I remember, when I first moved to Fort Wayne in 1981, how much I enjoyed reading the editorial page whenever Patty Martone submitted an article.
She was always informative, often entertaining, especially when she shared a moment of “Martone’s history” with the readers.
About a decade ago, she and I both served on a fundraising committee for the Northeast Indiana Radio Reading Service cookbook. I didn’t know at that time how our paths would cross again in the future.
Recently, I was cast in the Civic Theatre’s production of “Alive & Dead in Indiana,” which was a book originally written by her son, Michael Martone and adapted as a play by Doug Long.
After being cast in the production, I excitedly shared with a friend who works at Triangle Park that “I even get to play Patty Martone in the show.” My friend said, “She’s here; do you want to meet her?” I told her that we had worked on the NEIRRS cookbook project together years ago, but I wanted to see her and introduce myself.
I walked up to her table and said, “Hi, I’m Deborah Dambra and I’m playing you in ‘Alive & Dead in Indiana.’”
Martone said, “Oh, you are playing Michael’s mother? Please have a seat with us.”
I was sitting with a “celebrity,” someone I had admired over the years due to her writing, and now I was going to be interpreting words that her character, in the play, said.
While it’s true that I only said five lines as “Martone’s mother” in the play, I wanted to do justice to each word as Patty Martone.
I shared this lunchtime meeting with my castmates and director. Phillip Colglazier overheard my remarks and asked, “Did you look at her shoes?” Oh, no, I hadn’t — would this reveal even more about her character? My mission became “find her and her shoes.” It didn’t take long; we saw each other at the same restaurant a week or two later.
I approached her and told her immediately, “I am not stalking you, but I need to look at your shoes. I want to recreate them on stage as ‘Martone’s mother.’” Once again, she invited me to sit with her, her husband and grandson.
Her grandson said proudly, “She wears Chuck Taylor Converse All-Star shoes, and you can get them at Glenbrook Mall.” Patty Martone said, “Come over to our home, and I will lend you a pair of my shoes.”
When I arrived at her home, she was sitting on a bench at the front of her house, making herself the “marker,” so that I would go to the right home. She invited me into her home, and there on her dining room table were approximately 20 pairs of Chuck Taylor Converse All-Star shoes in every color of the rainbow, including various printed patterned shoes in that line.
She also had placed a white-and-pink pair of her “signature” lace socks for me to use. In reviewing the shoes, I remembered the director of my show told me to get red shoes, if I could.
For three hours, Patty Martone shared her home, her life and her memories with me. She gave me a guided tour of the Martone home, including the comparative photographs of her sons – Michael and Tim – and her grandsons at the same ages as her now-grown sons in their youth.
She shared the painted toy box, which she commissioned a local painter to paint with North Side High School on one side and the Fort Wayne cityscape on another side.
As I left her home, I told her the shoes were going to be my lucky charm during the run of the show. Privately, you would have thought I had the ruby slippers from “The Wizard Of Oz” with me. I guarded them, I would not leave them at the theatre, and I had to protect them ensuring my way back to the “Martone’s home.”
I would have never guessed that wearing Patty Martone’s shoes would be a “bucket list” item for me, but it was truly an honor and a privilege.
Martone has lived an abundant life as a wife, mother, educator, administrator, writer, friend and has donated a great deal of time to various organizations helping others. Personally, she shared her life and her Chuck Taylor Converse All-Star shoes and lace socks with me, and I was able to walk in her shoes, if only briefly.