Obituary: James Howard Martin

Grandfather, family man, music fan, traveler

James Howard Martin died peacefully at his home in Claremont on August 1, 2023 at the age of 80. Jim was born on August 17, 1942 in McMinnville, Oregon to Robert and Alvenia Martin. The eldest of three brothers, he led a fulfilling life that included the love of family, as well as traveling across the globe and learning about its people.

When he was 7, the family, with younger brother Kurt in tow, moved to Honolulu so his father Robert could begin his academic career as a professor of education at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. His youngest brother Ian was welcomed soon thereafter. He often recounted how he loved growing up in faculty housing on the UH campus, which he often referred to as “the old neighborhood,” where many of his lifelong friends and lasting memories were made.

The Martin family lived in Manila, Philippines when he started high school while his father was on a two year educational consulting assignment. After returning to Honolulu and graduating from University High in 1960, he attended Oregon State University, separated by a one year stint living with his parents and brothers in Karachi, Pakistan during another consulting assignment.

He taught boys physical education and met other young Americans living in Karachi, including a group who had a mutual love of music, and they formed a band, The D’Fenders. They wrote and performed their music at ambassadorial parties and weddings, and recorded the theme song for a Pakistani movie. He packed a lot of experiences and memories into that one year.

After graduating from the University of Hawai’i with a degree in political science, he met Susan “Sue” Watson, the love of his life, and they were married in 1967. Up until his passing, he was fond of saying that he “married up.” Soon after their wedding the couple moved to Glendale, Arizona where he attended the Thunderbird School of International Management. From there they relocated to Akron, Ohio, and after two years of training with Firestone International, he received his first major work assignment in Harbel, Liberia, where daughter Jessica was born in 1970.

They spent two challenging but exciting years in Liberia before the family moved back to the states. They lived in the Bay Area, Atlanta, and northern New Jersey before settling in Orange County in 1979. The couple moved to Claremont in 1999 to be closer to their daughter and her young family. He retired from sales with Teknor Apex in 2007 after more than 20 years with the company.

He was a rabid fan of University of Hawai’i football and all Oregon State athletic teams. He also loved the blues, rock ‘n’ roll, genealogy, literature (particularly western fiction), and travel.

“Most of all Jim loved his family, and he adored and was immensely proud of his grandchildren,” his family shared. “He would regale anyone who would listen about their lives and pursuits. Jim was well known for his quick wit and loved to tell jokes and anecdotes — often multiple times and to the same people.”

About five years before his passing, he learned that he had fathered a child in his younger years. He and Sue subsequently joyfully welcomed Bill Watt and his husband Gary into their lives and the family. “Jim liked to joke that Sue had never done math so quickly than to confirm that Bill was conceived well before they had started dating,” his family added.

“He embraced a life full of memories, especially those of his decadeslong love affair with his beloved wife, Sue, who predeceased him by three years.”

He is survived by his daughter Jessica Marchant and her husband Jim Marchant of Claremont;  along with his grandchildren, Drew, and Laurel Marchant.


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