Her first job out of high school was cleaning homes in Wilmington, she said. She later worked at the Joliet Arsenal inspecting bullets and then for Hart, Schaffner & Marx clothing as a seamstress. She attended Shiloh Baptist Church in Lockport.
In 1938, Thompson married Frank McNear. Their first home was on Chase Avenue in Joliet, and they attended Mount Moriah Baptist church in Joliet. McNear died in 1969. The couple had no children.
Thompson served on the usher board at Mount Moriah, greeting people when they walked through the doors on Sunday morning.
"She always had a smile on her face," Humphrey said.
Thompson married the late Rev. Odell Thompson and became the first lady of St. John the Baptist Missionary Church in Joliet, where Odell was pastor, she said.
Mary Martha now had two stepchildren, Tracy Lyles of California and the late Richard. Mary Martha has 10 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
As Thompson's wife, Mary Martha taught Sunday school, helped with the youth and helped plan events. Through the years, she's sang in church choirs and her favorite hymns are "Amazing Grace" and especially "Hold to God's Unchanging Hand."