Feb. 14, 1926 – Feb. 24, 2019
Father Time is slowly but surely thinning out the ranks of the heroes who fought in World War II. He has just taken another veteran, 10 days after celebrating his 93rd birthday.
Robert was born on Feb. 14, 1926, to Onnie Lee Martin and Mary Corinne Akers in Glenmora, Louisiana. He was married to Linda Eileen Edgerton on July 9, 1960. Robert is survived by his three children: Michelle (Stephen) Wright, Michael Martin and Katie Martin McHenry; his former wife, Linda Bourassa; and seven grandchildren: Trevor Martin (25), Madelyn Martin (21), Ethan Wright (21), Cameron Wright (20), Matthew Wright (17), Jack McHenry (16) and Elijah McHenry (14).
As a child of the Depression, Robert grew up in San Antonio, Texas, with a deep appreciation for the city’s independence, heritage and Spanish influence. He befriended many Spanish-speaking classmates, learned to speak Spanish fluently and developed his love for reading books and academic conversations.
On his 18th birthday, he enlisted to serve in WWII as a Marine in the 6th Marine Division. As a machine-gunner, his 2nd Battalion, 29th Regiment, Company E saw 100 days of intense action on Okinawa. His regiment received the Presidential Unit Citation for the Battle of Sugar Loaf Hill, where the Japanese were deeply dug into caves and tunnels. This experience is detailed in his book, “Remembering Okinawa,” which was published in 2014. Immediately after the war, Robert was stationed in the city of Tsingtao, China. For 13 months, he helped secure the war-torn city from Japanese influence. Robert loved Tsingtao and would return several times, including an assignment to teach English at a local university when he was 70.
After the war, Robert received a bachelor of arts in political science from the University of Texas, did graduate work at USC in international relations, and received a master’s in history from the Cal State Los Angeles.
For more than 37 years, Robert was an energetic junior high and high school teacher and dynamic college-level professor. At Mt. Vernon Junior High and at Grant, Eagle Rock and John Marshall high schools, he taught history, government, Spanish and journalism. At Cal State L.A., he consulted on foreign languages and was a supervisor of student teaching and placement. Robert obtained teaching credentials in administration, secondary education and bilingual language.
For more than 53 years, Robert lived in La Cañada Flintridge and genuinely cared about the community, from its highest-level politics to humbly bringing coffee to his vendor friends at the farmers’ market.
During his years as an educator, Robert was a proud and long-standing member of the La Cañada Kiwanis Club. He held numerous committee chairmanships and officer positions and was president of the club in 1978. As a retiree, he remained active and a beloved member, receiving honorary Kiwanis member status in 2018.
Robert was also especially proud of his involvement with the Okinawa Association of America, a public benefit organization to promote Okinawan culture. His lifelong bond with the Okinawan culture stemmed from his eyewitness accounts of atrocities committed by the Japanese military during the Battle of Okinawa. In 2001, Robert traveled back to Okinawa with his daughter, Michelle, and members of OAA for the Uchinanchu (every five years cultural) festival, for which the organizers included a recognition to Robert, a WWII veteran empathetic to the Okinawan hardships endured 56 years after the battle.
Robert enjoyed detailed discussions and humor based upon an understanding of history and languages. He could recite the U.S. presidents and their vice presidents in order by heart. He effortlessly played the piano and drew hundreds of caricatures of his lifetime heroes (FDR, Truman, JFK) and villains (Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito). He appreciated other cultures and languages and mastered key words and phrases of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Okinawan and Russian. He enjoyed sharing his talents with the book-review group PALAC and informal dining out with his ROMEO friends. He maintained a museum-sized political-button collection spanning every U.S. political election since 1896. Robert diligently made trips to visit his grandchildren in Colorado Springs, Folsom and San Juan Capistrano and always took and proudly displayed pictures of his family. Robert dearly loved walking through the camellias of Descanso Gardens in LCF.
The family requests, in lieu of flowers, that donations be made to a Go Fund Me account titled “In Memoriam of Robert Martin” at gofundme.com/in-memoriam-of-robert-martin, where proceeds will be used to fund a memorial bench in his name at Descanso.
A memorial service and Celebration of Life for Robert Martin will be held on Saturday, March 16, at 2 p.m., at the Community Center of
La Cañada Flintridge, 4469 Chevy Chase Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011.