Ralph Martin is 96 years old and as sharp as someone 30 years younger. He and Elmeda Trucelle Hilbert Martin were married for 74 years. Sadly she passed in January 2013. Ralph and Trudy have three children – two daughters and a son who live in the metro area. They have seven grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. This is a very accomplished family. Seven children/grandchildren are in public education. Their granddaughter is Associate Superintendent of the Shawnee Mission Schools. Many of the dozens of family members are in service occupations.
Trudy and Ralph met as teenagers in church. They were 18 years old. Ralph took one look at her and said, “That’s my girl!”. There were married in 1938.
In the early years Ralph worked in the local flour mills – even doing a 4-year stint in a mill in Richmond, Va. Trudy worked at Sears Roebuck. By the time Ralph was “invited” to join the armed forces he was 28, with two children. He went into the Army for two years serving in the Pacific Theater. He earned a Bronze Star (which he displays in the living room cabinet) which has his name engraved on the back. He was a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) specialist. Ralph was discharged in 1946.
In 1942 he had joined KCPL as part of the Boiler Gang – an odious position that required the boys to clean out the boilers daily. After his return from the war he became a turbine operator for the utility company and eventually worked his way up to Control Operator. He retired from the company in 1978 after 35 years.
In 1979 he and Trudy bought the house on Blue Ridge Blvd. which he remodeled extensively turning the double garage into a huge family room. There is usually a family dinner there at least monthly.
By 1980 Ralph opened a bicycle shop in his garage which he operated until 2000. He was known as the Bike Man of Martin City. He scoured the garage sales for bicycles he could buy, clean up, repair and re-sell. At the height of his work he was selling 100 bicycles a month. But he gave a lot away, too, telling the family “to pay me when you can”. And he often did his repairs for nothing because, “If it didn’t cost me anything, then I didn’t charge”.
In addition Ralph was a Boy Scout troop leader for a decade and he and Trudy taught Bible Study to many, many children.
Since having heart by-pass surgery and suffering a stroke in the early 2000’s, Ralph is now more of a home-body enjoying reading, watching Westerns on his new flat screen, visiting with family daily and going to church on Sundays. He does have caregivers who come in every day but he is able to get around the house un-aided. His one daughter lives next door. In the warm weather he likes going out on the back deck and enjoying his 2 acres.
One of four brothers, Ralph is the last remaining sibling. He attributes his longevity to never drinking and only smoking “a little” in the Army!
It could also be said that such a life well-lived among loving family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and customers could also contribute to being almost 100 years old (He will turn 97 in June 2013).
Thank you James Ralph Martin for giving so much to the Martin City community.
Interviewed on March 1, 2013 and remembered every detail to a tee.