November is Piper Passing

Early this morning Piper Martin passed away; she would have been 90 years old in December.  Piper came to Twin Oaks over 30 years ago and has been a constant booster of community life and fierce advocate for children’s rights to read.

She did one of one tutoring with over 200 kids.

Piper did one-on-one tutoring with over 200 kids.

Piper believed literacy was a stepping stone to world peace.  She saw it as the cornerstone of greater understanding and compassion.  She very fundamentally viewed her literacy work as peace activism.

Piper was a behaviorist.  Her Reading Window School used a technique which she developed that rewarded kids for trying.  B. F. Skinner would have been proud of how well the kids responded to this technique. My own son Willow arrived at Reading Window School both unwilling and claiming to be unable to read.  Six weeks later he was pleasure reading and a year later he was reading Harry Potter alone.  She changed his life.  She changed lots of young people’s lives.

Piper teach Willow to read (w/s Sky Blue) Circa 2007

Piper teaching Willow to read (w/s Sky Blue) Circa 2007

Calling her gift “magic” would take away from both the mimic-ability of her work and the tenacity of her commitment.  Piper was concerned about her legacy and the perpetuation of this technique she developed.  When i wrote to Sherri Rossiter who had taken over the Reading Window School, she pointed out that Piper had achieved her lifelong dream, that the school and the methodology she had developed will live beyond her.  Sherri thought about cancelling her literacy tutoring today, but decided that would not at all be how Piper would have wanted to be remembered.

Piper spoke in public about literacy and our obligation to teach universally

Piper spoke in public about literacy and our obligation to teach universally.

Piper was a tricky indiviual.  Her drive was not welcomed by everyone she came in contact with.  She frequently requested things of people, especially people who had already done things for her.  To have a successful relationship with Piper one needed to know how to say “no” to her and remain connected to one’s affection for her.  She was personally always driven to do more and help more, for which she often sought other people’s assistance.  I did fundraising work on and off for Piper for most of the last 15 years and i was constantly reminding her that i only wanted to do the things for her that she could not find someone else to do.  Having good boundaries was central to my successful dancing with Piper.

literacy's best friend

literacy’s best friend

Piper was colorful and lively.  I hope to put up pictures of her taken last weekend at the Halloween party in which she was dressed in a racy outfit and was stepping in and out of a coffin, with lots of other folks.  Piper and i often danced together at community functions, and i appreciated that she was so active even well into her 80s.

Piper died with a piece of chocolate in her hand, which to me was strangely fitting.  She lived a long full life.  She touched and helped many and for this and more she will be missed.

Piper’s funeral will be this Saturday at Twin Oaks.   If you want to come and have not been to Twin Oaks before please contact me first.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

20 responses to “November is Piper Passing”

  1. Angie Tupelo says :

    Reblogged this on Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History and commented:

    A few months after I moved to Twin Oaks I was part of a task force with Piper and several others called CWIC (Coping with Illness Compassionately). The group’s goal was to develop suggestions on how Twin Oaks could best support members who were coping with a serious illness and/or aging and/or dying. (It was in this group that the Nashoba Addition proposal was born.) As part of that group’s work I spoke with Piper extensively about her thoughts on aging and dying, her hopes and fears.

    It’s beautiful and rare to hear the news of a friend’s death and be able to say “she lived a long and full life, she was ready to go, and she went in just the way she wanted.” I’ll miss seeing Piper when I go to Twin Oaks, yet I’m delighted for her that her movement out of this life avoided her fears and involved chocolate. We’ll miss you Piper.

  2. Jeremy Walker says :

    Caring thoughts and condolences from East wind . I didn’t get a chance to meet piper but It sounds like I would haved liked her .
    funerals are not for the dead they are for all who were touched by their life , remember her and she will have a beautiful legacy .

  3. Yoshi, Yoshiaki Kimpara says :

    Thank you for your information. Now I’m moaning for Piper. I want to celebrate her life.

  4. papirow(ぱぴろう) says :

    Thank you for your information and beautiful sentences. Now I’m moaning for Piper. I want to celebrate her life. (Yoshi in Tokyo)

  5. moonraven222 says :

    Wow. Piper was an amazing person. I remember her dancing the Time Warp at a Rocky Horror visitors party we held. I’m glad she lived such a full life and I’m sorry she’s gone.

