Thursday, December 22, 2011

R.I.P. Bill Martin (1930-2011)

This is the last picture I have of my father and me. It was taken in Richmond this past summer.

Two years ago, after having shown signs of dementia for a couple of years, he posed for me in a photo studio in Richmond. He had on the same shirt that day, too! He was a real actor at heart. Even though he didn't make a whole lot of sense when he spoke back in 2009, he still had his sense of humor and charisma, as he did nearly to the end.

A few days prior to this session, I read some selections from his "stories". I published these wonderful stories from his childhood as Billy: Stories of my childhood and have done several readings of them in Germany and in the US. Here are a couple of photos from the reading.

My father and I with his second wife, Patti, at Book People, a local book store that helped organize the event.
My father at the reading after signing copies of his book.
The reading took place in the chapel at St. Christopher's School in Richmond, where he worked during the 1980s.

He was still lucid enough to be able to sign his name.

We all enjoyed the dinner afterward.


  1. What a lovely series of photos, Jim! What a delightful character your father was!!! I hope the lovely memories bring you comfort and joy. Blessings to you and your family, my friend.

  2. I've enjoyed the photos and loved the stories in the book. I need to pull it out and read it again. Your father was one of the highlights of my Culver career and I will carry my memories in my heart forever. Please keep us posted about the memorial service. I am planning a trip out to see my brother sometime in January and now know I will try to adjust my timing so I can attend the memorial. God's blessings to you and your family. Kim Harvey

  3. Laura Conley BlizzardDecember 23, 2011 at 3:18 AM

    Fabulous pictures and memories, Jim! Do you remember what you said to get the reaction in #4?
    Of course my favorite is the one of the three of you. I bet Julia melted his heart.
    Love to all of you.

  4. Laura, he was just posing without much input from me. I was amazed at that activity and just kept on clicking!

  5. Great photos of your dad, Jim... I wish I remembered him better but he clearly meant a lot to you, Sarah and Susan. Losing the first parent is so hard, and especially at the holidays, but it sounds like it was a blessing.

    BTW Mom and I were in Germany last week for the Christmas markets. Drove through Freiburg and thought of you -- could see you walking down the streets, etc.

  6. Beautiful, Jim. I see he held on to that wonderful, wacky sense of humor. Seeing some of the silly poses just touched my heart. He had that special ability to reach out to teenagers with humor as well as compassion.

  7. Thanks for posting these delightful pictures, Jim. They reminded me of the Culver production of "The Mikado" (in 1980 or '81, I think), which your dad co-directed along with John Chadwick. I still recall the fun we all had (cast, crew & extras), as your dad's keen wit and familiarity with all the Gilbert & Sullivan works made this a sparkling and truly memorable production. He was indeed "the consummate actor!"

  8. Yes, David, he was a real Gilbert and Sullivan fan and connoisseur. When I was in Richmond that summer of 2009, we couldn't really carry on a conversation, but I had bought him a recording of the complete "Mikado" and as we cut fruit for a fruit salad (something he could still do very well, though he ate most of it as he cut it), I sang - and he whistled - along with the music. At the reading I did there with his stories, we had some friends play some of the music that he mentions in his stories. He sang along to "You are my sunshine", providing the harmony part!
    The production at Culver was in 1981. We had just done it at William and Mary with the Phi Mu Alpha/Delta Omicron Sinfonicron troupe the month before. Culver's was much more to my liking. Trish O'Daniel's Katasha was the best I've ever seen. Brad Leucht's Koko (my father's old part) was brilliant. John Chadwick's Mikado was memorable.

  9. Thanks for sharing these photos Jimmy.
    Know that you and your family are in my thoughts!


  10. Jim:
    Thanks for these photos of Bill. My dear sweet loveable little brother.He will live forever in my heart.

    JT 12/23/11

  11. Took another look at these wonderful photos! Your dad's happy, playful, pondering, outgoing personality was evident in all of them. #15 really grabbed me:) Wishing you all a Peaceful Christmas! May Joyful Memories live on in your hearts!
    Martha Rayner~Biegunska

  12. I love you and miss you Grandpa.

    great pictures, Jim.

    - Andrew

  13. Thanks Jim. You know I a fan of your fathers stories, and I like the close up photos and I'm really thankful of the charisma he passed on to you. Thinking of you Jim . Tiff

  14. When my dad was killed in fall of '75 your dad was there for me. Not much really to say, although I remember that conversation well.

    Great photos and stories. thank you for sharing
    John Van Tassel

  15. So sorry. SO glad you were able to take those amazing photos that captured his spirit. I have his stories with me Down Here too!