Martha Rhea Roadarmel

Former Knox resident’s bequests help Knox groups

By Rodney L. Sherman, CLARION NEWS Editor

Martha Rhea Roadarmel of Knox was a “very down to earth woman,” recalls her friend and neighbor Marjie Young.

Roadmarel died Aug. 30, 2015, at Clarion Forest VNA Serenity House. She was the last surviving member of her immediate family. Her published obituary was short and there were no funeral services.

But the small town where she grew up from the age of 4 and where she lived the final years of her life, isn’t likely to forget her.

In her will, Roadarmel left approximately $800,000 to various groups in Knox, including $240,000 to the Knox Library.

The Knox Volunteer Fire Department and the Knox Ambulance Service each received $120,000.

Bequests of $80,000 each went to The Clarion Area Agency on Aging, the Knox Civic Club (for care of Knox Civic Park), and the Keystone School District Education Foundation.

Roadarmel also left $80,000 to the Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handi-capped in Pittsburgh.

“Martha had macular degeneration,” explained Young. “She was an avid reader and eventually relied on ‘books on tape’ she received through the Carnegie Library.

Roxanne Miller, librarian and director at the Knox Library, said she and the library board of directors were aware Roadarmel has left 30 percent of her estate to the library.

“We knew it was 30 percent,” said Miller. “But we had no idea of what 30 percent was.”

“Marjie came in and handed the check to Tom (Goble) and he looked at it and he was tongue-tied and for Tom to be tongue-tied, well”

Miller said the donation blindsided the board of directors.

“But in an extremely good way,” added Miller.

Miller said Roadarmel left no restrictions on the use of the money and the board of directors is carefully considering what it might do with the money.

“It’s too early to say, right now,” said Miller. “We can use some extra money right now with Harrisburg not being able to pass a budget, but we’re in no hurry to spend it.”

Her story

Born October 2, 1920, Roadarmel was the daughter of Charles C. and Cathryn Truby Rhea. She graduated from Knox High School and went on to receive a certificate in secretarial science from Westminster College in New Wilmington.

After college, she was employed at Pennzoil Co. in Rouseville and then May Accounting in Oil City.

She was married to Raymond Roadarmel who preceded her in death in 1963. After World War II, Martha and Raymond moved to Oil City and later returned to Knox to live because she enjoyed living in the small town.

“They built a beautiful home in Oil City,” Young said of Raymond “Roady” and Martha Roadarmel. “He died in his 30s from a heart attack. They had no children.”

Roadarmel was always interested in the historical facts about Knox.

Young said Roadarmel traveled extensively in her earlier days and, despite her low vision, for many years she remained very active.

“She walked around town as long as she could,” said Young. “But as her eyesight failed, she needed some help with things and that’s how I got to know her and how I became the executrix of her estate.”

Young said other neighbors and friends–Bessie Amsler, Dolly Dine, Carol Kline, Judy Stabler, and Donna Weeter also helped Roadarmel with tasks and helped Roadarmel get to various appointments.

“As her sight worsened, she became a little bit reclusive,” said Young.

Along with her husband and parents, Roadarmel was preceded in death by three sisters, Valjean Martucci, Betty Rhea, and Lucille Stevenson and a sister-in-law, Virginia Cummins.

Young said Betty Rhea lived in the family home and taught Latin at Keystone High School.

Young said Roadarmel acquired her wealth through wise investments in the stock market.

“After a fall, she went to Clarview for rehab,” said Young. “She returned home and then eventually moved to Highland Oaks.”

At Highland Oaks, Roadarmel continued to listen to books on tape, walked the halls of the building and participated in all crafts, exercises, and programs offered.

That’s not all

Roadarmel also left gifts to Knox United Methodist Church and the Callensburg New Cemetery Association.

Young said there might be additional funds provided to the recipients of the bequests following the final settlement of Roadarmel’s estate.

Young said Clarion attorney Ray Scott has been instrumental in helping her through the estate settlement process.

Double-edged sword

The Knox library, fire department, ambulance service, and civic club also received sizable bequests in 2013 from the Wilma E. “Wid” Logue estate.

While all the recipents of the bequests were very grateful for the legacies from Logue and Roadarmel, they also know the gifts can give the perception the groups are flush with cash.

“It is a concern,” acknowledged Miller. “These bequests are truly appreciated and the library, and I’m sure the other groups as well, will be very careful in planning on how to best use the money.

“But we all still need the public’s support.”

Hopefully, rather than soften the community’s support of its public service organizations, Roadarmel’s example will inspire others to begin, continue, or expand their backing of those groups.

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