Martha Marie Berry Chiocchi, age 88, passed away peacefully in the early morning hours of July 30, 2018 surrounded by love at her home in Santa Monica, California. She was born August 27, 1929, in Marthaville, Louisiana, the daughter of Henry Arthur Berry and Lula Virginia Olliff.
She graduated from Marthaville High and attended Northwestern State University in Natchitoches before interning at Schumpert Memorial Hospital in Shreveport where she would become a medical technologist. Her good friend Hilda introduced her to officer Frank Joseph Chiocchi, Sr., stationed at Barksdale Air Force base, and they eloped in early 1951. Always ready to pack up the house and move, she raised her family in northern California and Ohio before resettling in Louisiana. There, with 640 acres and a thousand head of cattle, she jumped into the role of rancher, throwing bales of hay from the back of a pickup during winter storms if need be, while working full-time in town at Minden Medical Center. Her fascination with the American Southwest led to a love-at-first-sight meeting with Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1988 and she promptly moved again. Now retired in what was destined to become her favorite city ever, she joined the Santa Maria de La Paz Catholic community and made many lifelong friends.
In 2012, she moved one last time to Santa Monica to enjoy sunny southern California and be near three of her children. Martha was a fiercely protective mother and an unmatched short-order cook with not just one somewhat-secret but definitely sought-after poundcake recipe. She enjoyed crossword puzzles, Agatha Christie and Zane Grey novels, Alfred Hitchcock’s films, her Yorkshire terriers and Chihuahuas and black olives, sure to be found in a silver dish at her place setting during any holiday dinner. A lover of baseball and loyal to her New York Yankees to the end, she’d also passionately and tirelessly enter into any political discussion as a lifelong Democrat.
Faced with failing eyesight and the relentless encroachment of dementia and Alzheimer’s, she was never once heard to complain but instead lived with a grace and humor that stunned and humbled those who spent cherished time with her, including her wonderful caretakers Mora, Lupe and Cathy. She is preceded in death by her husband, her brother, Henry Jr. and her sister, Margie Hartgrove. Left to honor Martha and remember her love are her six children, Frank, Paula, Bill, Susan, John and James, her sister Evelyn Strong of Minden, five grandchildren, Alex, Kai, Christina, Henry and Luca and many nieces and nephews.