Loved ones recall fond memories of Garry Martin
A man who adopted the Camellia City as his home town and went on to protect and serve its citizens for two decades has died.
Garry Frank Martin, who retired in 2013 from the Greenville Police Department, passed away at his home on Sunday, January 22 after a brief battle with lung cancer. He was 72 years old.
Martin, a native of Utah, was both an Air Force and Navy veteran who went on to serve a total of 41 years in law enforcement in New Mexico and Alabama.
Martin’s extensive law enforcement experience serving in the Albuquerque metro area for 20 years as part of the Bernalillo Sheriff’s Department allowed him to bring a different perspective to the local agency. That perspective was one that recently retired GPD officer Randy Courtney says was “very beneficial” to Greenville’s force.
“Having someone coming from another state and a larger agency was a good thing for us to have,” said Courtney. “And all his experience and wisdom gave me, as a young policeman, someone I could really look up to. We served on both investigations and patrol together and our careers actually paralleled since we started with the department within a few months of each other.”
When Martin brought his family to Greenville to be closer to wife Ramona’s family, it proved quite an adjustment for him.
Martin admitted in a 2013 newspaper interview that moving to Greenville, a small and friendly southern town, was a “huge culture shock” after the rampant gang activity, drugs and violence he’d seen in New Mexico.
“Compared to Albuquerque, the pace was much slower,” Martin said. “I honestly thought I must look like somebody from around here; people kept waving at me.”
However, he said he learned to embrace life in a small town, where he didn’t mind having his phone number listed in the book; a place where folks with warrants out on them might actually show up on Martin’s front porch—and then wait until he got back from church to turn themselves in.
In Courtney’s eyes, Martin was much more than just “another one of the guys on the force.”
“I was close to the same age as his oldest son, Garry Dean,” Courtney explained. “Garry Dean was killed in a car accident with Gary’s first wife back in the 1980s. You could say Garry was really like a daddy to me in the department. I tried to learn everything that I could from him.”
Lonzo Ingram, former Greenville police chief, described Martin as a “consummate professional.”
“He was professional all the way; in his appearance, his attitude, the way he spoke and how he dealt with the public,” said Ingram. “Garry was well respected in the community and that means so much for a member of law enforcement.”
Following his retirement from the GPD in 2013, Martin prized the extra time it gave him with his family, says his widow, Ramona. “You know, Garry was the strongest man many of us ever knew, and yet he was the most gentle man with children and animals,” Mrs. Martin said.
“His children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews knew a man who would read stories, play games and watch westerns with them. He loved the Old West and was a John Wayne addict and he enjoyed sharing that love with them.”
Although he hailed from “The North,” family and friends say Martin reflected many of the values and qualities traditionally celebrated in the South: a courtly nature, a belief in keeping his word, a strong Christian faith and love for his country. “He was a man’s man who loved hunting and being out in the woods, but he was also a real gentleman with every woman,” Mrs. Martin said. “He believed in treating everyone with dignity and respect.”
As he reflected on his time with the department in the 2013 interview, Martin said the thing he most enjoyed about being part of the GPD was “getting to know the people of Greenville and being in a position to help them with they needed it.”
Ingram says it was Martin’s rapport with the public and fellow officers and desire to truly “protect and serve” that allowed him to make such a positive difference within the department and the community.
“He was definitely one of the good guys and he fought the good fight until the end,” said Ingram. “He will certainly be missed by a lot of us.”