political skills and Merle had the political “smarts” like no other woman I have ever met.
In the private sector, she was private secretary to the state manager of Sims Metal and part-owner and director of Poly Products. During World Was II, she joined General Motors at Woodville and worked in the engineering drawing room, on Beaufort Bombers and antiaircraft guns. Towards the end of the war, Merle was transferred to the Art and Colour Section and worked on the original Australian mass-produced motor vehicle, the Holden. In 1946, Merle married Squadron Leader H.C. Roy Marten, later to become a long service mayor of Port Adelaide. For the City of Port Adelaide, Merle addressed the Queen in February 1963, and in 1981, visited Buckingham Palace where Roy was awarded the CBE. Merle had serious sporting interests, representing SA in cricket from 1935 to 1937. She played netball, tennis, badminton, golf, and raced speedboats. For many, she was best known as Mayoress of the City of Port Adelaide for 18 years from 1969 to 1987. Merle Marten was awarded the Order of St John Australia in 1991 and the Order of Australia Medal (OAM), in 1997. She also received the Australian Centenary Medal in 2001.
Merle’s dedication to the City of Pori: Adelaide included 30 years in the Port Adelaide Nursing Division of St John and 15 years in the Port Adelaide Women’s Service Organisation. She also worked with Ottoway and Rosewater Senior Citizens Club, the Animal Welfare League, Port Adelaide Caledonian Society, Le Fevre and Port Adelaide Community Hospital, Port Adelaide Historical Society, the Royal Society of the Blind, Largs Bay RSL, Adelaide Speed boat Club and the then Crippled Children’s Association. In Sport, she was a member of The Cruising Yacht Club of SA, Grange Gold Club, Port Adelaide Magpies Football Club and a foundation member and legend member of the Port Adelaide Football Club, the Power. The breadth of Merle’s involvement over many years is overwhelming. But her most impressive attribute was her balance between public and private good and her belief that you cannot have one without the other. Merle Marten was truly a remarkable woman.