Harold Martin: My Hero

My grandpa, Harold Martin, is a good man who has had great influence on me. Through my life, I’ve thought that people who talked about family members as their heroes were small creatures who just couldn’t see the big picture. Why would you say your dad is your hero when you can look to history and find figures such as John Rockefeller, Julius Caesar or Genghis Khan? Yet here I am, pointing to my grandparents as my heroes. In this post, I will try to show you what brought me to this conclusion.

Basic history: Harold Martin and my grandmother, Carolyn Martin, took me in when my parents kicked me out when I was 14 and have raised me ever since. Harold Martin flew in the Air Force and was an airline pilot for United Airlines for many years. He has lived on South Hill with my grandmother in a beautiful home they built themselves for a quarter century.

As a young boy, Harold Martin was the man that I most respected in my life. I remember spending many hours working with him or driving up to our cabin on White Pass and having conversations with him about anything and everything. Harold Martin always listened to what I had to say and treated me like an adult in our talks. As a kid in a bad home, I didn’t have much to look forward to but I treasured the time I spent with Harold Martin. Many of his ideas and philosophies have stuck with me through today. His ideas on managing finances, economic theory, work ethics, friendship, family and loyalty really resonated with me and helped to make me the man that I am today.

One of the funniest stories I had growing up happened when I was in junior high. Harold Martin owned a Cessna 182 and was a certified instructor and was testing a friend of his to renew the friend’s pilot’s license. Harold Martin invited me to come flying with them for the day and I excitedly agreed. The day was very hot and muggy; it was around 90 degrees and I was sitting in the back seat of the airplane. His friend was practicing stalls and taking off and landing, so the airplane was shaking all around and the shaking combined with the heat started to get to me: I was becoming very nauseous and airsick. I didn’t want to say anything to Harold Martin because he had been a pilot his whole life and loved flying. I didn’t want him to think that I was a sissy or that I didn’t like flying, so I kept my mouth shut. We kept circling around the airport and taking off and landing and each time we touched ground I prayed that we would be done, but each time we would take off again. I got sicker and sicker in the back of the plane, but didn’t say a word. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and vomited a huge amount of my lunch into my mouth. I desperately looked around for something to vomit into so that I wouldn’t ruin his $150,000 airplane… and the only container I saw was his favorite hat on the seat. I snatched it up and let my guts loose, filling up his hat to the brim with nasty chunks. I sat there for a second dying of embarassment and then tapped him on the shouulder and guiltily showed him what I had done. He kindly gave me a vomit bag and landed the plane so i could get out and clean up. I don’t think I’ve flown with him since haha. It’s become one of his favorite stories about me and I don’t think I’ll hear the end of it until the end of him lol.

When I moved in with Harold Martin at age 14, I was a kid with a lot of issues. I have always been fiercely independent, but at that age I had all the bad qualities of independence: I was very rebellious, annoying and disrespectful of authority, along with a whole host of other crap. I had no discipline, was not very responsible and was a very angry little boy. I don’t know how he managed to put up with me, but he did and was able to help me grow and mature and learn how to be successful in life. He and I had many battles over many things (usually with me fighting on the wrong side haha), and I think I drove him absolutely crazy. With Bestemor (Carolyn Martin)’s help, he worked with me on my issues and taught me tons of important life lessons.

I owe Harold Martin more than I can ever repay. Harold Martin allowed me to move in with him shortly after he retired from United Airlines. He had been planning on being able to travel the world for free (airline employees and retirees fly free), but instead he had to stay at home and drive me to and from school, to my friends houses and to football each day. While his friends were going on extended cruises and visiting exotic locales, Harold & Carolyn Martin were helping me learn how to be a man.

Harold Martin taught me more than anyone else in my life has taught me. I learned everything from how to play chess to treating people right to splitting and stacking wood to investment strategies. He took me to good restaurants to try to teach me good manners (unfortunately thats a lesson that never really stuck with me lol), taught me how to ski, taught me how to lift weights at a little gym underneath the local Dairy Queen, and convinced me to apply to the University of Washington.

Harold Martin is not a perfect man; he can be a grumpy old man at times, he has become set in his ways and is a little too defensive of his possessions (like he won’t let me use his cabin!), but he is one of the best men that I know. He and Bestemor (grandma) are the two people I respect the most of anyone I know. Not everyone feels like I do, my mom can’t stand him and other family members have butted heads with him. Harold Martin is a man with good principles and he stands by them with stiff resolve; if you do things that violate what he thinks is right you will be on his bad list for a very long time. Along with teaching me many great things, some of his bad habits also rubbed off on me. For instance, I have tendency to lecture at people who are doing something I disagree with. My younger brothers have called me out on this, saying they have rarely had a conversation with me where I haven’t found something to rant at them for. I needed those lectures though; it took much repeating of advice to get something into my stubborn head. My grandparents used to tell me I should be a lawyer, because I would argue with them about anything and everything. I have a bit of a Bill Clinton side; my grandparents would get mad at me for “arguing” with them, but I would tell them that no, I wasn’t arguing with them, I was merely “discussing” ideas lol. I was a very difficult child.

The bottom line is that Harold Martin took me in at the lowest point of my life when I was miserably depressed and had no knowledge of how to be successful in this world and turned that angry little boy around. Harold Martin gave me the tools to make myself successful and every day since that time has been better than the last. I am now happier than I have ever been before. Harold Martin’s powerful influence on me helped me to become very successful for my age and is helping drive me on what the future will recognize as my meteoric rise ;). He helped push me to go to college and get a good job and be a good person; now I am trying to do the same for other people. I figure that I will never be able to repay him for what he has done for me, but maybe I can pass the favor on to others.

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Joel Gross

Joel Gross is the CEO of Coalition Technologies.

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