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Marta Mellinger

Marta Mellinger, beloved wife and mother, died from a rare form of ovarian cancer on Sept. 13, 2013. She was 60 years old.

Marta was born in Santa Monica, Calif., on Nov. 11, 1952, the eldest daughter of John and Mary Ellan Mellinger of Newton, Iowa, whose work ethic and small town values became the core of Marta’s life. Her childhood was graced with a passion for reading, writing and sports. Marta graduated from Iowa State University in 1974 with degrees in Theater and English, the latter of which she used in her first job working for the Des Moines Register writing obituaries and theater reviews. Following her heart and her love for the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, she moved to Oregon in 1975.

Every summer Marta returned to her beloved Des Moines YMCA Family Camp in Boone, Iowa to reconnect with her extended family and friends. She later transferred that love to her husband, daughters and other friends.

Oregon provided many opportunities for Marta, beginning with her first job working for the Multnomah County Republican Central Committee during the day and stage acting in a number of roles at night. At 27, Marta switched her career focus to building arts organizations, a continuing passion until her death. As Director of Communications at Seattle Repertory Theater and later Long Wharf Theatre of New Haven, Conn., Marta honed her professional skills. She moved to the East Coast in 1983.

In New Haven, Conn., Marta met her beloved, David Frackelton, whom she married in June 1985. In March 1987, they had their first child, Alexandra “Zan”, and bought their first house. Their love was sustained by a growing and remarkable group of friends. It was during this time that Marta worked as a management consultant, developing her interest in organizational change theory and facilitation.

Before Zan was two, Marta and David decided to move back to the Pacific Northwest. With the birth of their second daughter, Gillian, in July 1989, the Frackelton family was complete, settling in the Raleigh Park neighborhood of Southwest Portland. 

In Portland, Marta began a long series of volunteer activities, including grass roots fundraising for the first “Local Option Levy” for Beaverton Schools, redevelopment of the Beaverton Education Foundation including committee work to develop its Annual Telethon, Skyquilt for Artquake 1992, design and production of The Raleigh Park School’s annual talent show, design and leadership of a Coming of Age Program for her church and various political campaigns. She was always interested in how groups of volunteers could be organized to make the world a better place. She used her skills and energy to that end.

Her professional life included consulting for many arts and cultural organizations throughout the West Coast. She particularly enjoyed her work for Trimet, Legislative Administration on the Oregon State Capitol History Center Strategic Plan and many projects for the Oregon Arts Commission over a 20-year relationship, including five Arts Summits and the formational cultural summit that led to the creation of the Oregon Cultural Trust. She also consulted with such diverse organizations as the National Endowment for the Arts, University of Oregon, University of California Santa Cruz/Santa Cruz County, U.S. Department of Justice and Pacificorp.

During her five year tenure as Executive Director of the Oregon Children’s Theater, she led the theater through a transition from its founder, leaving it fiscally strong and organizationally healthy. Her final years were filled with many projects working with David and other collaborators through her company, The Canoe Group.

Marta was most proud of raising two extraordinary daughters with David that know how to be themselves and creating a happy, joy-filled and productive marriage. She loved creating art, solving Sudoku puzzles and gardening in her backyard meadow. She will be remembered for her passion, creativity, honesty and love of nature’s beauty. In spite of the difficulty of her cancer, Marta’s generous and loving spirit shone brilliantly in her final years and she will be deeply missed. Her writing about her cancer can be found at

Marta is survived by her husband; daughters; parents; and brother, David Mellinger of Johnston, Iowa. She is preceded in death by her brothers, Mark Mellinger of Flower Mound, Texas and Todd Mellinger of Newton, Iowa.

Her public memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, at First Unitarian Church of Portland, followed by a reception celebrating her life. The family requests any memorial contributions be made to The Des Moines YMCA Camp in Boone, Iowa.

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