It's Father's Day today and I have been feeling sentimental all day and thinking about my own father. He has been gone now for 12 years and I still miss him. He was a character in every sense of the word and I think I was able to capture something of his personality in the talk that I gave at his funeral. I was only going to print an excerpt but as I read through it I couldn't decide where to end it, so I am going to just give it all to you. This will be a great place to record it so that everyone can know the kind of Father that my dad was!
by Karen Elizabeth Martenson Beagles
Originally given on May 30, 2002
At the funeral of LeRoy Victor Martenson
What a blessing it has been to be the one to give this talk about our memories of Daddy. Whenever I think of my Dad I think that I will always remember his hands. In fact as I gathered memories of Dad from all my sisters it occurred to me that those huge, rough, strong, sun-tanned hands played a major role in almost every memory we have of him. Here are just a few that I have selected to share with you in the short time we have here. Sit back and relax and remember with me this great man with the mighty handshake that I’m sure each of you had occasion to share with him.
Hands of Work
Daddy was a cement contractor by trade and this would explain how rough and strong and sun-tanned his hands always were. He put in long days of hard physical labor pouring cement and building houses as he loved to do. Margaret tells me that she found out from some of the boys in the ward that it was considered a “badge of courage” to work for Br. Martenson during the summer. She recalls one boy telling her how Dad took him to a job site and gave him instructions to start breaking out the cement, in order to get it ready to pour new cement. She said that Dad left him there to work and this young man was working so hard because he thought that Dad meant for him to get the whole job done before he got back. He said when Dad came back he said “Wow! I never expected you to get all of this done today! Good job!” Sara relates a story as told to her by Br. Wayne Chabot about a time when in order to raise money for the Stake Center several men had invested in building houses in order to donate the profits to the building fund. He talked about how they were working on a house and found part way through the construction that one of the floor joists was not square. The men gathered around and a rather heated discussion ensued on how best to fix the problem. Wayne relates that in the middle of the debate Dad walked over, picked up a sledge hammer came back and gave the joist one good whack! They remeasured it and it was now dead square! Mom said the sledge hammer was on of Dad’s favorite tools! There wasn’t much he couldn’t cure with a sledge hammer.
Jana recalls a time when Dad helped her to build a camp in the empty lot next to our house. He poured a cement floor, put up walls and a roof and even added a door with hinges. She thought that he got quite a kick out of building it and she keeps this as one of her most treasured memories of time spent with Dad.
Daddy also loved to fish commercially and we all have memories of cleaning Daddy’s boat on Saturdays or helping to mend the never ending nets spread across the driveway smelling of fish and seaweed! Carol has a memory of actually going gill netting with Dad and hauling in the fish in the nets and steering the boat. She wanted to make it her summer job but she said she proved to Daddy too late that she could do it.
I think all of us except Jana and Jeanette, who were not born yet, remember the trip we all took in the Sandy K. This was the name of one of dad’s first fishing boats. I was quite little but I remember sleeping in the bottom of the boat and hearing the bilge pump run all night long. Our trip consisted of sailing to Port Townsend and through Deception Pass (one of our favorite family spots) and to Cameno Island to spend some time with our Grandparents who had a beach house there. Mom recalls that on the morning we were to sail through Deception Pass the fog was too thick to see through. Dad would have to steer us through by instrument readings. Carol confirms this by telling me that she helped steer the boat through that passage and was not aware that there was land on either side until all at once the fog lifted. And both Carol and Mom concur that the boat was exactly where it should be in a very tricky passage. I guess that is why Mom never worried too much when Dad was out in his boat.
However, he was not so lucky when it came to skill saws. Mom tells me it was while he was working on his boat in dry dock that Dad accidentally cut off his thumb. The men he worked with rushed him to the hospital and the doctors pinned and stitched it back in place. He also had some trouble with a piece of glass in his pinky finger which severed several nerves and left him with a stiff finger for the rest of his life. But none of these ordeals kept him down for long.
It must have been a cruel hand of fate that this hard working mountain of a man was dealt when he was blessed with eight daughters and NO sons.....or was it? “Hit the deck!” was his favorite refrain at 7:00 AM on Saturday morning. He didn’t care if we were boys, girls or something in between we were going to learn how to work and work we did. Every Saturday morning we could all be found somewhere around the Martenson place working hard. The older girls remember cleaning the Laundromat and his fishing boat. We younger girls swept out his shop and sorted through his latest hauling of junk in the back yard. Believe me there were no dainty jobs for these girls. I think we felt like it was a vacation if we only had to help Mom with the housework.
