Monday, November 04, 2019

A PHOTO ESSAY FOR MY FRIEND, MARTIN OETS

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My friend Martin died in August. I knew the call was going to come, sooner or later. When the phone rang, the digital display announcing his name, I thought it would be him. After all, he'd called only about a week or ten days before. He'd sounded just like Martin at the beginning of that call, but then he ran out of breath and it got harder for him to talk. He had a nasty, nasty disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

You can look it up.

It takes you out.

So the call in August wasn't from him, personally, but from Pam, his wife and best friend for over half a century, because that's where my age group is at. And Pam was calling to say Mart had died.

Martin was one of my earliest poetry friends. We met in Grade 7, were in the same division in school right through to the end of high school, and in the class curiously misnamed "Study" we used to write silly poems and pass them back and forth. I still have some of them on yellowed paper in a scrapbook. It's impossible now for me to say who wrote what; all I remember is we had a lot of fun in that non-class, pretending to study!

From the 1966 Year Book. Mart was in the World Affairs Club.
We graduated in 1966 and went our separate ways. Martin went to university, got a degree in Business Administration and went on to be a hospital administrator. I joined Air Canada and worked in the reservations department for several years in Ottawa, Windsor and Montreal before moving to Toronto in 1976. I was working at the res office there one night when a call came in from a guy wanting to go to Prince George. I did what you do; told him flight times, gave him prices, booked something, then got to the part where I asked for his name.

"Oets," he said, then spelled it. "O-E-T-S."

"Martin?!?!" I exclaimed, and of course it was and we had a great catch-up over the phone.

If you follow(ed) Pam and Martin on Facebook you'll have seen this one. One of my favourites.
After that I saw him at high school reunions in 1986 and 1996. By then I was back living in the Kootenays. One day Martin got ahold of me to say he'd moved back to Nelson and was working for Interior Health. I invited him for dinner and he and my husband ended up becoming great pals. Before too long, Pam got a transfer to Nelson as well and the four of us started to hang out.

In 2010 we spent Christmas together in La Manzanilla
Movie night in La Manz
At Judie's 70th in 2011
With Leanne at Judie's 70th
As any of his friends will attest, hanging around with Martin meant no shortage of adventures. Here, he's coming to collect some of us so we can have a mini-cruise on his houseboat on Kootenay Lake. Too bad there aren't any pictures of it just before it sunk! (Happily, not this particular day.)
With my grandson, Kyran, when he was wee. Martin let him "steer" the boat for a bit which was a huge thrill.
Martin and Ted, both beardless. 
At a reading at the Library in Nelson. Martin and Pam were always up for coming to such events.
At the Capitol Theatre. Martin was on the board there for a few years.
Martin and his son, CJ. We were on our way to Puerto Vallarta for CJ's wedding
Ted and Martin enjoying pool time in Puerto Vallarta
Another tradition: Dinner at Martin and Pam's after one of our big decade high school reunions. Alan Ryall, on the left, came from Ontario. Bruce and Pam Hucal are in this one.
Martin, serving up a burger. Me, excited!
Martin, Ted, Shelley, Sharon and Pam. Martyburgers!

Martyburgers! Just about the best things ever! It was somehow kind of perfect that Ted and I had just finished eating burgers when Pam called with the sad news. 
Doug Walkley and his wife, Diane (not in this one) started having mini-reunions when they came to the Koots in the summer. One year they weren't able to host it at the place they were renting so Martin got ahold of my sisters to see if we could do it at their place. And just like that, a new tradition was born!
With Dena and Phyllis at one of the summer parties
With Maureen and Liz
This one's from the party when we celebrated the Sixties, etc. Martin is second from left.
Group shot, same party. Mart's the one in the wig!
Group shot from another year (photo credit likely Brian Clarkson). Martin's wearing the blue lei. Our classmate, Gail Livingston, in the green top, died shortly after this reunion.
Peter Turner and Martin
With Brian Clarkson, who's usually the one behind the camera


Martin always had a project. When his son was getting into audio/hearing work, Martin took a course on it so he could go and help set up the business. And there are still people looking for the most excellent coffee beans he used to roast. Pam made the apron for him. He was, of course, interested in all things electronic. I miss my computer guru!
In 2013 Martin and Pam brought the first electric Smart car to Nelson. (Photo "borrowed" from online where it appeared in the local paper which no longer exists, so...) Here's a link to an article about EVs in the Koots by Greg Nesteroff and yes, M and P get a mention!
That little smile usually meant he was up to something.
I can't for the life of me remember what this event was about but have to include it because it's such a rare picture of my husband wearing a shirt and tie!
Martin loved animals. Here he is, spoiling a neighbour's dog.
One summer we had a group yard sale at our place. Martin and Pam brought stuff from Six-Mile. Here he is with Leanne.
Dan, Martin, Ted and Robin in Ootischenia. So many good times...
The Breakfast Club, February 2019—For several years this group (Robin and Rebecca were away) met for breakfast, often at Dawn's Early Rising Café in Castlegar. L-R: Me, Pam, Leanne, Ted, Martin, Judie and Dan
At a farewell brunch in Nelson, February 2019
For the cover I used small stones to make a figure. One of the stones (I don't remember which) was one we collected one summer when Ted and I passed through McLeese Lake where the Oets family used to live.

Back to our poetry connection, when Martin found out I had taken up bookbinding he commissioned a book that would contain his favourite poems. They were: Dylan Thomas' Fern Hill, John Masefield's Sea Fever, Wordsworth's The Daffodils, Alfred Noyes' The Highwayman, Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and T.S. Elliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. He was kind enough to request one of mine be in the book as well, so Full Circle is in there feeling absolutely tongue-tied around such august company. 


Downsizing seems to be on a lot of folks' minds these days. It was a privilege to watch as Martin and Pam took it on prior to their move from the Kootenays. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Martin for the basement clean-up at our house he unknowingly just orchestrated! I've been on the hunt for a particular photo of him, from a Sport's Day event when we were in high school. Can't find it anywhere, but seven bags of stuff have been disposed of and you can actually move around down there! I figure if I post this it's bound to show up, at which point I'll add it. Since he died there have been some wonderful words written about him by friends like Doug Walkley and Klaus Offermann. Martin was so loved by so many. To say he'll be missed is a huge understatement. He was truly one of a kind.



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2 comments:

Unknown said...

So very nice! Thank you, Linda.

Bessie Wapp said...

Lovely to see these photos, Linda. I so enjoyed serving with Martin on the Capitol board. A kind, gentle, very funny man. I liked him a lot.....xo Bessie