Martha Ann Barrick Caldwell passed away peacefully in her sleep on May 12, 2019; so fitting that the best Mom on the planet passed on Mother’s Day. She was born on July 11, 1934 in Nashville, TN. She was an only child and is preceded in death by her parents, Olive Kennon Barrick and Clarence Richard Barrick, as well as her best friend, dancing partner, adventure seeker for life, and husband of 61 years Harold P. (Buddy) Caldwell, Jr.
She is survived by her two children: Harold Pendleton (Susan) Caldwell, III and Edward Barrick (Paige) Caldwell; sister in law Dakie Caldwell (John) Cowan; cousin Bill (Marsha) Oakley; grandchildren Kindall (Hal) Hunter, Kallie (Tyler) Hall, Ann Cason (Casey) Caldwell, Tanner Caldwell, and Sara Kennon Caldwell; great grandson TJ Hall (plus one on the way!); more recent grandchildren Vanessa Freije (Danny) Bessner, Hope Freije, Nicholas Freije, Sophie Freije, and Ethan Freije. She is also survived by many caring and loving nieces and nephews, as well as a true love of hers and the last of her five Pomeranians – Tittle.
Martha Ann spent her youth living on a farm in east Nashville and riding horses, first for fun but soon her love of horses led to a more serious side of riding. During her teen years, she traveled the south riding in prestigious horse shows and winning more than her fair share of events. Her success culminated first with a show in Griffin, GA where she and her best friend Ceacy Henderson Hailey won every event each of them entered, winning more than six events between them and virtually sweeping the show. The second (and perhaps proudest moment) was her 1950 Fine Harness state championship victory with her prized horse, Fireball. She stopped riding competitively when she was 18 but continued riding as a hobby well into her 70’s, even participating in the Franklin Christmas parade when she was 76 years old.
Martha Ann attended Ward Belmont high school through her junior year and was in the first graduating class of Harpeth Hall School (class of ’52), a milestone for which she was eternally proud and resulted in a lifelong commitment to the school. She paved the way for her granddaughters to follow in her footsteps and had a simple yet direct question when an event at the school was pending for one of her ‘girls’: “Can I come?”. The answer was obvious.
She attended Southern Methodist University where she joined Delta Delta Delta sorority but came home to attend Vanderbilt University and follow her heart. Her heart had been stolen in high school when she met Buddy Caldwell at a horse show at the Nashville fairgrounds. Her parents were not overly excited about Buddy (they rarely are), but the love and bond between Martha Ann and Buddy was instant, unwavering, and eternal. They married at Second Presbyterian Church in 1954 (Buddy had earned the full support of Dick and Olive by then) and settled in Nashville in a small apartment off Franklin Road. They soon moved into their first house near Radnor Lake, where they enjoyed exploring the abundant woods right outside their front door, both on horseback and on foot. It was in this neighborhood that they forever lived and raised their two sons: Pen and Edward.
Martha Ann always believed in hard work, both inside and outside the home. She first worked for her father at Barrick Jewelers in the downtown Nashville Arcade. In the 1960’s she sold advertising for WLAC radio and, in 1973, purchased Helen’s Children’s Shop in Green Hills. Her run as owner of Helen’s lasted over twenty years with Helen’s being Nashville’s premiere children’s clothing store during her ownership. She took her place as a savvy business woman in a man’s world, never once complaining about how hard it was for a woman to raise a family and run a business. She simply got up earlier, stayed up later, and worked harder than the rest to make sure everyone was well taken care of, first for the family and then for the business. Perhaps most impressive: despite the hectic schedule and lack of sleep, one rarely ran into Martha Ann without seeing her warm and energetic smile – a smile that instantly made your day just a little bit better (or maybe a lotta bit better!).
Martha Ann introduced Buddy to boating and waterskiing in the 1950’s on the Cumberland River. They later moved to Old Hickory Lake, where they joined Cedar Creek Yacht Club in 1969 and spent cherished weekends on the Mop-O-Mop and Blue Pelican with family and friends. Martha Ann was the ultimate dinner cruise hostess with her decorative picnic baskets filled with fried chicken, stuffed tomatoes, potato salad, deviled eggs, chess pie, and fruit tea. Oh yea, and lots of wine!!! But there was nothing like “Martha Ann’s tuna fish” to draw Pen and Edward’s friends out of the woodwork. They would come from miles away in hopes for tuna fish and mayonnaise on white bread. The ingredients themselves sound underwhelming but with Martha Ann’s magic touch, they somehow became a delicacy, at least for a bunch of high school kids – and Buddy (tuna was his favorite).
Although she spent most of her time entertaining others, she was also an avid water skier. She got up on a slalom ski several times every summer through her 79th birthday, always celebrating her big day with a slalom show to impress the young folks. The show always finished with the same statement and question: “I DID IT (with clinched fist in the air); can I have a glass of wine to celebrate?”. Martha Ann’s love for the water wasn’t limited to the houseboats and waterskiing. She was also an avid sailor, regularly captaining her two sailboats (Magellan and Snowflake) around the waters near Cedar Creek. She and Buddy also began taking bareboat sailing charters in the British Virgin Islands in 1979 and chartered more than 20 times from the Moorings, introducing their sons to a vacation tradition they both carry on today.
Buddy and Martha Ann decided to try their hand at snow skiing when they visited Aspen, CO in 1957, just 11 years after the resort opened in 1946. Martha Ann was terrified at first and literally threw up every morning because she was so scared. But Buddy loved it, and she knew she only had two choices: stay home or learn to love it. She was a good learner… They spent the next 60 years skiing together all over the world but based out of the Aspen condo they purchased in 1986, with Martha Ann making her final turns on Aspen Mountain in 2014 at the age of 80. She may have been 80 on the outside but on that day, you would have sworn she was 16; the smile said it all.
Buddy and Martha Ann were members of Hillwood Country Club, where they enjoyed playing golf and tennis, and socializing with friends during the post-match cocktail hour (perhaps the best part). Martha Ann was also a proud member of Garden Club and Centennial Club, serving as President of Centennial Club from 1999-2001. She always enjoyed social outings, whether it be a simple dinner with friends, a play, a night at the symphony, or whatever the evening had in store. Her time exploring arts and culture with Buddy were some of her most special moments; she even drug him to Paris to show him around one of her favorite cities.
Martha Ann was a long-time member of First Presbyterian Church. Visitation will be in Cheek House, First Presbyterian Church on May 20 from 2:00PM to 4:00PM with a memorial service to follow at 4:00PM. Burial will be private in the First Presbyterian Columbarium. In lieu of flowers please feel free to donate to Friends of Radnor Lake, the Nashville Humane Association (she was a lifelong animal lover), Alzheimer’s Association, or Harpeth Hall School.
Martha Ann will be remembered as a strong woman who loved her family and friends. Her smile, love, kindness, joyous spirit, humor, and helping hands will continue to bring joy to all those who were blessed enough to know her. This piece is being written by her two sons; to say that we were blessed to have the Mom we had would be the understatement of the century. She was the absolute toughest gal we ever knew, and she was the best – hands down. Her devotion to her children and grandchildren could not be duplicated; there was nothing more important or exciting to her than being with her family. Once we were grown and out of the house, we would call her to catch up. She wasn’t very tech savvy, but she figured out caller ID, so she knew who it was. She would pick up the phone all giddy and instantly say: “What are you doing? When am I going to see you? I’m having withdrawals”. Well Mom, a life well lived; you have certainly set the bar high and we will do our best, just like you taught us. We take comfort in knowing you’re in a wonderful place, but we can’t help but have withdrawals…