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Small-Town Woman Leads Big-Time Life

Growing up in the South during the Depression, Westporter Martha Aasen never imagined traveling the world, meeting former Presidents or working for an international organization.

But the 80-year-old Mississippi native has done all of those things. She's been to every continent except Antarctica, met President John F. Kennedy and worked more than 20 years for the United Nations.

Martha, a former chair of the Westport Democratic Town Committee and past president of the library board, grew up in small-town Newton, Miss.

"There were probably 350 people in town until about the time I was 10," she said. "Everyone knew everyone. Have you ever read 'To Kill a Mockingbird'? The description of the town is almost exactly like Newton."

Growing up in a big, tightly-knit extended family, she said her childhood was "very pleasant." Though she only had three siblings, Aasen said she had "about 27 cousins."

"We all lived very close-by," she said. "In the summers, we'd go spend a week with one aunt and uncle, then another with another aunt or our grandmother. It was a different kind of life completely."

While she loved Mississippi, she and a friend talked of traveling to New York after graduating from college. So in 1951, at the age of 21, she ventured to the city, where she eventually got a job as an assistant editor for a trucking magazine at McGraw Hill.

Had she not gone to New York, she might not have met her husband, Larry, who also worked at McGraw Hill.

In 1963, after almost nine years in California, the Aasens settled in Westport.

"This is a great town. We're always glad we came here," Martha said.

Although Westport is her home, she said she sometimes misses Southern living.

"I miss the food," she laughed. "I definitely miss the food."

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