Martha Rawling’s parents and four siblings emigrated from Denmark to the pioneer village of Dickson Alberta, in the 1920’s with hopes of a new life and a brighter future. Martha was born a short time later, a child of the new land and a symbol of that hope. She was raised and nurtured in a loving Christian home on the banks of the Red Deer River where her parents cleared land and started a small farm. Though times were hard and they often went without, Martha’s childhood memories were fondly cherished.
Martha met Elmer Rawling at a church youth event in Camrose, Alberta, and it was love at first sight. Sadly, Elmer had to board the bus for Saskatoon that afternoon, and Martha was distraught as she was sure she would never see him again. A short time after a sad goodbye, Elmer showed up at her side and asked if she had time to show him around town. He’d jumped off the bus just before it took off and blown off his job in Saskatoon, as he knew he just had to get that girl.
It proved to be a good decision, and after getting married in Camrose, Elmer and Martha embarked on a life full of adventures, which included time spent in Nigeria as missionaries. They raised five children, Eleanor, Doug, Marlene, (born in Nigeria), Vivian, and Bruce. Above all else, Martha loved the Lord and trusted in His Word, and she was diligent in nurturing this in her children. She taught by word and example the practice of putting “Jesus first, others second, yourself last.” This focus truly made her home a place of love and joy.
Martha loved music and loved to sing. We all loved to hear her sing. She taught voice lessons and directed many choirs in the communities where she and Elmer lived. Many a small church choir was surprised to find they were able to learn and sing the Hallelujah Chorus under her and Elmer’s tutelage.
She loved her nieces and nephews dearly, and rose at 5 am every morning so that she would have time to pray for them and anyone else God brought to her mind. She invited local children to Sunday School, organized church youth groups that met in our home, and was joyfully diligent in her service to her Lord who she loved with her whole heart.
Elmer and Martha’s last years together were spent on the morning side of the Livingstone Mountains west of Pincher Creek. Always a team, they worked together to build a home and log cabins for a family retreat centre. Elmer passed away in January 2002, and the retreat centre was taken over by Wilderness Ranch.
Martha later met and married Garnet Leach, a retired pastor from Calgary, who had also lost his first spouse. They shared some full and happy years together before Martha’s Alzheimer’s forced an involuntary separation. Martha’s final days were spent at Vista Village where she received wonderful, compassionate care from an incredible staff. Her family was blessed to be able to gather to wish her goodbye, and she went to be with her Lord who she served so faithfully on the morning of September 12, 2018.
Martha is survived by husband Garnet Leach, her five children and spouses, eighteen grandchildren, and 33 great grandchildren. She is pre-deceased by husband Elmer, and grandson Daniel Lenko.
Wilderness Ranch Camp
Box 1804, Claresholm AB T0L 0T0
Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute
4837 52A Street, Camrose AB T4V 1W8