By Ashley Mackin
A lot has happened during the last 100 years. Henry Ford invented the moving assembly line for automobile production. Man landed on the moon. The Beatles released “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The Internet debuted. But for 104-year-old retired nurse Ann Martin, the most remarkable thing she has ever seen came from the medical field.
“The first thing I saw that I couldn’t believe was an organ transplant. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was the most marvelous thing that ever happened on Earth. It was unreal,” the longtime La Jollan said recently at a café in Pacific Beach where she and her son, Clark, met with the
La Jolla Light.
“You had to be able to know what next instrument (the surgeons) were going to need, so you had to watch them very carefully and you had to be quick, too,” she said. The first heart transplant in the United States was in 1968 at Stanford University.
Martin was originally educated in Orange County, earning a nursing degree. Her son, Clark McEwan, is quick to note that she was one of the first nursing graduates from the area. She continued to get her surgical training in San Francisco.
With a husband in the military, Ann and her family moved throughout the country before settling in La Jolla in the 1940s.
She worked as a nurse at the former Scripps Hospital and Metabolic Clinic when it was located on Prospect Street, until it relocated in 1964. In her later years, Martin worked at various doctor’s offices — “wherever I was needed” — around La Jolla.
“I liked what I was doing and I relished it,” she said. “I was so happy when I could do something good for a patient. I knew what the doctors wanted, how far they had progressed, so I could assist in the most efficient way and I was able to help.”
Martin does not recall a time when she was doubted for her gender. However, she reports there were very few women in the surgical field when she started. “I did my work and that was it,” she said.
In her free time, she volunteered at La Jolla High School, where her two sons attended and her husband coached sports.
Joking that his mother was “the one always in the stands cheering,” Clark McEwan said his father, Chuck McEwan (now deceased), coached football, baseball and track.
Martin recalled working at what was once a senior care facility thatoverlooked the school, so even if she was working, she could watch the games on the home field.
After Chuck McEwan died, Ann married Irving Martin. Irving passed away four or five years ago.
Despite the loss of two husbands and one son, Martin said she is at peace with her life. “I’m perfectly happy; I did everything I wanted to do.” This included some extensive travel.
While married to Chuck McEwan, the twosome spent a year in Europe, driving around in a Volkswagen Bug.
They visited central Europe, including Italy and Scandinavia. She said she enjoyed wandering the streets of Europe, too.
“Every place was different, nothing was outstanding, because it was all different in its own way,” she said. “People from each country had their own method of doing things and the buildings were different. It was quite an education.”
That worldly experience gave her something with which to compare La Jolla, which in the early years, received Martin’s glowing review.
“When we first came to La Jolla, I thought it was the jewel of the whole world,” she said. However, right around the time the hospital moved to its new location, Martin said La Jolla changed.
“La Jolla isn’t La Jolla to me (anymore),” she said. “When the hospital left, a lot of industry left and people left. It’s not as friendly as it used to be. It used to be so pleasant. Everybody said hello. People enjoyed things more. It’s more commercial now than it used to be. And it’s getting more and more so.”
She also said La Jolla “doesn’t have the personality it once did.”
Clark McEwan said his mother’s active mind and daily activities could be the secret to her longevity. At home, she likes to maintain her garden and clean her house. “I clean one room at a time, and by the time I’m finished cleaning, it’s time to start all over again,” she laughed.
Martin was born in Czechoslovakia and came to the United States when she was very young. Ironically, she does not think she was born in a hospital.
As part ofLa Jolla Light’s
100th publishing anniversary this year, we are featuring interviews with fellow centenarians throughout 2013. If you know a La Jollan who is 100 years old, please e-mail