SARANAC LAKE - Francis E. Martin, 83, of Saranac Lake, died at AMC-Uihlein Mercy Center in Lake Placid on Sunday, April 1, 2012.
Francis was a lifelong resident of the area, born on Dec. 7, 1928, the oldest child of Benjamin and Margaret (McDonald) Martin. He married Helen M. Callaghan on Aug. 25, 1951, at the Church of the Assumption in Gabriels. She predeceased him on Nov. 26, 2004.
Mr. Martin attended and graduated from Saranac Lake High School in 1944. He had been employed by the Saranac Lake Central School District for more than 30 years in the building and grounds department. During his career he worked at the River Street School, Broadway, Petrova Middle-High School and the new high school. He retired as building and grounds assistant supervisor. Prior to that he worked as a mechanic at the Ford and Buick garages and later drove the delivery truck for Cohan's Hardware (which was located in the vicinity of the current day Aubuchon) situated near the railroad tracks. Cohan's sold to the surrounding five counties. Mr. Martin came to know all the back roads the North Country has to offer. After retirement he continued to work as a short- and long-term substitute school bus driver for about five years and in that capacity he had many anecdotes to share.
Mr. Martin was a talented artist; he did illustrations for books by local artists and scenic painting on wooden sleds and saws. While working at Broadway Elementary School he did pencil drawings of people, events and local sites for the daily cafeteria menu posted on the bulletin board. The school children vied for the drawing of the day, and it gave him great pleasure in his later years to hear that many of those menu sketches are still treasured by former students. He donated his time and talents to the Saranac Lake Adult-Community Center. His artwork graced the seniors' bus in the Winter Carnival parade for many years.
A kind and gentle man, his life was one of service. He was a communicant of St. Bernard's Church. In the 1960s, Saranac Lake was home to two convents of the Sisters of Mercy: St. Bernard's and St. Pius. After Vatican II the Sisters were allowed to drive. He gladly took on the task of teaching the nuns from both convents to drive, all of whom passed their road test on the first try. St. Pius X High School purchased an older vintage school bus to transport the sports teams. Long before his children attended St. Pius, he was using his mechanic skills to keep the bus safe and running. He also doubled as the bus driver, worried that if it broke down on a cold winter's night, he would be able to get them back on the road quickly.
In his later years he provided a ride for anyone that needed it, be it a doctor's appointment out of town, an annual trip to see family downstate or a trip to the grocery store. If a ride was needed he generously provided it. He was always happiest in the driver's seat. Mr. Martin volunteered for Meals on Wheels as a delivery driver for the Saranac Lake Adult Center, volunteered yearly to place flags on local veterans graves for the Saranac Lake American Legion, volunteered as Range Safety Officer at the Saranac Lake Fish and Game Club, in the 1960s served as reserve auxiliary officer for the Saranac Lake Police Department, served as Boy Scout merit badge counselor for the local Boy Scout District and consistently donated blood for the American Red Cross.
Mr. Martin is a highly decorated veteran of the United States Army and the New York State National Guard, serving from 1947 to 1988. He served 10 years enlisted and more than 30 years in the National Guard attached to both the Saranac Lake and Carthage units. As Chief Warrant Officer - 4 he was one of the highest ranking civilian officers in New York state. His years in the National Guard found him serving in various places: the race riots in the Deep South, the lockdown in Attica during the prisoner revolt, as well as deployments to West Germany and Italy. He and his wife traveled extensively overseas by flying "Space A" on C-130s out of Dover, Del. At age 65 he was the oldest reserve officer recalled to active duty for operation Desert Storm. He was the director of the Family Support Unit for the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum.
He was fascinated by history and a strong supporter and faithful presenter at the Brighton History days. In addition to the period clothing and artifacts, he had a poster of his family tree. Included in his family tree was his grandfather, Fred Martin, the Adirondack guide who carried the TB-ravaged Dr. Edward L. Trudeau from the train when he arrived. Fred Martin's sister was Lydia Martin Smith, wife of Paul Smith.
Mr. Martin was predeceased by his parents, wife Helen, twin brother Frederick E. Martin, sister Marjorie Pierson and brother Henry Martin.
He is survived by his children: Paula M. Fowler of Vermontville, Dean W. (Pamela) Martin of Saranac Inn, Joseph B. (Sandra) Martin, U.S.M.C. of Norfolk and Adlayd M. Collins of Canton. He is also survived by his grandchildren Maxwell A. Martin of Buffalo, Nicole A. Martin of Burlington, Vt., Terri L. (Joseph) Bullock and Rebecca Collins, both of Canton, step-granddaughter Mariah Desjardian and Sarah Morrisette of Ontario, Canada, step-grandson Paul T. (Staci) Fowler, step-great-grandchildren Jason Fowler and McKalya Collins, all of Gardiner, Maine; brothers Benjamin (Jeanette) Martin of Chesterton, Ind. and Douglas (Patsy) Martin of Savannah, Mo. and many nieces and nephews.
Funeral arrangements are in care of the Fortune-Keough Funeral Home in Saranac Lake. There will be no calling hours. A graveside service will take place at the convenience of the family. Memorial contributions may be made to the Tri-Lakes Humane Society or the Saranac Lake Volunteer Rescue Squad in care of the funeral home. Family and friends can also share their memories and sign the online guestbook at fortunekeoughfuneralhome.com.