SHELBURNE -- Hilma "Val" Martel, 77, passed away peacefully on March 13, 2015, in the Vermont Respite House. Val was born on April 11, 1937, in Portland, Maine, to Louise Wilson Watts. She married the love of her life, Rene Martel, in 1981. He preceded her in death in 1991.
She leaves behind her son, David (her "Baby Boy") Semon and his wife, Jean, of Poland, Maine; daughter, Gwen Lorain of Mechanic Falls, Maine; stepdaughter, Penny Beniot and her husband, Charles Jr., of Leigh High Acres, Fla.; stepdaughter, Sue Sweeney and her husband, Pete, of Milton; and four grandchildren, Valerie Lorain, Rachelle Benoit, Christy Sweeney, and Travis Sweeney.
Val's first car was a '59 Cadillac. She also enjoyed motorcycle riding. Val moved to Vermont over 40 years ago, and initially lived at the Shelburne Campground. Val worked for VNA for many years, then worked at Uncle Leo's in Shelburne, as well as working many years beside her husband at his cleaning service.
Many people remember Val as a cashier at the Shelburne Supermarket, and her dedication to community service, such as The Angel Fund. The Angel Fund was created to help fund activities for Shelburne children that their families otherwise could not afford, including summer camps, musical instrument rentals, and after school activities. Val was also instrumental in making sure all children in Shelburne received holiday gifts. By matching children's wish lists with donors from local churches, no child went without.
Most people knew Val as "The Lady at the Food Shelf." She welcomed the clients to the food shelf and she listened with great empathy and offered heart-felt words of encouragement and warm hugs when needed. In addition to providing food for families in need, Val managed the financial donations to the Shelburne Food Shelf. She judiciously used the funds to help families with immediate needs, such as emergency fuel and urgent home repairs. Val answered phone calls from families in crisis at all hours of the day and night. In the past few months, Val worked with other people to make sure these programs would continue in the community.
Val was a Christian with a deep faith in God and a member of the Shelburne Methodist Church. In her free time, Val enjoyed knitting and crocheting. Val was loving, selfless, very witty and had an amazing sense of humor. She was a special friend to Marc and Tina Lewis and their children. Marc was her caregiver during her extended illness and accompanied her on her doctor's appointments and visited her daily at the Respite House.
Special thanks to Dr. Addis and the oncology team at UVMMC, Dr. Berry and the team at the Vermont Respite House, and many others who supported Val during her illness. Val will be missed by so many people.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 28, 2015, at the Shelburne Methodist Church in Shelburne. Burial will be held at a later date. Arrangements are in the care of Stephen C. Gregory & Son Cremation Service.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Cancer Patient Support Program of Vermont, Vermont Respite House, or the Shelburne Food Shelf.