Thursday, August 30, 2007

Uncle Al the Kiddies Pal

A name my father went by for many years. He passed away last Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007

Thanks to the many that have lifted my family and I up in prayer during this last week.

Following is a letter I wrote for his memorial service in memory of my sweet daddy.

Uncle Al the Kiddies Pal

That was how my Dad was known by multitudes of friends, relatives, and neighborhood children. One of the first things I realized about my Dad growing up was that he had this phenomenal rapport with kids. He would ask my sister and me after dinner if we wanted to go for an ice-cream cone. The next thing I knew, the whole neighborhood was crammed into the backseat of our white Ford station wagon, taking a drive down to Friendly’s Ice Cream Parlor (this was pre seat belt laws) Another time I remember him cramming five or six kids with fishing poles and buckets into the backseat of his green Volkswagen Bug, taking us all down to the local fishing pond for and evening of fun. Al Martin was known by all, young and old to be a very generous easy-going kind of guy. His famous saying when mom was trying to worry about money, “eah Mary it‘s only money” Dad spent a wonderful time growing up in a little New England town called Hyde Park, MA.

He told wonderful tales of his fun loving days of playing high school football; begging coach Skip to let him play, though he was only a scrawny little guy. When he was a little boy his Dad who was a carpenter build him a small boat that he would take out on the local pond and spent his summer days playing pirates and such. On that same pond many a winter afternoon you could find Al playing hockey with the guys, Moose, and Bill Stack. There were tales of him playing nightly pranks on his sisters Louise, and Rita. He took particular delight in waiting in the dark hall for them to come home from a date, then jumping out at them. They would be calling “Al we know you are there?” It never stopped him he always got them to jump and scream.
As a young man Al was eager to go off to war. His was the WWII generation that fought valiantly for his country. Dad joined the Navy and became a Seabee, fighting in the South Pacific. When ever I asked Dad about his war days, he always got a big grin on his face, and said with a little swagger, it was the chance of a lifetime for a kid like him from Hyde Park to get to see the world. Easy going Al was out to enjoy all life had to offer him.

After returning from the war, Dad met my mom, Mary Arena and they were married August 17th, 1947. I always said my folks were the first D.I.N.K.S. (double income no kids). They worked and played hard after the war years and enjoyed life just as it came.

We all enjoyed life back then being surrounded by our Irish and Italian families, hardly a weekend would go by with out a visit from the relatives or a neighbor dropping by. Dad and Mom were the cool couple that all the nieces and nephews adored. To this day my cousin Joe Ventresco claims Al was his favorite Uncle. In 1956 when Dad was 33 they had me their first daughter. Chris came along three years later, and my grandmother Nonie, made up our small family.

Dad worked hard through those years, going to night school and coming one quarter shy of finishing his college degree. Dad’s big career break came while working at Sturtevant Westinghouse, when he was promoted into management. We started moving around as Dad climbed the corporate ladder. It was all a great adventure to him. He loved his job and his life. After a few rough years of my family living with me as a teenager in New York; dad took an opportunity to move his family west. So west we came to this little town called Kennewick, WA. In 1973 I’ll never forget the drive Dad and I took across country to get one of the cars over here; and to get me away from a less than great environment. The last night of the trip we arrived in Cheyenne, Wyoming. My Dad dressed in his denim navy and white striped bell bottoms and I the hippie chick from New York decided to eat dinner at a cowboy steak house. People were starring at us and we were starring at them. I couldn’t figure out why they were all wearing cowboy hats in a restaurant. We felt like we were in a John Wayne movie. After dinner Dad took us both shopping to buy our first pair of Levi Jeans. He never wore those flashy bell bottoms again.

The years in Kennewick turned out to be very good for us. My whole family came to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We joined a wonderful community of believers who were growing in the knowledge of who they were in Christ Jesus, at Kennewick First Assembly of God. At first Dad just got drug along to church with all of us. One special Sunday night there was this rough old, gruff missionary guy who basically pointed my Dad out in the crowd and said, sir you need to get saved. Dad stood up with tears streaming down his face and said yes to Jesus that night. A few weekends later Dad was drug off again to a weekend retreat with some good friends, the Tedeschi’s, and DeVillair’s.. There was a man speaking about deliverance. Dad went out on the balcony to have a cigarette. (He was a two pack of camels a day man back then.) He just simply asked God “If you want me to give up smoking, give me a sign.” As Dad tells the story; about a hundred or so blackbirds at that very second came rushing out of the trees at him. Dad took the sign and threw the cigarettes over the railing, and kicked his 30 some odd year habit just like that.
Dad had a couple of very unique to Al, habits:
One was whistling old (1940’s) tunes while working around the yard, or in his woodshop. (He was quite the craftsman)
Pretending he was Italian by making up Italian sounding names for various items including "Gagutes" and the ever famous "Skanockies" squash and dandelions? Some actually thought he was Italian, but he was ½ Irish, and ½ French Canadian.
Another Al isum was to make up his own nicknames for people and things.

My husband Dan was “the blond bomber, and Chris’ husband Pat aka “the big Pollock”. our newest member of the family Tyler is Tippy canoe and Tyler too… The grandkids when they were small loved getting him back by calling him "the Big Tomato". Many of you in the audience I am sure have your own famous Al Martin Nick Name.
Another side of my easy going father was this big tender hearted mush. I can distinctly remember him refusing to watch those famous Hallmark ads that really got you sobbing. He would not watch any kind of movie that he called a “Tear Jerker” He loved pretending he was this big cranky guy, walking by and kicking the cat, all the time complaining about that good for nothing rotten cat. But when no one was looking there he was the first one to make sure Tabby (our cat) got fed. Today he and Donna at last count were feeding four cats, a couple of strays, one he called old Tom, skunks, badgers…and what ever other wild life that happens to come to visiting in the Martins back yard.
We love you Daddy having enjoyed all the many years, the great laughs, sarcastic jokes, your great wit, the tears, the teasing, the hugs and all the while whistling a jaunty tune…

Here's looking at you kid!


Joy said...

Precious, thanks for sharing... Blessings :)

Nadine said...

What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful man. I'm sorry I've never met him, but after this I feel like I knew the essence of who he was. I love you Cindy.

Madison Richards said...

It was a beautiful service Cindy.

My heart is with you...

Blessings on you and yours.

Chris said...

A wonderful tribute it was to you!

EM said...

What a wonderful blessing you have in the memories of your dad. He sounds like a guy who had it all and lived well. Thanks for sharing your joys and sorrows.

Anonymous said...

That was a great letter you wrote, thanks for sharing. We love you, and are sorry for your loss. Helen
(Dave used to have a pair of striped pants just like your dads)

Barbara said...

How beautifully you have wirtten about your Dad.

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