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Mary Martin’s Hometown Mourns Her Death

November 6, 1990

WEATHERFORD, Texas (AP) _ Flags fluttered at half-staff Monday across Mary Martin’s Never-Never Land.

It was here, in a still gracious Victorian country home, that the beloved Broadway star was born 76 years ago and where she returned often during a career that won her worldwide renown.

Martin, one of the New York theater’s leading ladies for more than 30 years, died of cancer Saturday at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

The newspaper in this town about 30 miles west of Fort Worth memorialized her Monday with a front-page drawing of a smiling Martin and a crying Tinker Bell crouched in the corner.

Critically acclaimed and widely admired for her roles in a number of blockbuster musicals, it was a tune called ″My Heart Belongs to Daddy″ that launched her career, and it was her stage and screen renditions of ″Peter Pan″ that made her famous.

And she brought the magic of both back home, in her own special way.

In her book, ″My Heart Belongs,″ she honored her hometown with a chapter titled ″My Heart Belongs to Weatherford,″ and she reminded the folks of that in 1983 when she was here to receive many honors.

On July 4, 1976, America’s 200th birthday, Martin came home to unveil Ronald Thomason’s statue of Peter Pan that was being placed in front of the Weatherford Public Library in memory of her parents.

Quoting from her most famous role, she said: ″I have a place where dreams are born and time is never planned; it’s not on any chart, you must find it with your heart, Never-Never Land.″

Weatherford, she said, was her Never-Never Land.

On Monday, the home at 414 W. Lee St. had two pumpkins and a wooden swing on the front porch, a ″For Sale″ sign in the front yard and a family of admirers occupying the rambling, five-bedroom, turn-of-the-century dwelling. ″Everyone loved her,″ said Molly Carpenter, who has lived in the house eight years with her husband Jim and two daughters. The family is getting preparing to move to nearby Fort Worth.

″She was a remarkable person and part of this town,″ she said. ″You could stand in the middle of the street and scream, ‘Who’s a fan of Mary Martin’s?’ and they’d come pouring out of their doors.″

Mrs. Carpenter said she met Martin’s son, ″Dallas″ star Larry Hagman, many times, but the Broadway star herself only once, when she came back to Weatherford for the funeral of a friend.

About three years ago, Martin had a friend take her picture in front of the house.

She sent the Carpenters a copy which said: ″To the Carpenters, in the house where I was born. With love, Mary Martin.″

The flag at the old brick post office flew at half-staff Monday, as did others scattered about the city of some 15,000 residents.

Old friends remembered Martin as much for her close ties to Weatherford as for her legendary star status.

However, Marge Ashcroft, a high school classmate of Martin’s, told the Weatherford Democrat she keeps thinking of the scene in ″Peter Pan″ where he encourages the audience to clap their hands to bring back a fading Tinker Bell.

″It kind of makes us want to clap our hands to bring her back,″ she said.

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