Helen Onis Tilley Martin

Services for Helen Onis Tilley Martin, 85, Lawrence, will be at 10:30 am Saturday, June 8, 2024, at Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vermont Street, Lawrence KS 66044, with a potluck lunch following services.

Helen Martin died unexpectedly on Saturday, May 4, 2024.

Helen was born July 16, 1938 in Panama City, Panama, the daughter of Marjorie Locke Tilley and Joseph Otto Tilley. She graduated from Balboa Union High School in 1954, and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from New Mexico State University and a master’s degree in humanities at Iowa University.

Helen married Edwin John Martin, whom she met at New Mexico State University, in 1959. They lived in Ann Arbor Michigan from 1963 – 1974, and then in Lawrence Kansas from then on. They built a house in Pleasant Grove, south of Lawrence, and enjoyed traveling, attending live jazz venues, classical concerts and lectures, and sailing. Helen was widowed in 2001.

Helen was a potter beginning in 1970 when she took her first ceramics class in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She sold her work in art shows around Kansas during the late 70s and early 80s, and was a member of The Hand and Eye shop in the Casbah on Massachusetts Street. Later, she started selling her work at the Lawrence Farmer’s Market, where she was planning to start this year’s season the following weekend.

Helen loved living in Lawrence Kansas, and was a vital part of so many communities. She attended the same dance aerobics class for over 40 years, and made many friends with the other women in class. She sang in the choir at Plymouth Congregational Church for over 40 years, and was looking forward to the major work they were to perform the next day. She volunteered for Audio Reader for many years. As a potter, when she moved into town from Pleasant Grove in 2007, she did much of her ceramics at the Lawrence Arts Center, where she befriended many other potters both young and old. Many younger potters considered her a mentor. She also played bass in her daughter and son-in-law’s Scandinavian folk dance band.

Family was also very important to Helen, and she traveled often to Phoenix Arizona to visit her son and daughter-in-law, and was there in the lives of her four Phoenix grandsons as well as her two Lawrence grandsons. She made dinners, washed dishes, attended soccer games and music concerts, played peek-a-boo, and went on hikes.

In the two weeks before her death, Helen spent a week with her son and daughter-in-law in Arizona, playing with her great-grandsons, visiting old friends, and hiking to the top of Thunderbird Mountain; made several trips out to her daughter and son-in-law’s farm to commune with the sheep, have dinner and play games; went to her dance aerobics class and choir practice; worked in the studio at the Lawrence Arts Center and visiting with all her friends there; visited the Farmer’s Market to buy pastries and talk to all her friends there; and made plans to visit a friend in the hospital and take another friend out to lunch.

Helen is survived by her daughter Theresa Martin and son-in-law Byron Wiley, Lawrence, Kansas; son John Charles Martin and daughter-in-law Michelle Martin, Phoenix, Arizona; sister Marjorie Janet Tilley Lee, Cerro Punto, Panama; six grandsons, Martin Bergstrom, Brooklyn New York, Beckett Bergstrom, Lawrence Kansas, Jack Martin, Peter Martin, Elliot Martin, and Scott Martin, all Phoenix Arizona; and five great-grandsons.

Messages & Condolences

From Phyllis Fantini...

I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Helen. I have quite a few of her pieces of art. She was a great potter.

From Mary-Margaret Simpson...

My husband, Greg, and I were very sad to hear about Helen’s death. She and Ed had parties for grad students when Greg was in the PhD program and her late-night bean dip was famous. More recently, I saw her in yoga classes at the Yoga Center of Lawrence and at the Lawrence Farmers’ Market. She was our connection to an earlier time that holds great memories for us and she and Ed were part of a faculty-spouses cadre in the psychology department that featured some truly great researchers and teachers. She, like the late Judi Kellas, married to George Kellas, were also outstanding, successful artists, both married to nationally known cognitive psychologists. Our condolences go out to her family.


Helen was a dear friend. The psychology wives group is really shrinking. Remember the good times. I will miss our visits

From Sharon D Learned...

So many wonderful memories come flooding back when I look at her pottery. What a wonderful, gifted individual we were lucky to have in our lives.

From Pat Bates...

I was so saddened to see the Memorial poster for Helen at the Farmers Market today. I met Helen 40 some years ago through mutual friends and have enjoyed varying experiences with her. Helen’s memory lives on in the many pieces of pottery that grace my and many of my family and friends homes. We will miss your smiles and warm greetings at the market.

From Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg...

I always loved talking to your mom whenever I saw her at the Farmer’s Market or Merc or other places. She was exceeding kind, interested in what was happening all around her, and truly had an artist’s soul. So sorry she’s gone and may her memory be a blessing.

From Kristen Henderson...

Helen often called me her “other daughter.” As a young teen, I appreciated that she treated me like a grown-up, and was always kind. I’m grateful for her friendship and guidance and treasure the memories of many shared meals, games, conversation, and music.

From Elizabeth Tomorsky Knott...

Helen was someone to be admired for all of her adventure and spirit. She will be greatly missed.

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