Martha Rebay, a Martha’s Vineyard summer resident since the early 1960s, died in North Carolina on June 14, at the age of 93, after a hard-fought battle with Covid-19.  

Martha was born in Louisville, Ky., on November 13, 1926, the second of four children, to Richard Louis Krauss and Fanny Baker Krauss. After graduating from high school in Louisville, she attended Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Ga., and the University of Louisville, earning a bachelor of arts in French in 1948, followed by a master’s degree in French literature from Ohio State University in 1951.  

A strong student, always seeking to learn new things, curious to explore the world, and ever eager for adventure, Martha was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to continue her studies at the University of Aix-en-Provence in France in 1951. While abroad, she met Luciano Rebay, a young Italian scholar who had left Italy shortly after the end of World War II and was also studying at the University of Aix-en-Provence. They were married in London in 1952 and enjoyed 62 years of marriage together until Luciano’s death in 2014. When they first met, Martha spoke no Italian and Luciano spoke no English, so they communicated in French until each learned the other’s native language. 

The couple resided in London from 1952 to 1955 before moving to the United States and settling in New York, where Luciano pursued a career as a professor of Italian literature at Columbia University. Martha taught French at the secondary school level until the mid-1960s, when her focus temporarily shifted to raising the couple’s two daughters, Alexandra and Ilaria.  Once her daughters were teenagers, Martha embarked on a second career in the Office of the Treasurer at Columbia. Rising quickly through the ranks, she became Columbia’s director of trust administration and remained closely involved in the administration and investment of the university’s endowment funds until she retired at age 72.

Martha’s eagerness to travel and explore the world continued throughout her lifetime. Over the course of several decades, she and Luciano returned to Europe multiple times to visit old friends and familiar haunts in England and France, as well as Luciano’s family in Italy. They also explored Egypt, Russia, Turkey, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Greece.  Additionally, the couple traveled frequently within the United States and, in so doing, discovered Martha’s Vineyard in the early 1960s.

Martha’s Vineyard immediately became the family’s refuge from city life. Beginning in 1964, Martha and Luciano spent every summer on the Island, first on Lambert’s Cove Road in West Tisbury, and later at the current family home in Lower Makonikey, often accompanied by their daughters. Martha was an avid birdwatcher, berry picker and beachcomber, readily identifiable for years by her signature straw hat and driftwood walking stick as she enjoyed daily beach walks along the north shore, stopping frequently to chat with longtime friends and neighbors.  

In 2017, Martha relocated to a senior living facility in Davidson, N.C., called The Pines at Davidson, where she resided until her death in June. 

Martha is survived by her daughters, Alexandra and Ilaria; her younger sister, Janet Krauss Lambert; her grandson and several nieces and nephews.