‘His heart was in Tecumseh’
DJ Martin loved the Tecumseh community in many visible ways and also behind the scenes, contributing to causes and events anonymously to help his city thrive. Besides running Martin’s Home Center, a retail fixture in downtown Tecumseh since 1947, he had a hand in countless citywide improvements and causes. And as much as DJ Martin loved his community, his community loved him back.
Born Donald James Martin, DJ died at age 80 on Tuesday, Dec. 1. The son of Donald and Lottie Martin, he served his country in the U.S. Marines, loved to dance, and enjoyed attending local car shows and supporting his family and friends in sports activities.
His father started the business as Gambles, later changing the name to Martin’s and expanding the store to fill the northeast corner of West Chicago Boulevard and North Pearl Street. Fourth generation family members are involved in the store that has remained a familiar fixture for residents for seven decades.
DJ is survived by his wife of 59 years, Sharon; his mother, Lottie; children Kelly Scheytt, David Martin and Jenny Clarke; a sister, Janet Springer; nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Jenny and David, who both worked with their father at Martin’s, shared their thoughts on what kind of man he was.
Jenny said she appreciated his fun-loving, hardworking attitude, and his insistence on not putting anything off. He was a list-maker and dedicated to getting things done, but was also extremely generous and thought it was better to give than to receive. “He was a firm believer that somebody else might need it more than you do,” she said. But he didn’t necessarily want people to know who was doing the giving. And he was all about second chances, she said.
“He always said, ‘Even the worst day of my life was the best day of my life. I never had a bad day.’ He was very upbeat, never got down, never held grudges against anybody, loved people to the fullest,” said David. “He loved people, didn’t have a problem talking to anybody, and he made you feel good after you talked to him, because he was always optimistic.”
Jenny said her father’s hobby was driving around town, seeing what was going on, what people were doing, who was renovating what, and how businesses were doing. He liked diet Pepsi in a can and apple pie. David agreed that it didn’t take much to make him happy. “He and mom would go out to eat and he always liked to see how cheap he could get the bill,” he said, laughing.
“DJ and I go back a long time,” said Mayor Jack Baker. “There’s just nobody any better than this guy. He was the best of the best. The mayor had his service station across the street from Martin’s for many years, and 20 years ago after a major snowstorm, the roof of Martin’s collapsed.
“Here was a guy that could have just chucked it in and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to rebuild elsewhere,’ and he rebuilt right downtown,” said Jack. “The best thing I can say is he really was the guy that made downtown Tecumseh what it is. He could have moved that store anywhere else and he chose to rebuild right downtown. His investment in downtown Tecumseh is what has made us what we are today.”
Tecumseh Public Schools Superintendent Rick Hilderley said his family and the Martins have long been connected. “His decision to rebuild that store and even further strengthen their position as the anchor was just so supportive of Tecumseh, and continues to make it, in my opinion, the focal business community of Lenawee County,” Rick said. “There are not a lot of people like him. Such a good person. You just can’t replace that kind of influence.”
“There’s just nobody any better than this guy. He was the best of the best,” said Jack. “I just can’t say enough good things about DJ. He has done so much for the community. He never told people what he did.”
Susan Turner said she got to know DJ when she was the executive director of Communities in Schools in Tecumseh. “DJ and his family were great supporters of that mission, and he always stepped up and supported the students and the kids in our community, and through that we became friends,” she said. The two had a shared love of basketball, so they would often sit together at Tecumseh basketball games. “His love for the community was just so evident. He was truly just a supporter of our town and those missions that supported the people in our community.”
“You’ve got to look at the bright side of stuff, and that’s what he always did,” said David. “Us kids just hope we have some of that in us. He was just a very positive individual.” “He was a great influence,” Jenny said. “And he just loved the community to the fullest,” said David.
“I guess when you knew DJ, whether it be through business or other connections, you became a friend, because he related to everyone and he did it unselfishly,” said Susan. “He was involved but never stepped up for any kind of recognition. He was just there because his heart was in Tecumseh.”