    Dying with a piece of chocolate in her hand. Piper knew the way to go.

  6. Rajal says :

    Thanks for sharing this. I love the description of Piper at Halloween. She was always bold and frank, and she could be very funny.

  7. Alyssa says :

    Thanks for sharing Paxus. As a child of Twin Oaks and a student of Pipers, I owe my love of reading to her and the other amazing folks who tickled my imagination with books.

  8. santalorena says :

    This is bittersweet news for me. She has always been an inspiration to me, despite what a pain in the ass she often was. 😉 I always had patience, because I knew her big heart is what often steamrolled over her ability to be polite. I spent a lot of time with that old gal in my four years there. She helped make some great memories.

    The last such lovely memory was at the big Halloween party last year. She was on the dance floor, topless of course, and dancing away like she was a kid. I’m happy that she died with a piece of chocolate in her hand. That image really makes me smile.

  9. George White says :

    Yes, I knew Piper in the 1970s , when I was a T.O. member. I didn’t know her well, but know she made significant contributions to Twin Oaks in many ways – the Reading Rainbow being one of them. She will be missed. May you rest in peace, Piper, and we will remember you! Sincerely, Cosmo (George White).

  10. dondilyons says :

    I am so grateful that I got to spend one on one time with Piper this summer. I thrilled that she remembered me, given that I lived at Twin Oaks 30 years ago! She was intrigued by my journey from Twin Oaks to being a teacher for the Department of Defense Dependents’ Schools. She was delighted to teach me the Reading Windows method and satisfied to know that I’d be carrying on her teachings at my school in Germany. Comforting to hear she did in peace.

  11. Gordon says :

    I thinks these pics of Piper are great.
    Her successor at The Reading Window is Sherri Rosser, I believe, not Rossitor.

  12. Leslie says :

    I also appreciate the life and legacy that Piper left. Last time I was at Twin Oaks, she gave me her copy of Barack Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope”, an inspiring book with a title that applies to her. She was determined, dogged, driven to follow through with whatever she set her mind on. Reading Windows was phenomenal. Piper wasn’t the best people-person, but I agree that she had a big heart, and did her best to get along.

  13. Rico ex- aka Richard Feldman says :

    Somehow I thought she would just live forever.

  14. dondilyons says :

    Tobias, I live in Mainz and work at an American school in Wiesbaden. But I love Berlin!

  15. Sara says :

    How could any of us forget Piper? It is wonderful that her literacy work continues, and even better that she knew it would. She did indeed “change the world” in that one important way.
    Sara (TO 1971-76)

  16. Max says :

    I am with you all in spirit today at Piper’s funeral. I know Piper(Rena) intimately as she lived with me on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands for awhile. She was only a year and a half older than me. She even tutored reading at our home to students with reading problems there. I am sure most of you know that Twin Oaks was founded,on the behaviorist ideology. I hate to tell you how many times I heard “that’s not in the book” during the 10 months my family lived at Twin Oaks in their second year. The book being “Walden Two” by B. F. Skinner. I thought behaviorism and positive reinforcement couldn’t do any harm even though I had feelings of reservation before going to T.O. I soon learned how behaviorist extremists can manipulate and control beyond good common sense. At one time I remarked that “attitude” was most important in life. Piper said, “What’s That?” as a good behaviorist and scientist would say since it hadn’t been able to be measured. Anyway, she was gung-ho on developing intentional communities and teaching problem children to read. And that is good. It would be interesting to know how many intentional communities she had been involved in. I know that my involvement with her on St. Croix was one of the highlights of my life. We separated because I wasn’t developing an intentional on the island fast enough to suit her and she therefore felt that her life was just being wasted away. I believe there are 3 absolutes: 1. You exist forever. 2. What you put out comes back to you. 3. Everything changes except the first 2. Thus, some of us may hear from her from wherever she is if we are aware of the possibility and are observant. May we all live in appreciation as we go on living in this dimension. Love, Max

  17. Rain Zohav says :

    Piper helped my son Shai to get going reading in the correct direction with her “reading window”, after we found out he had learning issues. I am so glad that the last time I was at T.O.,( exchanging a hammock) – that I spent time with her. Thanks for all the sharing of her wildness and joy in living and especially dancing. What a role model.


  18. Robert W. Martin says :

    Yep, that was my Mother. She loved tutoring kids.

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