Saturday, May 9, 2009

Tribute to A Hero

It’s Nice to be Important but more Important to be Nice

This Rickey Martin is not a Teen Singing Idol: Those of us in the “older than dirt” category lived in an era of the bullies, the nerds (although that word did not exist until Richie Cunningham used it on Happy Days), the jocks, and the oddballs. But there was also the kid that everybody looked up to. He stood up for the little guys against the bullies, did not tease the nerds, ran with the jocks, and did not make fun of the oddballs. That guy in my neighborhood was Richard Martin. He grew up on 9th Street in Clairton, PA, had two brothers and his Dad owned the L-M Bar. Richard was movie-star handsome and an excellent athlete. He could have played “Biff” in any Hollywood movie. He was tolerant, as an openly gay man lived a few houses away – not so unusual today but rare in the 1950s. To the Martin family, their neighbor was just another neighbor. So what does a guy like Richard do with his life?

Love, family, service: Richard fell in love and married Phyllis Slavick. They had three children and a passel of grandchildren. The marriage would end nearly thirty years later not because of divorce but due to the tragic death of Phyllis. Richard was fortunate enough to fall in love again and married another Clairton gal, Dorothy Poziviak-Hrbosky whose husband, prominent Clairtonian Jan Hrbrosky had also passed away. Richard and Dorothy’s marriage has been going strong for nearly a decade and a half.

Life of service: Richard always felt the need to give back. His was to be a life of service, which he found in the career of Allegheny County Police Officer. He began his career in the early 1960s as a mounted policeman – which called for him to demonstrate his horsemanship at the county fair by riding through fire rings. As a motorcycle officer he escorted the Beatles, U.S. presidents, and the Steeler Superbowl champs. He was so respected that when his son was born the local bishop gave him a commemorative Papal coin. Richard graduated to working Homicide and Narcotics, but after 20 years returned to the patrol duty he loved. During his patrol of South Park Richard was summoned by a couple who explained they were about to get married and asked if, as the procession passed, he would pull them over and write them a “ticket.” The young couple now has a rare wedding memory.

Hail to the Chief: After a quarter century as a “County Mountie” Richard retired and became the Chief of Police for his hometown of Clairton, after which he worked Security for the Bureau of Mines. An avid golfer, Richard was recently diagnosed with cancer. As I write this entry he lies in bed in the twilight of his life, surrounded by his loved ones – and there are many including his three dogs. A man who in life served his fellow man, will in death be reunited with other loved ones who await his return. Richard Martin, Clairton boy.

A little blogging music Maestro... “The Way We Were” by Barbara Streisand.

Editor's Note: Richard Martin passed away Tuesday night, May 12 at a hospice facility. May this fallen hero rest in peace.

Dr. Forgot

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