Today, I was thinking of a guy named Al Martin, who was one of the few African American role models for me when I was a teenager in Mason City, Iowa. I thought of him a couple of years ago, googled his name and couldn’t find him. I mentioned him anyway in a blog post at that time, “Snow Moon Reflections.” A major topic was black male role models.
Today, for some reason I thought of him again. I googled his name once more and found an obituary for a man named Allen Henry Martin. This particular Martin was a black man who was 83 years old when he died just this last November of 2022. The obituary stated that he was a talented artist, just as I recall. Despite the many decades gone by, his photograph looked familiar to me.
He was a sculptor and photographer as well as a painter. He worked several different jobs. He had a great sense of humor. He worked as a land surveyor for several years, which I connect with because I did that for a while when I was young.
I’m not absolutely certain that Allen Henry Martin is the same Al Martin who I looked up to when I was at a tender age. But for now, I’m going to assume they were one and the same.
One time, Al Martin took me to an art show where he set up many of his pictures. It was a brisk autumn day. We drank a lot of coffee, partly to keep warm. I remember how uncomfortable I felt because of my full bladder. The wind was cold.
I don’t know why I remember this, but Al one time spoke of his children and he happened to mention what he did when they felt sick to the stomach. It sounds gross, but he made the story comical and said something like, “Many a time I caught vomit in my hands!” It was disgusting—but funny at the same time, the way he told that little story. You really had to be there to get it.
As I read this, I catch myself thinking I should have something more solemn and dignified to say about Al.
But this is not an obituary. These are just my memories of Al Martin which are fading the older I get, and I’m entitled to them. Al Martin was a great guy.