Marla Martin

Marla (nee Feldman) Martin passed away suddenly on November 11 at St. Francis Hospital, Evanston, after knee replacement surgery at the age of 63. Born May 22, 1954, she is preceded in death by her parents, Stanley and Joy Feldman of Evanston, siblings Maris, and Peter and several pet beagles.

Her memory is celebrated by family, friends and colleagues who shared her passion for everything water throughout her life. Born in Evanston, her love for beaches and beagles came from her mother and athletics from her father. She last lived by Lake Michigan in southeast Evanston at the time of her death and was seen daily as she walked her pet beagle, Myrtle, by the lakefront several miles a day. Marla is widely known by other dog walkers and friends from these lakefront walks and her series of pet beagles.

Marla began swimming in childhood and was a lifeguard on the Evanston beaches of Lake Michigan in high school. Graduating from Evanston Township High School, she swam competitively on the women’s swim team at the University of Illinois-Champaign, where she received a bachelor’s degree in physical education. She and her father were the first father-daughter pair to letter at the university, where her father played baseball and basketball and later was a minor league professional baseball player. She then attended the University of Michigan, receiving a master’s degree in kinesiology and where she met her first husband, Dr. Steven Sidebotham, a professor of ancient history at the University of Delaware. She traveled with him during summers throughout the 1980s to digs in Italy, Greece, North Africa, Israel, and Mideast countries. While on the East Coast, she swam professionally in long-distance, open-water races, most notably the 30-mile Magog race stretching from New Hampshire to Canada.

She returned to Evanston in the 1990s where she coached the Masters Swim Team and was a personal trainer at the East Bank Club, Chicago, before spending the past 18 years at the McGaw YMCA, Evanston. Marla coached and instructed MYST (McGaw Youth Swim Team) teams while at the Y, where she could be seen every morning swimming laps and working out in the Wellness Center after her morning dog walks. She also was a personal trainer to several clients over the years. She continued her long-distance swimming competition in Chicago races, and met her second husband, John Martin, through swimming activities.

Wind surfing became Marla’s passion when she took it up more than 10 years ago. She monitored the wind, temperature and currents daily to jump at the chance to hit the water with her board on Lake Michigan and was widely known by the Chicago area wind surfing community. She traveled annually to Bonaire for a week-long clinic with fellow wind surfers.

Marla is survived by her beagle Myrtle and first cousins Larry and Cindy Shanker of Wilmette and their children, Jordan and wife Erin, Tamara and Rebecca, and Dr. David and Lisa Shanker of Riverwoods and their children Arielle, Emily and Elayna.  A private service will be held at Shalom Memorial Park, Arlington Heights.

For family and friends, a brief gathering at Greenwood Beach, Evanston, will be held at 2:00 pm, Dec. 3 followed by a memorial open house from 3-5 p.m. at the McGaw YMCA, Evanston. Donations can be made in her memory to Orphans of the Storm. Details are available at