Joseph P. Martin, Jr.

Joseph P. Martin, Jr.

May 17, 1933 ~ March 20, 2018

Joseph Pate “Joe” Martin Jr., 84, of East Bass Lake Lane, Gwinn, passed into the arms of his heavenly father at Eastwood Nursing Center, Negaunee, Michigan on Tuesday evening, March 20, 2018 in the presence of his loving family. 

Joe was born on May 17, 1933 in Atlanta, Georgia to Joseph P. Martin, Sr. and Johnnie M. (Brewer) Martin.  He was raised in his mother’s birthplace of Morgan, Georgia with frequent visits to his father’s birthplace of Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee.  He graduated from Morgan High School in 1951, and from North Georgia College in 1956. At N.G.C. he was a member of the R.O.T.C., and served for a time in the U.S. Army before attending Georgia Southern College, Oregon College of Education and the University of Florida, achieving Master’s Degrees in Education and Administration, just one thesis shy of his doctorate.   

On June 10, 1954 Joe married Nell, the girl who stole his heart by smiling at him on the North Georgia campus as he walked to class one day.   After graduation they were based at Fort Sill in Oklahoma for a short time before moving to Doctor’s Inlet, Florida.  Both taught for many years with Joe primarily as Principal for numerous schools including Orange Park Middle School, Doctor’s Inlet Elementary and Middleburg Elementary in Florida. 

Joe and Nell loved to travel, spending their summers crossing the country, camping and sightseeing from coast to coast.  On a visit to Ocracoke Island, North Carolina Joe and Nell learned that the tiny school on the island (only reachable by ferry at that time) was without teachers.  They got to know the people of the community and were offered the positions at the school.  They had already committed to their current teaching positions in Florida and were unable to accept, but the desire to “do something different” was sparked in them.  That spark led them to consider moving to Guam, but instead they applied to and were accepted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Alaska.

They were sent first to the village of Selawik above the Arctic Circle, and then to the village of Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea (where they truly could see the mainland of Siberia on a clear day). In between their village assignments, they returned to Florida for a year and then two years before making their beloved Alaska home for the rest of their careers.  In 1976, they moved to Nome where Nell continued teaching and Joe served first as director of the boarding home program (at that time the rural villages did not have high schools and students attended school in Nome while living in either a dormitory or with foster families) and then as principal of Nome-Beltz High School.  

In 1976, he earned his private pilot’s license.  In 1978 he followed a long time dream and, as he once joked, changed to a job less stressful than being a high school principal and became an Air Traffic Control Specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration.  He worked for many years in the Flight Service Station at Nome before transferring to Merrill Field in Anchorage and to Kenai before retiring.  He and Nell served for many years in the Civil Air Patrol, with Joe earning an award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the rescue of a N.O.A.A. helicopter crew on the ice of the Bering Sea.  Joe was also known as an excellent photographer and his documentation of their life has filled many albums.  After Joe’s retirement the couple moved first to Monmouth, Oregon and then to Boise, Idaho before settling in Caroline, Wisconsin for 16 years.  In 2015, they moved to the U.P. of Michigan, living first in Rapid River and then Gwinn.

Throughout Joe’s life, his deep faith in God guided and comforted him.  He was a lifelong volunteer and supporter of many groups and causes.  When he saw need, he did not hesitate to step in.  Joe and Nell long supported their church as well as the Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission.  He lived his life as a hard worker, humble in his estimation of himself, family before self, giving kindness and acceptance to all.  During the years in Wisconsin Joe and Nell built strong friendships within their church and in 2011 helped in the founding of Grace Family Church in Marion, an endeavor of which he was very proud.  Joe served as Finance Chair and on the church council as well as volunteering at brat cook outs and the chili-chowder suppers.

Surviving Joe is his loving wife of 63 years, Elizabeth “Nell” (Bland) Martin; his son, Robert (Jackie) Martin of Emmett, Idaho; his daughter, Jan (Mike) Hutchens of Gwinn, Michigan; former daughter-in-law, Kathy Martin of Boise, Idaho; and six grandchildren: Andrew Martin of Boise, Idaho, Leslie Martin of Skagway, Alaska, Jackson McEwan of Boise, Idaho, Russell Holbrook of Marion, Wisconsin, Sara (Paul) Hudlow of Irving, Texas and Joseph Hutchens of Gwinn, Michigan.  He was preceded in death by his parents; his younger brother, Barry Martin and Barry’s wife, Molly; and his beloved cat, Daisy. 

The family wishes to thank the staff of Eastwood Nursing Center and the nurses of U.P. Home Health for their kindness and compassion in caring for Joe; Ritesh and Jan of UPHS Rehab; Forsyth Township Senior Center; and most especially, Sally Mitchell. 

Honoring Joe’s wishes, a celebration of his life will take place in the near future at Grace Family Church in Marion, Wisconsin, date and time to be announced.  Internment of his ashes will take place at Stewart Family Cemetery in Alma, Georgia.  In lieu of flowers memorials may be directed to Grace Family Church or Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission, Anchorage, Alaska.  

Mr. Martin’s memorial page may be viewed at, where memories and condolences may be shared.

The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112

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