Dale Earnhardt Jr. said his “mammaw” knew “pain and loss but lived with grace and peace.” Martha Earnhardt, the 91-year-old matriarch of a NASCAR dynasty, died on Christmas. Her family buried her on Saturday.
The Earnhardts gathered at her Kannapolis, N.C., home, “where the memories are bursting at the seams,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. wrote in an Instagram post. The NASCAR legend shared some photos from the event and reflected on her life.
“Spent the day at Mammaw’s burial service. She’s next to her husband Ralph, who has one cool headstone. The family gathered at their home where the memories are bursting at the seams. The preacher said it best: ‘she knew pain and loss, but lived with grace and peace.'”
Martha Earnhardt knew loss too well. She and her husband Ralph Earnhardt, a racing legend, had five children — daughters Kaye and Cathy and sons Dale, Randy, and Danny.
Ralph died unexpectedly of a heart attack while working on a carburetor at their kitchen table in 1973. He was only 45. She also outlived her sons. Dale Earnhardt Sr. died crash at the Daytona 500 in 2001. Randy died of cancer in 2013. Danny, a mechanic for JR Motorsports, proceeded her in death by a few weeks.
The family did not release her cause of death, but Dale Jr. said it was “peaceful.”
“I’m thankful that I got to tell her I loved her before she left,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. wrote. “What a life she lived. What amazing things she saw and experienced during her 91 years. I hope we are all so lucky to live such a full life and leave it so peacefully. Until we meet again…”
Martha Earnhardt never left the Kannapolis home she built with Ralph. Her son Dale Earnhardt Sr. offered to move her anywhere she wanted, but she was happy in the “Car Hill” community, NASCAR.com’s Zack Albert said. She’d made too many memories there to leave.
It’s where Dale Earnhardt Sr. would sneak in for a hug or a slice of her “secret cake.”
“He was always here during holidays, and you’d never know when he would drop in,” she told the Orlando Sentinel in 2011. “He’d drop by and visit for a little bit. I never knew when he was coming. I just took whatever I could get in his spare time. He was a good son. He did a lot for me. I have four other children who did, too.”
Fans would stop by too. It was an unofficial stop on the “Dale Trail,” 15 spots throughout Cabarrus County, N.C., that were important in Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s life. She found talking to them “therapeutic,” granddaughter Kelley Earnhardt Miller told USA Today in 2014.
“If you tell her you are the biggest Dale Earnhardt fan ever, she will let you in and sit on the couch, and she will share stories with you for as long as you’ll listen.”