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Martha Southerland Loftin

March 15, 1932 ~ August 21, 2021 (age 89)


On August 20, 2021 – Martha S. Loftin of Kinston, N.C. passed peacefully in her sleep.


Born on the Ides of March, 1932 to Adelle and Blanchard Southerland of Albertson, N.C. – Martha was a humble farm girl with a twinkle in her eye, an infectious smile, and a spirit for adventure.  She graduated from B.F. Grady High School in Duplin County and married Leonard W. Loftin of Kinston - both in 1950.  The newlyweds immediately moved to New York City where Leonard completed classical voice training at the Manhattan School of Music, while Martha took a job with the Reuben H. Donnelly Publishing Company - most famously known for Rockwell Kent’s “Illustrated” version of MOBY DICK - before returning to the small town of Kinston in 1952. 


After settling in North Carolina - their son, J.K. (a musician, record producer & engineer) and their daughter, “Sugie” (aka, Alice Long – Federal Reserve & a painter) were born in 1952 and ‘53 respectively, followed by another son, Lennie (an actor) who was born in 1961.  After raising J.K. and Sugie for three years, in 1955, Martha took a brief job with the Commercial National Bank, which was followed by her nearly 40-year career as a teller, a loan officer, branch manager, and eventually, as Vice President for Wachovia Bank in Kinston.  During her career with the institution, she probably processed 750,000 transactions for her customer-friends over approximately 10,000 days on the job. 


Martha also supported Kinston, its people, and many in the surrounding areas through her community volunteer work: she was honored by the Neuse River Council of Governments for work she provided for seven counties over seven years; she was on the Board for the Lenoir County Council on Aging for 27 years; and Martha was a member, officer, and one-year President for the Kinston Altrusa Club where she oversaw good works around the community, including ongoing support for the special needs students and residents at Caswell Training Center on Vernon Avenue.


Martha traveled back-and-forth to Duplin County most every weekend over the years to see family and attend Harper-Southerland Church where she sang glorious hymnal harmonies with her siblings and extended family - but her curiosity and adventurous spirit pushed her to explore other cultures and global destinations, as well.  She traveled the world to Hawaii, the Caribbean, Nova Scotia, Italy, Brussels, and she saw the tulip fields abloom in Holland.  Martha returned to her old haunts in NYC multiple times on Kinston community trips - and as chaperone for the KHS Drama Club – excursions organized by her friend, Oran K. Perry.  A country girl at heart, she also loved to explore the big city and see Broadway plays - and she loved to dine with her great friend Mary Frances Gray at the world-renowned Sardi’s, in the heart of New York’s theater district, and in the elegant Crystal Room at Central Park’s Tavern-On-The-Green.


Martha loved card games, and ceramics classes at Fairfield Community Center (run by her close friend, Mary Howard) and she always looked forward to her well-deserved vacations in Atlantic Beach.  She loved Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan, Harry Belafonte, Peter, Paul & Mary, Hee-Haw, Bob Newhart, Mannix, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  When asked, most people favor the colors red or blue – Martha’s favorites were rose pink and celery green.  A great “country cook,” Martha made killer prune cake and the best buttermilk fried chicken on earth.  Before work each day, she’d make breakfast for her children – patting her thigh and swaying to the country music sounds blaring from the kitchen’s countertop radio – Jeannie C. Riley, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and Bobby Gentry.  Each week, for years on end, she took a night off from family and cooking to attend the “Tuesday Night Club” – a festive evening of laughter and camaraderie with her co-worker-friends.  She fiercely and sweetly loved her children – but, it wasn’t all wine and roses for Martha.  Life was sometimes hard on LaRoque Avenue, but Martha always held her head high.  She was strong and good – moved forward – and looked back, only to learn from her own history.  The three loves of her life were Leonard Loftin, Ira Hill, and John Taylor.  


If you knew Martha, you know she wore color-coordinated clothing – always - and was known far-and-wide for her big bouffant hairstyle and her massive collection of huge earrings.  For holidays, she’d fashion miniature Whitman’s Easter baskets or 7-inch Halloween skeletons into spectacular ear adornments.  She’d do the same with Christmas tree ornaments and she’d pose Whitman’s elves on hoops that dangled from her earlobes to her collar bones.  Heading home on college break in 1979 - her son, Lennie, was pulled over by the Highway Patrol for speeding, 40-miles from Kinston, west of Goldsboro.  Upon reading the freshman’s driver’s license, the patrolman inquired, “You Leonard and Martha Loftin’s son, from over in Kinston?  Martha Loftin… the one who works at Wachovia and wears them big earrings?”  Sensing he might escape with just a warning to slow down, the teen politely nodded, “Yes, Sir.  Martha Loftin.  She’s my mom.”  The officer whimsically shook his head and smiled, “Well, I’ll be.  Martha Loftin.  She’s a good woman.  I’m still gonna have to give you a ticket, though.”

Martha is preceded in passing by her parents, and by her brothers, J.B. and L.C. Southerland, and by her sister, Shelby S. Brafford.  She is survived by her son J.K. Loftin, and her daughter Alice Long, both of Wilmington, N.C., and by her son, Lennie Loftin of Los Angeles, C.A.  She is also survived by her sister, Kathy S. Loftin, and by her brother, Frankie Southerland - both of Albertson, N.C.  A private service will be held at the family cemetery in Albertson.  In lieu of flowers, Martha’s family asks that you consider making and sending a donation to:


Harper-Southerland Presbyterian Church

c/o Kathy Loftin

233 Southerland Rd.

Albertson, N.C. 28508.

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