Remembering My Mother, Laura Plimpton

Just a week ago, I learned that my mother suffered a massive brain aneurism. My husband and I were in London when my brother called. We flew to JFK as quickly as we could, and rushed from the airport to the hospital to say our goodbyes. The next day she was taken off life support and died. She was an organ donor, and she has given life to several other people already.

This has been one of the hardest challenges of my life. At the same time, it has provided intense healing and closeness for my family. I am so blessed to have an amazing family, a supportive network of friends, and love from strangers I've never met. I believe that my mother's legacy lives on in the connectivity that we are experiencing as a family.

What follows is the obituary I wrote with my brother, sister, father, brother-in-law and husband. Thank you for reading it and for getting to know a little bit about my mom.

 

Laura Plimpton died on Wednesday, August 6, at Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut. The cause of death was a complication from a brain aneurism. She was 59.

Laura Dorothy Kostyra, the youngest of six children, was born on March 4, 1955 in Jersey City to Martha and Edward Kostyra. After growing up in Nutley, New Jersey, Laura moved to Florida and then to Westport, Connecticut, where she began to work in catering with her sister, Martha Stewart.

At the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, an actor, Kim Herbert, demanded to meet the person who made the delicious lemon bars served by Ms. Stewart's then-fledgling catering company. That person was Laura. The two were married in 1979. Their first child, Christopher, a Grammy-nominated musician and scholar of Middle Eastern studies, was born in 1980 in New York City. They moved to New Jersey in 1983, and their daughter, Sophie, a yoga teacher and therapist, was born the following year. In 1985, Kim was diagnosed with terminal lymphoma and passed away a few months later.

Laura and her children moved to Weston, Connecticut, and were joined by her mother, Martha Kostyra. Ms. Kostyra, known as “Big Martha,” filled the home with Polish cuisine, passing on recipes for classic dishes such as pierogi (dumplings), golumpki (stuffed cabbage), and babka (Easter cake).

Laura worked alongside her sister for four decades, mainly as a writer for the popular AskMartha radio program and the acclaimed The Martha Blog. In 1989, during a photo shoot, Laura met her second husband, Randy Plimpton, now a real estate agent with William Raveis in Westport and an independent property manager. Laura and Randy were married in 1990. She and Randy cared deeply about the environment and enjoyed summers in Cutchogue, New York, on the North Fork of Long Island, where Randy’s grandfather built a house in 1925. Their son, Charlie, a prolific birdwatcher majoring in wildlife and conservation biology at the University of Rhode Island, was born in 1992.

Laura was celebrated for her curious and loving spirit, as well as her warmth, sensitivity and sense of humor. She was a superb chef, master seamstress, and wonderful mother. She made many of her children's clothes, and always sent them to school with a homemade lunch. Her holiday feasts – fish chowder and French bread on Christmas Eve; Yorkshire pudding and rib roast on Christmas Day – were renowned.

Two nights before her stroke, Laura prepared dinner for her husband, three children and two sons-in-law. Lamb kebabs marinated in yogurt and mint; and, for desert, a lemon-blueberry cream pie. It was a beautiful dinner, full of laughter, during which her eldest son, Chris, a polyglot, recited a recent speech in Dutch, Mandarin, and German. The family, which had been apart for much of the summer, will remember the evening forever.

Laura is survived by her husband Randy Plimpton, and her children Christopher Dylan Herbert, Sophie Martha Herbert Slater, and Charles Edward Plimpton, and her sons-in-law Timothy Long and Dan Slater. She lives on in the hearts of all she touched.

A memorial service will be planned in September, location and date not yet confirmed. In lieu of flowers please send donations to the Westport Public Library, 20 Jesup Rd, Westport, CT 06880, the Weston Public Library, 56 Norfield Rd, Weston, CT 06883 or the Cutchogue Free Library, 27550 Main Rd, Cutchogue, NY 11935

 Tim and I got married four years ago. Here we are surrounded by my wonderful family. My mom was so proud.

Tim and I got married four years ago. Here we are surrounded by my wonderful family. My mom was so proud.