LUDLOW, Vt. – Martin Nitka died peacefully on Thursday, March 30, 2023, while hospitalized in New Hampshire. He retained his sense of humor until his death, entertaining his family and endearing himself to hospital staff. The cause of death was respiratory failure and Covid-19.
Martin Nitka was born on Aug. 7, 1942 in Dessau, Germany, to Heinz and Gisela (Heuse) Nitka. He was the youngest of three children. Martin’s travels began at an early age. At the end of World War II, when Martin was 3 years old, the family fled Dessau, which became the Eastern Zone of Germany, controlled by Russia. It was Heinz’s work as a physicist that prompted the family to flee, to avoid Heinz being involuntarily sent to work in Russia.
After fleeing the Eastern Zone, the family resided in Berlin, while awaiting an opportunity to work and live in England. In 1948, the family arrived in Manchester, England, where Martin attended The Manchester Grammar School. He learned to speak English quickly, wanting to eliminate his German accent. When Martin was 12, he immigrated to the United States with his family, settling in Binghamton, N.Y., where he attended school and worked hard to drop his then-British accent. As a teenager, he became the Broome County Chess Champion, and had an opportunity to play a tournament match against Bobby Fischer, his contemporary. Fischer won. Martin became a U.S. citizen at the age of 18, having previously held British and German citizenship. He had great respect for the U.S. Constitution.
Martin graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. in 1964. During his college years, after working a summer in California, he purchased a Model A Ford and drove it cross-country with Dan Lamont, his college roommate. They met many mechanics along the way. He also studied at the University of Heidelberg, from which many members of his family had graduated. Martin went on to attend Albany Law School of Union University, in Albany, N.Y., obtaining his law degree in 1967, and passing the New York State Bar the same year. One of Martin’s first jobs as a lawyer in New York State was drafting legislation for the New York State Assembly. It was during his time in Albany that he met Alice Waterson. Alice and Martin married while working as “ski bums” at Mount Snow in Dover, Vt., in March 1968, and decided they wanted to make Vermont their permanent home. They moved to Ludlow the following year, where Martin began work as a lawyer for attorney Wally Schinowski. Following Shinowski’s death, Martin worked as a sole practitioner, establishing his practice at 92 Main Street. In 1988, Martin and Frederick Glover established a partnership for the practice of law in Ludlow, known as Nitka and Glover. Martin retired from the practice of law in 2014.
Martin was an active participant in Ludlow civic life. He served as town attorney, member of the Ludlow Select Board, and Cemetery Commissioner, among other positions. He was elected as town meeting moderator for many years, where his sharp wit could cut the tension in a debate. He was a member of the Vermont Bar Association, Rotary International, and was honored as a Paul Harris Fellow through Rotary in 2000. He served on many boards, Coolidge’s Plymouth Cheese Factory, Fletcher Farm, and Friends of Ludlow Auditorium (FOLA). He was also a past president of Okemo Mountain Ski Area.
Martin had many diverse interests. He enjoyed fly fishing in Vermont and New York trout streams, bird hunting with his dog, and hiking the Long Trail and other trails in the Green and White Mountains. He enjoyed downhill skiing in his younger days, and cross-country skiing in the national forest as he got older. He competed in the Stowe Derby in 2008, on an old pair of three-pin skis. He said he came in last in his age group. He loved The New York Times crossword puzzles, chess, and anything to do with numbers. He could keep track of everyone’s score in a golf foursome, and remember all the shots. He listened to public radio since its inception, watched Bloomberg News, and loved to cook and eat salt and salty foods. He looked forward to planting his garden each spring, and was never happy with the results. He was an avid golfer and longtime member of Okemo Valley/Fox Run Golf Course, where he also worked on the “Mow and Go Crew,” walking behind a lawnmower for miles in the early morning. Some of his favorite pastimes were critiquing his wife’s politics, and “contributing to his carbon footprint” by going for car rides around Vermont.
Martin is survived by his wife Alice Nitka of Ludlow; his daughters Abigail Nitka (Ulgur Aydin) of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Molly Nitka (Keith Lazarczyk) of Rutland, Vt., sister Inge Judge of Durham, N.H., and two grandsons, Berk Aydin and Sam Lazarczyk. He is also survived by many first cousins, in Europe and Argentina, where Martin’s maternal grandmother was born. He was predeceased by his sister Gisele Atwater, and niece Brigitte Judge.
A memorial service will be held at the Heald Auditorium in the Ludlow Town Hall on Saturday, April 29, 2023 at 10 a.m. The Davis Memorial Chapel of Springfield is assisting the family with arrangements. Burial will take place at a later date.
Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to the Ludlow Rotary Club, P.O. Box 216, Ludlow, VT 05149, for a scholarship in Martin’s memory, to benefit a student from the Ludlow region.