KILMARNOCK—Martha Fisher Sheridan of Kilmarnock died on February 22, 2023, after a brave, short battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 72, just two months shy of her 73rd birthday.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 23, 1950, Martha was the second daughter born to Allan C. Fisher Jr. and Mary Alice Michael Fisher. Shortly after Martha’s birth, her father joined the writing and editorial staff of the National Geographic Magazine headquartered in Washington, D.C., with the family living in the D.C. suburbs. Martha spent her childhood in Silver Spring and Bethesda, Maryland, and was educated in the Montgomery County public schools. She then attended the University of Maryland, her parents’ alma mater.
Originally Martha thought she would teach, but she loved design from an early age and changed her focus to become a trained floral designer. She found the perfect job at Johnson’s Florist & Garden Centers, the largest chain of its type in the D.C. metro area at the time. She also found some wonderful friends amongst the Johnsons’ staff – and a good husband prospect in J. Gordon Sheridan, a vice president of Johnson’s and a general manager of the chain. Martha and Gordon married in June 1976 and decided, for the sake of their union, they should work in different locations, Martha in the Kensington, Md. store and Gordon in the D.C. flagship store. Martha, with her good “eye,” became one of the gifts buyers for the chain and a premiere designer of window displays and showroom vignettes.
The Fisher parents, former sailors, retired to Irvington in 1988, and suggested to Martha and her older sister, Suzanne, that they retire to the Northern Neck to be near one another. Both daughters and their husbands followed that good advice and the four have had great times together enjoying all the area has to offer.
Martha and Gordon lovingly remodeled an old farmhouse, “Quail Point,” on 2.5 acres overlooking Prentice Creek, just off Dividing Creek in Kilmarnock. They carefully managed the shoreline and set up numerous bird houses and a large feeding station. They adopted a succession of “Northern Neck Basic Black Dogs.” Molly, Toby and Bo. They also became guardians of two spayed feral calico cats, Hyacinth and Petunia, who enjoyed “Quail Point” grounds and never caught a bird.
Martha and Suzanne volunteered at the Animal Welfare League where Martha helped with pricing and displays and became fundraising chair. Many will remember events Martha supervised: dog statues (painted by AWL members and fans) that lined Main Street Kilmarnock, the May Cinco-de-Meow celebration to raise money for cats, a fashion show and several craft shows with wonderful contributions from AWL members and friends.
The sisters transitioned to Northern Neck Partners for Pets (NNPP), the group set up, through the AWL, to develop and raise money for a privately-run, no-kill animal shelter to serve the four counties of the Northern Neck. Martha immediately stepped up to take in vintage and antique furnishings from donors and place the items in two booths she managed at the Kilmarnock Antique Gallery. Her work raised money for NNPP every month and will continue, as a tribute to Martha, through the efforts of two talented volunteers. She died knowing this and was very gratified.
In addition to her love of companion animals, Martha had great interest in wildlife conservation, environmental protection and travel. The Sheridans went to Kenya, took European river cruises, visited national parks and spent many summer vacations at the Sheridan family cottage on a farm in Jericho Center, Vermont, a cottage that had been in the Sheridan family for three generations.
Martha was preceded in death by her father; mother; her brother-in-law, Grayson Mattingly; and her dear friend, Carter Marsh.
She is survived and beloved by Gordon, her husband of 46 years; her sister, Suzanne Mattingly; her niece, Mary Beth Mattingly Rabinowitch and husband Nikolai; the women of the D.C. Girls Book Club; many cousins in the Michael clan; in-laws in the Sheridan-Cleland clan; and a sweet, old kitty named Rosie.
Burial was private, but prior to her death Martha requested that a celebration of her life be held at an indoor-outdoor venue in May, with dogs allowed to accompany their humans. Her loved ones are honoring that request. Further details about the memorial service will be published closer to the May date.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in Martha’s honor to Northern Neck Partners for Pets, P.O. Box 361, Irvington, VA 22480.