NEW LONDON - Martin L. Gross of New London, and Ocean Ridge, Fla. died Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, in Ushuaia, Argentina following a stroke suffered en route to Antarctica. He was 77 years old.
Martin's adventures began in New York City where he was born on Oct. 22, 1938. As a young child, Martin and his older brother, Woolf, were dispatched to summer camps and later to working cattle ranches in Utah during the summer months to escape the polio outbreaks that plagued New York City in the years following World War II. After high school, Martin headed north to Cambridge, Mass. where he attended both Harvard College and Harvard Law School, graduating from the latter in 1964. Martin's fondest memories of his law school years were not his classes (he didn't figure out how to do well on his exams until his third year), but the weekends he spent in Newburyport, Mass. with his good friend, Will Rogers, whose family adopted Martin and treated him as their own.
Before embarking on his first job as a law clerk in New Hampshire, Martin and his first wife, the late Caroline Lord Gross, purchased a VW pop-up camper and drove to Alaska with Martin's mother, Harriet. Harriet slept in the camper; Martin and Caroline slept outdoors in a tent. After several weeks of abysmal weather the camper was coated with a thick layer of adobe-colored mud. When the trio returned to Concord and washed the car for the first time, it was in pristine condition. Thereafter, Martin never worried much if his car was dirty.
Following his clerkship, Martin joined the Concord law firm of Sulloway & Hollis, P.L.L.C. from which he retired (while maintaining senior counsel status) in 2015 after more than 50 years of distinguished service to his clients and to the New Hampshire Bar. As with everything else in life, Martin viewed the practice of law as an adventure. He delighted in besting his adversaries and often developed long and lasting friendships with them. His in-house writing boot camps were legendary and his wit and charm were ever present at the office and in the courtroom.
While working full-time as a Sulloway lawyer, Martin served three terms as the mayor of Concord and could often be seen spending his lunch hours walking the length of Main Street between Capitol Street and McDonald's in the south end, chatting with his constituents. Martin so enjoyed these daily jaunts that this pattern continued long after his tenure as mayor had ended.
While a young lawyer at Sulloway, Martin developed a real talent for cooking. This was driven by necessity since Caroline's busy schedule at the State House meant she was often home late. Undeterred by a complete lack of training (and by a lifelong aversion to cookbooks) Martin channeled his inner top chef and produced thousands of wonderful meals for friends and family. Over the years, the informal "Sunday Suppers" he enjoyed with his close friends Malcolm and Susan McLane, Liz and Dennis Hager and other dear Concord friends were a social staple. In addition, following his induction into the Snowshoe Club, Martin spent several years preparing delicious meals (usually involving pork tenderloin or chicken) with his Snowshoe Club cooking partner, John Swope. Though not a baker, Martin loved dessert. His favorite after-dinner treat was a mini Dove bar (only 60 calories!) which he would consume in a single bite.
Six years after the loss of his beloved Caroline in 1993, fate intervened and Martin met his second wife, Deirdre Sheerr-Gross, architect, New London. The meeting occurred at Chicago's O'Hare airport where both were waiting to board a flight back to New Hampshire. It would turn out to be a kismet flight on United Airlines (friendly skies indeed!) with Deirdre sitting in seat 2B and Martin (who always flew coach and never paid for upgrades) inexplicably seated in seat 3B directly behind Deirdre. Seeing that seat 2A was open, Martin leaned over and graciously asked Deirdre "Can I buy you dinner?" They have been having dinner together ever since. This episode gave Martin plenty of fodder for his expansive repertoire of bad puns. "United Airlines- 2B or not to be". Martin made the most of it. Six months later, in July 2000, Martin and Deirdre were married. On the day before their wedding, Deirdre gave Martin the car of his dreams-a Porsche Boxster- and Martin delighted in telling everyone that the car was a gift from his girlfriend.
During their 15 year marriage, Martin and Deirdre traveled the world. Despite temporary setbacks (Martin's surgeries, lost luggage, etc.) they visited South America, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Central America and multiple European countries. This past September, in homage to Martin's mud-laden Alaskan road trip of the early 1960s, Martin and Deirdre rented an Airstream trailer and toured Grand Teton and Yellowstone parks; they did not have to sleep outdoors.
Over the past few years, one of Martin's happiest endeavors was building a warm winter getaway in Ocean Ridge, Fla. He loved living in a house designed by his wife, Deirdre, conveniently located across the street from his dearest friends, Peter and Jean Burling.
Two weeks ago, Martin and Deirdre left for Antarctica; a trip that was to be Martin's last great adventure. While southbound on his way to Antarctica on a cruise ship he suffered a stroke and had to be transferred to a passing northbound vessel. That ship docked safely in Ushuaia (the cruise's point of origin) where Martin underwent surgery to relieve a subdural hematoma. Despite excellent care and a successful surgery, Martin contracted an infection from which he did not recover.
Martin loved the spontaneity and unpredictability of travel. He would have appreciated the irony of his last great adventure.
Martin is survived by his wife, Deirdre Sheerr-Gross, of New London; his brother, Woolf Gross (spouse Lucy) of Arlington, Va.; a nephew, William Gross, of Arlington, Va.; two cousins, John and Charles Gross, both of New York City, and his brother-in-law, (affectionately referred to as "hermano west," Hugh McCrystal (spouse Polly). In addition, Martin is survived by dozens of close friends including his childhood friend, Peter Soloman (who Martin always introduced as "the man I've never not known"), Will and Sherry Rogers and (Peter and Will were Harvard '60 classmates) their two daughters, Anne and Catherine (who were Martin's goddaughters and who lovingly called him "Uncle Martin"), Peter and Jean Burling, Rick and Karla Karash, Alex Bernhart and Myra Mayman, Merwyn and Carol Bagan, and others too numerous to name.
In honor of Martin's extraordinary service to his community, donations can be made to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation (on whose board he served for many years), to the Capitol Center for the Arts, to New Hampshire Public Radio, or to the charity of one's choice .
Funeral arrangements and information about a celebration of Martin's life will be announced at a later date.
Published in the Concord Monitor - January 31, 2016
An earlier obituary on Martin Gross's political life appeared in the Concord Monitor on January 29, 2016.
Also published in the New York Times - January 29, 2015.