It has been a slow and often painful goodbye since Dad was diagnosed with dementia. We take comfort knowing he is no longer in a constant state of confusion and has found peace. Mom and I got to visit him a month ago, one of the few times either of us saw him since the pandemic began. He was in a wonderful mood, despite a fractured hip and a two-month hospital stay for coronavirus followed by other complications. And yet somehow, he was walking again, even lending a hand at rehab by answering the phone at the nurses’ station, though abruptly hanging up on most callers.
I will always have the memories: Sunday afternoons at the downtown Y. Dixie Youth Baseball. Summer vacations. Spring Breaks on the coast. A World Series. Auburn (and even a few Bama) football games since I was a toddler. Three Sugar Bowls. The smell of his pipe. Politics. Newspapering. Juris Doctorate at 47. Advice. Love. Security. A moral compass. And so many more.
But it was his love of family and friends and his willingness to always help others, sometimes to a fault, that will be remembered most.
I’ve told the story before about the letter Dad penned to me when I was just an infant. He wrote, “The ability to like others and have a personality which will allow others to like you is the best quality you can possess. It takes practice as well as natural ability. There is nothing which can help you out in life more than this quality.”
Reading the many remembrances and condolences over the past week, the one thing those who knew him best mentioned more than anything was his kindness and likability.
I’m forever grateful to have followed my father’s path. Love you, Dad.
I want to close by sharing the words of Judge Ed Tease, of Florence, one of Dad’s oldest and dearest friends.
“I lost a dear friend yesterday. Robert Archer Martin of Montgomery, but really of the Shoals. He attended Sheffield schools while his father was a Methodist minister. Graduated from Florence State College. Worked for the Florence Times, rising to upper echelons of news. Came within 1% of being elected to the Alabama Legislature in 1966. Was a member of a U.S. Army Reserve Unit in Sheffield, the Fighting 336th Army APU. He recorded in dramatically historic images the death in flames of the iconic Forks of Cypress on June 6, 1966 after calling me to accompany him. I should have gone. Moved his family to Montgomery in 1971 to become the public affairs officer for a new Chief Justice of a new Court System which he worked tirelessly to help adopt. He did more than anyone besides Chief Justice Heflin to see to its adoption and successful liftoff, providing Alabama with the best court system in the nation per the American Judicature Society. He was married to Nancy Peace Martin of Florence, an educator, and always a star partner of his innumerable enterprises. As his time with the Court System was coming to an end, he acquired a newspaper, his first love. He and Nancy made it a huge success of it. The Independent was owned for many years by Florence's own, legendary editorial writer, Tom Johnson, who studied at the knee of Grover Hall, a Pulitzer Prize winning editor of the Montgomery Advertiser. Bob and Nancy (and son Jeff) published other regional weeklies in Elmore County. Jeff has assumed the role of publisher and editorial writer for the Independent. I have subscribed for over 50 years.
Bob Martin did not have a hostile bone in his body. He had this disarming kindness about him, which he exhibited to all. He was extremely bright, well read and did I mention funny. He could make anybody laugh, except Dr. Bronner a few times. But he was privately a great admirer of David Bronner. He was for the most part a loyal Democrat, except when friendships and necessity suggested otherwise. He was good at most everything, except gas mask training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
He was justifiably proud of his family, Nancy and several successful children, and enjoyed a close relationship with them all. A great father.
I always enjoyed a call from Bob which continued until health declined.
He even beat Covid19 recently and continued to surprise his family and friends as always.
Rest in peace, Bob. I, and countless others, will miss you.“