Martha Gilchrist Karson 1939 - 2022

Martha Gilchrist Karson, née Andrews, died at home September 1, 2022, surrounded by family and friends. She was born August 11, 1939, in Howell, Michigan, the youngest child and only daughter of Herman and Esther Andrews. Her brothers, Robert, Paul and Phil, pre-deceased her. Martha is survived by her stepsons, Craig Karson (wife, Rinah, sons, Matthew and Douglas Karson), Eric Karson (sons, Remy and Wyatt Karson); and her daughters, Alessandra (Cessa) Karson (son, Andrew Whitethorn), and Miranda Karson.

Her early years were spent helping out on the family farm. She loved the dairy cows, her favorite named Arabella, whom she could call home and would gladly demonstrate this skill for those who were curious! Other farm chores included driving the tractor and feeding the chickens, her least favorite of all tasks. After her father died, Martha took care of her mother, working with her to make meals and clean. In later years, Martha would assist her mother in dressing and getting her to her classroom at the local school where Esther taught English. An early foundation in reading, and later writing, provided Martha with a life-long passion for learning and, ultimately, teaching. She particularly enjoyed word games, such as Scrabble, and woe to the person who tried to best her at this!

Martha entered Michigan State University in 1957 and graduated with a degree in psychology. She went on to secure a graduate degree in clinical psychology and served as a graduate instructor for clinical psychology students, as well as serving as the psychologist for Ingham Intermediate School District. She also had a private psychology practice. While working for the schools, Martha served as the lead investigator for a grant to develop an interagency system of support for at-risk infants and toddlers for the state of Michigan. Additionally, Martha supervised numerous interns, whom she supported both during and after obtaining their degrees. In addition to being a highly skilled and respected clinical psychologist, Martha was a strong supporter of women’s rights, education and the arts.

In 1967, she married Albert Karson (deceased 1999), professor of American Thought and Literature at Michigan State University, and welcomed his two sons, Craig Karson and Eric Karson, into their growing family. Alessandra (Cessa) arrived in 1971, and Miranda in 1975. Martha and Al worked together for more than a decade conducting differing types of psychological research while frequently living in a camper throughout Europe and the Soviet Union. These years fostered in Martha a keen interest in other cultures, languages, customs and, to the delight of her family, cooking. A dinner invitation to the Karson’s table was always eagerly sought. Martha was a proficient cook of many kinds of cuisine, with Italian Potted Beef, various curries, parathas, and paella being some of her most favorite and delicious dishes.

In 2005, Martha decided to join her daughter, Cessa, in Oregon. Martha retired from her psychology practice and decided to enter the wine and hospitality industry as her retirement career. Martha purchased and renovated a house in McMinnville to open a bed and breakfast – “Martha’s Vineyard West.” Martha was then hired at Panther Creek Cellars after responding to an ad in the paper. Her soon-to-be boss and coworker quickly learned she was not to be mistaken for a quiet, grandmotherly type in need of extra spending money! Martha’s wisdom and compassion were easily recognized as an asset to the growing wine industry of the region. After gaining her footing in the tasting room at Panther Creek, soon to be Elizabeth Chambers Cellar, she went on to manage the educational foundation of Vista Hills Winery (the Clint Foundation). She retired from the wine industry in 2019 but continued to run her bed and breakfast until 2021.

Martha Andrews Karson will be missed. She had a strong and wide network of family and friends who remember her gracious hostessing and enjoyment of political sparring, as well as her kindness when times were tough. Her strength, determination, loyalty, intelligence and generosity were remarkable. May we all seek inspiration from the fullness of her life, which she lived how she wanted.

If you would like to provide some kind of gift in her memory, please consider donating to your local Planned Parenthood in her name. To leave condolences, visit


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