A plea for kindness among Martin's last wishes
March 22, 2018
At Rick Martin's memorial service Saturday at the Port Chilkoot Dock, his wife Rene told his life story in popular songs, from "North to Alaska" and "Midnight Rider" to "I'll Fly Away" and "For What it's Worth."
"Music was an incredibly important part of Rick's life," she said. Martin, 60, liked his tunes, especially while cruising in his bright blue pick-up with his yellow Lab, Ryder.
Rene, the Haines School Principal, told the gathering, "Rick believed that I could do great things." That faith led to her 2003 decision to quit her job at the Pioneer Bar and Bamboo Room restaurant and enroll in the University of Alaska in Fairbanks to pursue a career in education.
"Rick supported every goal Rene set for herself. Theirs was a true love story," Pioneer co-owner Christy Fowler said.
They met in 1993 on the softball field in Haines. Rene (Ransom) was up from Michigan cooking for the summer at the Hotel Halsingland. After a courtship that including deer hunting and lessons in operating a 988 loader, Rene said "he was so much fun." They were married in 1996 in his mother's First Avenue back yard. "The police showed up about the parking, and there were dogs everywhere," Rene said. "Rick loved dogs. There were days when I'd come home and every dog in the neighborhood was in here."
"Rick was good hearted," Fowler said. He rescued a Fairbanks child who had nearly frozen to death in the 20-below cold after he noticed a strange sound and checked it out. He was the primary caregiver for his 80-year-old mother, and he studied Native American spirituality.
Rickey Gene Martin was born in Newport, Ore. on Sept. 21, 1957. He was the oldest of Paula and Gene Martin's four children. His father was a logger and a Siletz Indian. Rick was an enrolled tribal member. His mother worked at Chilkoot Insurance. The family lived in logging camps until 1966, when they homesteaded in Haines at 8.5 Mile with friends Leo and George Ann Smith.
Terry Sele met Martin playing Little League baseball and they became friends for life. "Rick threw an awesome knuckleball," he said. Martin's Haines High basketball teams won four regional championships. Sele said Martin "played bigger than his size" and was a good jumper. He competed at the state track meet in the triple jump. He played for the powerhouse Klukwan city league basketball team coached by Dick Hotch, and on men's softball and pool league teams.
As a young man, Martin fished, worked for the power company, and was married briefly and divorced.
He worked primarily for Klukwan, Inc. as a logger, boom boat operator and stevedore. Martin was Sele's boss at Long Island. "He was great to work for. Rick never let little things bother him, and he always had a smile on his face," Sele said. "Rick knew the water very well and loved the fishing and hunting down there."
Later, Martin worked at Klukwan School and Haines School in maintenance and custodial positions and drove a school bus.
For the last few years he suffered from an incurable liver disease.
On March 11, before ending his life, Martin recorded a message for loved ones. "He told us he loved us. He was proud of us, and he was so, so sorry but he was in too much pain," Rene said. "His choice is not for us. There are many people who care, that love you, and that want to help you. Please ask," she said.
In his last words, Martin lamented the current divisiveness and negativity, nationally and locally. "The news actually hurt him physically," Rene said. "Rick really wanted us to be kind, to be positive, to be good to one another."
Donations in Rick's memory may be made to the Haines Animal Rescue Kennel, P.O. Box 1533, Haines, AK. 99827 or harkalaska.org.
Rick leaves wife Rene, dog Honey Glacier Ryder, mother Paula Martin, siblings Steve Martin, Lori Katzeek, and Cheryl Baxter; niece Jamie Katzeek, nephew Richard Aspinall; in-laws Dale and Jeny Ransom and Amy Ransom; numerous relatives, and his Klukwan family.