Martha Milligan Larsen

Published 10:11 pm Thursday, July 31, 2014

Martha Milligan Larsen, 94, a past resident of Oak Ridge, Tenn., died after a brief illness on Monday, July 7, 2014, at the wonderful medical facility of Willow Lane at Tryon Estates in Columbus, N.C. She was born Martha Evelyn Milligan on October 5, 1919 on a farm near Trenton, Tenn. Her father was Robert B. Milligan (1874-1957), and her mother’s maiden name was Mary (Mollie) Jackson Fox (1882-1934).

Martha was the youngest of six siblings: Etta Milligan Cole (1899-1997), Dee Milligan Quarles (1901-1999), Corinne Milligan Watt (1905-1993), and two other sisters, Mary Gay Milligan (1907-1908) and Robbie Lee Milligan (1911-1912), who died in infancy.

Martha began her education at the age of five, riding a horse three miles to Hickory Grove School. After graduating from Peabody High School in Trenton, Tenn., in 1937, she attended Milligan College near Johnson City, Tenn., for one year. Subsequently, she attended nursing school at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, La., graduating as a Registered Nurse in 1942. Afterward, she returned to her hometown as a public health nurse, and was an early pioneer of Home Birth Nursing in Gibson County, Tenn.

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Martha enlisted in the U.S. Army Nursing Corps in 1943, serving until 1946. In 1945 she met Herbert A. Larsen (1920-1992), an Army pilot returning to the U.S. after 50 B-26 missions in Africa and Italy. They were married on March 9, 1945, and both Herb and Martha attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., under the GI Bill.

Martha graduated from Vanderbilt with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1948. After Herb graduated from Vanderbilt Law School in 1951 he accepted a position with the Atomic Energy Commission, and they moved to Oak Ridge, Tenn. Martha worked for 5 years as Chief Nurse, Public Health Nursing, in Oak Ridge. Subsequently, she joined the Biology Division’s mammalian genetics program (the “Mouse House”), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where she worked for 27 years, retiring in 1984. While in Oak Ridge, she was an active member of The Chapel on the Hill, also known as the United Church, and was in many ways a trailblazer in public and mental health, women’s rights, and civil rights.

She moved to Tryon Estates, Columbus, N.C., in 1998, and loved to play golf year round, spending many winters in Ft. Myers, Fla. Throughout her life, Martha was highly sociable, developing lasting friendships through her wide-ranging activities, and she was quick with a quip in response to almost any situation.

She is survived by her son, James Milligan Larsen, his wife, Elizabeth Flitcraft Larsen, both of Dayton, Ohio, and her granddaughter, Kelsey Elizabeth Larsen, of Columbus, Ohio.

Following Martha’s wishes, she was cremated, and a celebration-of-life service will be held at 1 p.m. on August 16 at the Chapel on the Hill, 85 Kentucky Avenue, Oak Ridge, Tenn. 37830. A reception with the family will follow the service. In lieu of flowers, Martha requested that any donations be made to the Chapel on the Hill or to the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Nashville, Tenn.