Marty Coleman

[The Episcopal News] Marty E. Coleman, whose ministries in peace and justice spanned four decades at Pasadena’s All Saints Church and beyond – died Jan. 29. She was 92 and had lived in recent years at Westminster Gardens in Duarte.

Survivors include her daughters, Laurie Edwards Back and Kim Edwards Johnson; six grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Coleman is predeceased by her son, the Rev. Douglas Edwards; her first husband, James Edwards; and her second husband, Robert Coleman.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 23 at All Saints Church, 132 N. Euclid Avenue, Pasadena. The Rev. Mike Kinman, rector, will preside. A reception in All Saints’ learning center will follow the service.

Friends and colleagues of Coleman have long praised her skills in leadership development and community organizing around causes. “Marty nurtured people into leadership,” longtime All Saints parishioner and vestry member Virginia Classick said of Coleman. “She had a gift for recognizing abilities in others and turning people into leaders.” Noting Coleman’s “sparkling personality” and hospitality as a “gracious hostess,” Classick underscored Coleman’s intellect as an avid reader and analyst of public policy.

Coleman began work at All Saints in 1982 as outreach coordinator for the Interfaith Center to Reverse the Arms Race, co-founded through the parish by then-rector George Regas and lay leader Jane Olson. Coleman – who was at that time a member of La Canada Presbyterian Church – later became a parishioner of All Saints, where in 1990 she was named staff associate for peace and justice ministries and served concurrently for several years as a consultant to the Episcopal Church Center’s denomination-wide peace and justice office led by the Rev. Canon Brian Grieves.

In the course of this work, with the fall of the Berlin Wall Coleman traveled to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, where on a visit to the Kremlin she spoke personally with then-President Mikhail Gorbachev about the cause of international peacemaking. “We talked about the sustainable world peace we both want for our grandchildren,” Coleman told The Episcopal News at the time.

Coleman also was active in international advocacy for ending apartheid in South Africa, the focus of a dedicated office directed at All Saints by Brian Peterson. Coleman came to know the late Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, visiting him in Cape Town and sharing in welcoming him on his various visits to Pasadena.

Coleman’s justice portfolio also took her to El Salvador and Mexico in initiatives seeking to break cycles of poverty.

Widening interfaith understanding and partnership, Coleman was a collaborator in the friendship shared by Regas and the late Leonard Beerman – senior rabbi of West L.A.’s Leo Baeck Temple who also served in residence at All Saints – and Dr. Maher Hathout, an Egyptian-born physician and co-founder of the L.A.-based Islamic Center of Southern California. Galvanizing times for this alliance included prophetic responses to the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War and the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

After concluding her tenure on the All Saints staff, Coleman was active in helping Regas shape the work of the L.A.-based Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP). She also formed two other initiatives; Conscientious Projector – a Pasadena forum that screened documentaries to spark discussion of issues — and Sustainable World, a program focused on socially responsible economics and advocacy for fair wages.

In 2017, at age 86, Coleman was named grand marshal of Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade, founded in 1978 as an often-irreverent counterpoint to the world-renowned Tournament of Roses Parade held each New Year’s Day. A Pasadena Star-News article is here.

Upon being named grand marshal, Coleman declared: “I want to live to be 105 years old, because I have that much more work to do. In this era of unusual crises in politics, it’s become even more important that we respond with resilience and passion in our community.”

Born in 1931 in Cleveland, Ohio, Coleman attended UCLA where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and met James Edwards. The couple married and made their home in La Canada Flintridge until his untimely death – in her arms after he collapsed onto the garage floor — tragically leaving his young family.

Thereafter she married Robert Coleman – a friend from La Canada Presbyterian Church – and the couple resided in Pasadena in a historic Euclid Avenue bungalow where they entertained frequently and held gatherings for progressive causes. A master gardener, Marty Coleman welcomed students and teachers from nearby Mayfield School to her backyard to learn about horticulture, hosting classes there until she relocated in 2020 to assisted living in Duarte.

Tributes to Coleman have included numerous social media posts, and Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo asked that the city council adjourn its Feb. 6 meeting in her honor. Writing of Coleman, the Rev. Tim Safford, her former All Saints colleague who went on to serve as rector of Philadelphia’s historic Christ Church, described her as “the elixir of peace.”

This story was updated on Feb. 28, 2024 with memorial service information.