Irwin “Irv” Martin, a 70-year resident of Los Altos, died suddenly at his home Dec. 5, at the age of 96.
The week before his death, Mr. Martin attended American Legion Post No. 558’s monthly meeting and also visited friends at his longtime square-dancing club.
Born the son of an Indiana sharecropper, Mr. Martin moved to California in 1948, following World War II service in the Army Air Corps. He and his wife, Lou, set off for the Golden State on the same day they wed. The couple lived in a one-room trailer, dubbed “The Martin Box,” at first, and moved into their newly built home on Panchita Way in 1951 – voting for incorporation of the town of Los Altos the next year.
Last summer, Mr. Martin was hospitalized for several weeks, but he was making his “umpteenth” comeback, as he put it, before his quick and peaceful death.
The father of eight children – seven of whom are living – Mr. Martin was staunchly independent until the end, despite requiring support from caregivers, especially his sixth child, Geri Martin Wilson of Palo Alto, to maintain his active life.
Those who knew him said Mr. Martin was gifted with a nearly magical mechanical aptitude. He could seemingly understand the way a thing worked by looking at it, fix anything from a car to a dishwasher, and build from scratch with exactitude and flair.
At 18, before finishing high school, Mr. Martin was selected to become a flight engineer with the country’s new Air Force.
“They couldn’t fool me on the manual dexterity tests,” he said, reminiscing with satisfaction in a video made for Post 558, where he was the longest-serving member.
Mr. Martin worked at PG&E for 35 years, where he was nicknamed “Dude” from the start. He was proud of his role in wiring San Antonio Road, and he kept a road sign he’d acquired on that job hanging outside his home workshop. He was also proud of using the company pole-digger to install the original town Christmas tree at the intersection of San Antonio and Main Street.
The Martins square-danced with numerous Bay Area clubs, and they toured in Europe and China as dancers. Even after Lou died 10 years ago, Mr. Martin danced several times a week, sitting out only at age 95.
Mr. Martin was named Elk of the Year in 2018 at the Palo Alto club, where he exercised and regularly took his dinners. His breakfast spot was It’s A Good Morning on San Antonio Road, where he and the staff treated one another like family.
Daughter Terri recalled sitting with her father as he sorted through family photos on his computer a year or two ago.
“I’ve lived a good life,” he said. “I’ve been lucky to do all the things I’ve done.”
Mr. Martin is survived by children Toni, Steve, Terri, Michelle, Michael, Geri and Jonathan; 11 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Son Patrick predeceased him in 1987.