Martha Tukey, a longtime case manager for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, who had a passion for cooking and traveling, died May 18 after a brief illness. She was 61.

Ms. Tukey worked with individuals with developmental disabilities for more than 30 years. She was a case manager for DHHS, where she helped people with developmental disabilities get the services they needed. She worked in Portland for many years, but was most recently based in Sanford.

Her sister, Linda Tukey, of Standish, said she helped hundreds of people throughout her career. She said her younger sister advocated for her clients, and brought joy and laughter to their lives.

“She helped make sure they had what they needed to be as productive as possible, and to enjoy life as much as possible,” her sister said.

“If they needed adaptive equipment, that’s what they got. If they needed a vacation, she would arrange that. If they needed to live in a group home, she got the best fit.”

Ms. Tukey was remembered by her sister Thursday as a compassionate and generous woman who always thought of others before herself. Linda Tukey shared many stories of the small ways her sister made a difference in people’s lives.

“If you went to her house and she had nothing in her refrigerator, you got a gourmet meal. It appeared out of nowhere. It was never an effort for her,” she said. “She was probably one of the most fun people I’ve ever been with. She made the world a better place for her family and friends.”

Ms. Tukey was married briefly and raised a son, Christopher Chesaux, of Buxton. She is survived by her son and his wife, Mathala Chesaux, and a granddaughter, Janieva.

“She was a wonderful mom. Chris was everything to her,” Linda Tukey said.

Ms. Tukey had a passion for cooking and traveling. She took many cruises to the Caribbean. Her sister also remembered a family cruise to Italy, Ireland and Greece with their mother.

“She loved the people … meeting different people and trying different foods,” her sister said. “She was always collecting recipes wherever she went.”

In late March, the sisters set out on a 10-day cruise to the Caribbean. A week after they got home, Ms. Tukey was admitted to the hospital. She was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia and had two brain bleeds, her sister said. Over the next few weeks, her health steadily declined.

“It seems unfair. It was too quick,” her sister said.

“We were hoping that they would be able to treat the leukemia, but they couldn’t. It was too aggressive, but she wasn’t afraid to die at all and she told us that.”

Ms. Tukey had a plan. She left her sister with a list of things she wanted her to do for family and friends long after she’s gone.

“It’s going to be fun,” Linda Tukey said. “I hope that other people enjoy this too. Everyone is trying to get the secrets out of me.”

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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