During one of Martrene Wicks' holiday visits home, she surprised her mother with a new stove.

A few days later, on Christmas Day, when they were ready to cook the turkey, the stove stopped working. Wicks spent most of the holiday working to get it fixed.

"That's just how she was," said her brother, Hal Woodard. "She was determined to do everything."

Martrene Wicks, originally from Illinois, put herself through college at Eastern Illinois University to become a home economics teacher, then embarked on a long career of advocating for public education.

Wicks, who lived in Woodbury, died on Dec. 27. She was 76.

Her first teaching job was hundreds of miles away from her mother and two younger siblings.

The Christmas holiday was "their" time together, and she made it extra special, said her sister, Kathleen Myers.

"I couldn't wait for her to come home," Myers said. "I looked up to her. She was everything to me."

One year she bought her family a television. Another year her present to their mother was tile flooring for her bathroom. "So there she was on her vacation, putting tiles on the floor," Woodard said.

Wicks was "good all the way through," Myers said. "You can't say that about many people, but you can say that about Marty."

Outside the family, too, people knew Wicks as helpful and caring. Her personality made her the perfect teacher, her sister said.

"If people needed help, she volunteered to do it," Myers said.

Woodard said that when Wicks was younger, she worked at their uncle's restaurant and made her own dresses.

Such interests and experience led her to teach home economics for many years in Rochester.

And before her retirement in 1998, she worked as a manager in the Wyoming Department of Education and the Minnesota Department of Education.

An advocate for public education, she served on the executive committee of the National Education Association from 1976 to 1982.

Wicks also was active at the state and local levels of the National Education Association, all while teaching home economics to high school students.

And she was instrumental in founding the women's caucus in the international World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession, a cause she embraced after seeing how few women were involved in the group.

"She was a strong believer in social justice through public education," said her husband, Larry Wicks.

Teaching also led her to him.

They met through Minnesota's National Education Association group, when Wicks was an active leader. They were friends first. That friendship evolved into love, and then into 31 years of marriage.

"They were perfect for one another," Myers said. "He's been wonderful to her."

Through work with various education associations, she traveled to 23 countries. This past August, an Alaska trip she took with her husband helped her achieve a goal of visiting all 50 states.

"It was spectacular, just spectacular," Larry Wicks said. "While her health wasn't great, she was a trouper."

In addition to her husband, sister and brother, she is survived by a stepdaughter, Amy Zupfer; a stepson, Brian Wicks, and five grandchildren.

Services have been held.