Martha Tarpey was born in Sacramento, CA, in early 1927, to Margaret Harris Tarpey and David Domnick Tarpey. Martha was the youngest of three children in a working-class household in Oakland, CA, and remembered her mother feeding vagrants at the back door during the Great Depression and baking lemon meringue pie in her father’s gold-sifting pan. When in high school, World War Two began, and Martha fibbed about her age to obtain work at the Oakland shipyards drawing blueprints for warships. She enrolled at “Cal,” as the University of California Berkeley was affectionately known, and after an early interest in medicine she fell in love with poetry and became an English major. There she also met her husband, Alan Lionel Heyneman, and after both had graduated from Berkeley (she as a member of Phi Beta Kappa), they moved to the Washington, DC, area, where he was a librarian at the Library of Congress. Margaret (Maggie) and Janet were born during their time in Washington. When Alan began work at the New York Public Library, the family moved to Hartsdale, NY, where David was born, and then Montclair, NJ, where John was born. In 1964, the family moved to Rochester, NY, where Alan worked for the University of Rochester until his retirement. Alan died at 70 in 1994, and Martha spent the rest of her life in Rochester, living in her own home with help of family and others, until her death on July 15 after a bout with pneumonia while recovering from surgery, in the rehab unit of the Rochester Friendly Home. She was 95 years old.
In Washington, Martha first became involved in the study of the work of Greek-Armenian spiritual teacher G. I. Gurdjieff (1866-1949). She found groups of like-minded others wherever they lived and was deeply engaged for more than 70 years in study of Gurdjieff’s writings, teachings, and mindfulness exercises, becoming a valued teacher and mentor in the Gurdjieff “Work.” She led small groups and private sessions in upstate New York with members of the Rochester Folk Art Guild and other close friends for over 50 years, mastering Zoom to maintain these connections during the covid pandemic. Much of her writing grew out of her Gurdjieff study.
Martha Heyneman’s published writings include the book-length study, The Breathing Cathedral: Feeling our Way into a Living Cosmos (Sierra Club, 1993), and The Productions of Time: Collected Essays (Xlibris, 2001). She edited the volume, The Inner Journey: Myth, Psyche, and Spirit (Morning Light Press, 2008), and published more than a dozen essays in the periodicals A Journey of our Time and in Parabola: The Magazine of Myth and Tradition. Poetry was her focus in her last decades, and in addition to many poems shared with family and friends, she self-published Atonement (2017), a long series of poems dedicated to her late husband Alan. The final poem in that series appears below. She led and participated in poetry, spirituality and literature groups until her last month of life.
Martha’s brother Hugh Tarpey and sister Winifred Tarpey, both of California, preceded her in death. Martha’s descendants include Maggie Kearney, of Hadley, MA, Janet Heyneman of Irondequoit, NY, David Heyneman and wife Diane Wright, of Victor, NY, John Heyneman and wife Kristine of Webster, NY. A granddaughter, Emily Kearney, died of cancer at age 37 in 2016. Surviving grandchildren are Paul Kearney (wife Jill Rotondo), of S. Burlington, VT, Sean Heyneman (wife Mira), of Greenbelt, MD, Nan Tarpey Heyneman (Remy Biggs) of Rochester, and Alan Howard Heyneman of Webster. Great-grandchildren are Eli and Avi Heyneman of Greenbelt.
She spent her last years seated at her dining table amid piles of books, all with margin notes in her calligraphic hand, delighting in poetry and watching late-night programs on books on cable TV. Martha will be remembered as a loving parent, grandparent and great-grandparent, a lover of solitude yet a warm and welcoming presence for other seekers (including many teenage friends of her children wafting through in the 1960s and 70s), and a serious lifelong student. Her children will scatter her ashes with Alan’s privately and may host a memorial gathering in the coming months. They welcome postings to this page of memories of Martha from those who knew her. Donations in her memory may be sent to WXXI, the Rochester Folk Art Guild, or the National Poetry Foundation.
More years pass.
I am sitting at the dining room table
facing the place where the sun will rise.
Surrounded with books as usual
I am reading a book called
The World is a Waiting Beloved.
Suddenly the door flies open
And You walk in, though you have been dead
I forget how many years. It is You, it is You,
It was You all along! It is
The Rising Sun, it is
I walk into your arms.
I walk into the Sun.