Martha Jeanne Bears Rich of Sharon died on July 7. She was 98, and was a pioneer in school nursing.

In the next world she will undoubtedly be volunteering for some important cause and using her leadership skills to extraordinary effect.

Martha was born on Jan. 16, 1923. She graduated from Wakefield High School and Simmons College School of Nursing. On Nov. 28, 1942, as a student nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital, she was called back from her night off to manage a ward while other staff were responding to the Cocoanut Grove disaster.

As a child, she spent her summers on Cape Cod in the Tahanto neighborhood of Pocasett. There she learned to sail and fish, and it was where she met her future husband. She married Robert Rich Jr. in 1944. After World War II, they briefly lived in the Alaska territory before returning east. In 1949, they settled at their home on Mountain street in Sharon.

While raising four children, Martha began a career in school nursing at Sharon High School. She remained with the Sharon school system for her entire career. In 1977, the Sharon Teachers Association honored her for her outstanding service. She retired as its head of the school nursing program in 1988 at age 65.

She was devoted to advancing and promoting the quality of school nursing. She helped organize and found the Massachusetts School Nurse Organization (MSNO) and was its first president between 1970 and 1972. MSNO has become one of the leading advocates for high-quality school health services in Massachusetts. she was president of the Department of School Nurses (DSN) of the National Education Association (NEA) from 1976–1977. She was instrumental in expanding the DSN and promoting school nursing. With her efforts and support, the DSN separated from the NEA in 1979 and incorporated as the National Association of School Nurses (NASN). She continued to serve on its board until her retirement.

In 1981, Martha was recognized by the NASN and the NEA for her distinguished service. In 2018, Simmons University School of Nursing honored Martha for her lifetime achievement.

In addition to her school nursing responsibilities, Martha spent many hours doing volunteer work. She was an active member of the Dorcas Society of the First Congregational Church in Sharon. She would cook up gallons of Boston baked beans, homemade grape jelly and codfish cakes for Dorcas’s annual Christmas bazaar. She also sat on the board of the Walpole Area Visiting Nurse Association for a number of years.

More recently, she volunteered with the Sharon Historical Society, answering questions about the town’s history and assisting with its annual fundraisers. In her spare time, Martha loved to sail. She was a member of the Massapoag Yacht Club and an enthusiastic first mate racing in the family’s Falcon class sailboat.

Since the early 1960s, Martha spent summers at her home on Martha’s Vineyard. She loved sailing her Sunfish on Lagoon Pond, hosting vacations of family and friends, digging clams to steam or make chowder, and watching Red Sox games. She started volunteering at the Thrift Shop in the 1980s while it was still on Main street in Vineyard Haven, and she was its last volunteer manager. She continued to volunteer there until she turned 95. She was also an active member of the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury and the Lagoon Pond Association.

She was predeceased by her husband, Robert R. Rich Jr., her parents, Earl L. Bears and Edith Gibbs Bears, her brother Whitman Bears, sister in law Elizabeth (Betty) Bears and her daughter in law, Linda Beebe Rich.

She is survived by her four children: Bradford Rich, Natalie Rich, Douglas Rich and his wife Ann, and Jonathan Rich and his husband William Bennett; three grandchildren, Sarah Bennett-Astesano and her husband Thierry, Heather Rich, and Eric Rich and his wife Erin; five great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

Her family would especially like to thank Karen O’Reilly, Mary Ann Collins and the other caregivers of Right at Home and Bayada for their countless hours of care and love during Martha’s final years.

Memorial services will be held at a later date when family and friends can gather to celebrate.

Donations can be made to the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, or Simmons University School of Nursing.