By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Not everyone is fortunate enough to blend their vocation and avocations with ease, but Shrewsbury resident Martha H. Gach, has done so seamlessly.
Gach was born and raised in Morgantown, W.V., went to college at Washington University in St. Louis and received her doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Michigan. She came to Shrewsbury 15 years ago with her husband of 26 years, Gerard Gach, and their two daughters Eva, now 23, and Margaret, 17.
Service, nature, music and faith are the cornerstones of Gach’s life. It all began in her youth as a Girl Scout and camp counselor and continued throughout her education with a focus on natural sciences and a drive to make the world a better place through service and music. Post undergrad, she spent several years in the Peace Corps in Africa and is where she met Gerard.
“I had to travel half way around the world to meet him,” she said.
Like many transplants of the 1990s, Gerard’s job brought them to town. Once here, they didn’t waste time getting involved, looking for a way to do something meaningful and use skills that they possessed in home repair. They discovered Rebuilding Worcester Together, an organization that helps low- to moderate-income homeowners in Worcester who need repairs or general maintenance on their properties. They serve mostly elderly or the physically challenged.
According to Martha, “this is a unique opportunity where one actually gets to know and work with the people we serve. The volunteers are caring and compassionate.”
Another worthwhile organization near and dear to Gach’s heart is the Girl Scouts. As a former camp counselor and a Girl Scout, she naturally gravitated to her role as Girl Scout leader (currently Troop 31331) and service unit manager for Shrewsbury.
“Girl Scouts provide a strong leadership opportunity for young girls and women to connect with and contribute to their community and to learn about the world through exploration and adventures while allowing girls to reach their full potential,” Gach said. “I was very fortunate to have been able to lead a group of girls who spent two years researching, planning and fundraising for a recent trip to Our Chalet in Adelboden, Switzerland. Five of my Girl Scouts grew, gained self-confidence and skills as they planned and made this journey. It was a joy to see their self-discovery as they took part in adventures including watching the sunrise atop the Alps and meeting other Girl Scouts from around the world.”
On a personal level, Gach relayed that her involvement with Girl Scouting gives her an opportunity to do things that she wouldn’t otherwise do on her own.
“I love being out in the woods and camp-outs and other adventures,” she said.
Gach and her family are parishioners of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Northborough. Her family joined the congregation 12 years ago and felt at home right away. Gach serves as an accompanist to their choir, a cantor, and a substitute organist for Mass. The combination of the music and the liturgy fills her with great joy. She views music as a form of prayer, and hopes that as a musician she can contribute to the congregation’s prayer experience.
Drawing on her expertise in biology and ecology, Gach was recently appointed to the Shrewsbury Conservation Commission which is responsible for protecting water resources to make sure the wetlands, aquifers and habitats are protected.
Gach’s friends and neighbors are the first to sing her praises.
“I have had the pleasure of learning from, laughing with and counting on Martha as a colleague and a friend,” said Gach’s Girl Scout co-leader Lori Jones. “Martha goes about the world in a very understated way, making a huge impact on the people and the world around her. If you want a plant, tree or critter identified, Martha usually knows the answer. Problem solving, whether it is a logistical problem or an interpersonal problem, Martha always works through to a respectful conclusion and helps us all to look at our environment in a conservation-minded and sustainable way. Shrewsbury is lucky to have Martha Gach.”