Our former pastor at our church used to say that there were two kinds of people in this world. Drainers- those who would absolutely suck the life out of you with their needy attitude and desperate conversations. You would try to help, but the drainers in life won’t listen and seem to wallow in their misfortunes and pass on the misery in heaps to anyone with a sympathetic ear. They drain the life out of you to the point where you are exhausted in trying to help. Then there are the people builders- those folks who always have a smile on their face, volunteer to help you, listen to you, be a friend, encourage you, and in general, build you up in the modern day troubled world. Charlie Martin was a people builder.
I first met Charlie through the Ski School at Seven Springs Resort. Charlie was always involved in a lot of outdoor activities but he really sunk his teeth into skiing and wanted to be the best teacher he could be. His people building attitude was apparent in his thirst to share his enthsiasm and knowledge to his students. Charlie taught people to do a lot of things but ski instruction was how I first came across this really bright and enthusiastic man. The process to be a ski instructor is not an easy one,especially if you take the time and effort to become certified under the PSIA( Professional Ski Instructors of America). A lot of guys who teach skiing don’t make the effort to get educated and simply are a warm body in a ski school jacket. Not Charlie. He and Art Bonavoglia worked hard to get their Level II pins and then had the vision and the quest to pursue the highest certification- that of being a Level III instructor. Charlie and Art would go to the Castkills and take private tutoring from Mermer Blakeslee who was a PSIA Examiner. They not only attended the regular update clinics and specialty clinics offered by the organization, but were so enthused that they pursued this private instruction from one of the best in the business. This was not unusual behavior for Charlie. Once he made up his mind to do something, he did it and pursued it with a passion.
I saw Charlie a few years ago at our church with a guitar in his hand and discovered that one of his many volunteer activities was to be a part of the student ministry at the church. His infectious smile and really great sense of humor not only showed through in his singing and playing, but his attention to students and people in general at the church was exemplary. It could be a horrible weather day coming into church, but Charlie was always there greeting people with that big bearded smile and making them feel that they were the most special person attending the service that day.
I was not as close to Charlie as Art and some of the other guys in church and in the ski school, but I thought enough of him that when he had a stroke a little while ago, I made it my business to dash into Allegheny General Hospital to see him. Not out of any obligated reason but because a guy like Charlie who gave so much of his life to others, would perhaps appreciate someone coming into see him and building him up like he did for so many. When I came into his room, his twinkling eyes lit up and even though he had some paralysis and some speech issues, you could tell that he was locked into you with his attention. We conversed as if nothing was wrong and I told him that a guy like him would make a full recovery and his wife Colleen concurred in her strong positive way. Charlie walked me to the door and even though he could not talk, our eyes met and I knew he was on his way to recovery. What a shock when I found out that he had died a couple of days later.
Looking at Charlie that day and all through his life, it was apparent that he knew where he was going in life and in the life beyond. When you smile like that and give yourself unconditionally to people, you know the source of your salvation and you spread that good news to all that come into your path. Charlie was a kidder. Tim Sweeney told me the other day that he came to the church for Charlie’s funeral but the receptionist at the church said he was a week early. Tim said he laughed on the way out because Charlie had got him again with one of his pranks. You could just see him up there laughing down at Tim saying………….gotcha!!! Big bearded smile!!!
People like Charlie Martin are a rare breed. Not many folks would pursue a passion like Charlie. He loved life and all that it had to offer. He loved people and encouraged them to take up new sports and activities and volunteered enthusiastically to get them involved. He always looked for advice and with me, he asked all the time about his skiing. It was disarming because when I would start to discuss the subject with him, his smile made me laugh and say,” No I am serious Charlie.” He knew I was but was anxious for my opinion and wanted me to know that he was having a lot of fun too.
Hopefully, you have come into contact with some people builders in your life. They make wonderful friends, confidants, they are fun to be with in outdoor pursuits, and most of all, you feel envigorated and encouraged and a better person for being with them and being their friend. Avoid the drainers. Look for guys like Charlie. He will always be remembered and will always be with us in many ways. Thanks for reading and think snow.