Today would have been my grandfather’s 94th birthday, and I’ve been thinking a lot about him today. I’ve often said that he’s the best man I ever knew, and I really mean that. I wish everyone was able to meet him.
Below is the eulogy I wrote for him last November. Godspeed, granddad, I’ll see you soon.
William Thomas Martin of Winston-Salem, North Carolina passed away on Sunday November 24, 2019 after reaching the age of 93 years old. He died peacefully beside family and went home to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
William (Bill) was born on April 16, 1926 in Spencer, NC to George and Julia Martin, the oldest of four children.
At five, at a camp meeting in God’s Country, GA he heard a Pastor read a verse from the Gospel of Matthew: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Bill became a Christian that day, and it would define him the rest of his life.
Later, not yet 18 years old, Bill volunteered for the Navy during World War II, requiring a signature from his parents to do so. He served on the USS Lacerta as a radio operator in the Pacific Theatre, and served on that ship from the time it was commissioned until it was decommissioned. He served as Chaplin, encouraging his crewmates in their faith while doing so.
When he returned he went to Mars Hill college and eventually went to work on transportation logistics for both Southern Railway and the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. He became President of Delta Nu Alpha, a professional network for transportation professionals and retired from R.J. Reynolds at 55. He taught classes on this profession at both Wake Forest and Forsyth Tech.
In 1959 he married Ann Martin at Hebron Church in Winston-Salem, NC and remained married to her for 60 years until his passing. They lived in Winston-Salem and raised two daughters, Susanne and Nancy.
Bill’s legacy is one we might all aspire to. To be a devoted and loving husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and friend is admirable. To be a patriot and willingly put your own life at risk for the sake of your country is inspirational. To be a superb professional, and work diligently to make the world a little bit better, day by day, is praiseworthy.
But the thing that made the life of Bill Martin so extraordinary was his faith, and how it made all that possible, and created the legacy that continues on even though he is now departed. Because of Bill, two children, 3 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren (so far!) will grow up in the teachings of Jesus. Because of Bill, scores of soldiers were taught the Good News in the darkest hours of World War II. Because of Bill, countless churchgoers were instructed on the relentless love of God, as he taught Sunday School for over 55 years.
Bill was struck when he was 5 years old by the idea that the pure in heart will see God. And that is why, we have no doubt, when he stood before God the first words he heard was “Well done, my good and faithful servant”.