Hands of a Father
I think it must have come in handy to have such a gruff exterior when you were the father of eight daughters. Diana recalls a boyfriend of hers telling how anytime he was walking down the hall at church and he would see Dad coming in his direction he would make a quick turn to avoid having to talk to him. He said Dad always said things like “You stay away from my daughter, see!” I’m sure these poor boys never knew if Dad was kidding or not. He wasn’t! This particular boy said to Diana, “You’re the good, I’m the bad and you’re Dad’s the ugly!” Diana also mentions that it didn’t matter if you were on time, late or early coming home from a date you were always in trouble. She took up the habit of opening the door very quietly and listening and if she could hear Dad’s very loud snoring, she knew she was safe! You may laugh but this was the truth around our house because we had a father who didn’t care if you were 16 or not he really did not want you to date ANY boys until you went away to college and then he wanted you to come home married!
All of the sisters remember Dad coming home in time for dinner at the end of the day. Dinner was always at 6:00PM sharp. We always gathered in the living room and had family prayer around the circular coffee table. Then in to the dinner table and another blessing on the food. Family dinners were an every night thing at our house and I think we all marvel at this great accomplishment of our parents. It gave us all a sense of peace to have that consistency in our home. Sunday was a day for church meetings but also of family time. We all seem to have great memories of reading the paper spread eagle on the living room floor with Daddy. It seems strange now to think of it but that is the way he always read the paper was laying flat on his stomach on the living room floor. The comics were very important in our family and it was always a race to see who could get there first to read them with Daddy. This was when we could cuddle up to Dad, he was about as cuddly as a porcupine, but never the less we would lay on his stomach or tickle him and climb on his back. We all remember his stomach, and though it was large even then, it was as hard as a rock. Sometimes he would tense up his stomach muscles and let us punch him in the stomach and it would hurt our hands. He had a little game he would play of trying to catch our finger in his fist and if he ever got your finger watch out! Sara reminded me that when Dad was getting ready to go out and if one of us asked, “Where are you going Dad?” He would always reply, “Crazy, do ya wanna come along?”
We all remember Dad as a great spiritual leader in our family. He was a counselor in one bishopric or another for as long as most of us can remember. He had a firm testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and he shared it over the years serving as a seventy and doing missionary work for the LDS Church. James recalls that Dad was a valiant Home Teacher. Many of the sisters mentioned spiritual promptings that came from Dad to help them in their individual lives. Also receiving blessings from him during times they needed direction in their lives. I recall my own baptism and confirmation given by Daddy was a very special time. He loved the scriptures and read them to us and encouraged us to read them. We always held family night on Mondays and then adjourned to the family room to watch Gunsmoke and pop popcorn. Popcorn was Dad’s all time favorite treat. As I recall at one time he bought over 300 lbs of it for our food storage. Many of the sisters recall getting letters from Daddy while away at college. Mother was the main letter writer but occasionally daddy would write too. I ran across my letters from Daddy not too long ago and they brought tears to my eyes. I will always treasure them. One sister recalls when she was very young seeing someone offer a cigarette to Daddy. “No thanks”, he said, “I haven’t smoked in over 10 years.” It made a big impression on her because she hadn’t known that Daddy had ever smoked and it reminded her of how much he gave up when he joined the church, that he had changed his life style and that experience helped her to understand the depth of his testimony.
Hands of Service
One thing I will always remember about Dad was how humble he was. He never was one to put on airs or think that he was better than anyone else. Whenever he needed a worker he would always go Downtown to the Millionaire’s Club (a place where the homeless would line up for work) and pick up someone that was down on their luck. I remember this I think because he would always bring them home for Mom to feed lunch. Some of these workers became his friends. I remember one man named George that worked for Daddy for a long time. Daddy helped him as much as he could and was a good friend to him until he died. I’ll never forget one time Daddy came with Mom to my house in Orem when Amanda was born. His good friend Byron Babbel came and got him and took him for a ride. It was snowing really hard that day and they didn’t come back for a long time. I was getting a little worried. Finally they came home and Byron left. It took me quite a while to get the whole story out of him about where they had been and what they had been doing but it had to do with stopping to help someone dig out of a snow bank and then getting stuck themselves. It was quite a crack up to hear Dad tell the story. He wanted to be sure I did not tell anyone what had happened to them.
Dad was a great example of service to me and was always willing to help anyone that might need a hand. Mom remembers how he loved to have their yearly open house at Christmas time, a smorgasbord he called it and she felt like it reminded him of his Swedish heritage.
I just wanted to take a moment and express to Daddy our love for him. Thanks for all the memories, the good and the bad for we know that all of our experiences with you have made us stronger. Thank you for the legacy that you have left behind.
Let me end now where I began. I will always remember my Daddy’s hands as mighty hands, hands of work, hands of a father and hands of service. His hands have made an impression on me that I will carry all my life. I want to express my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to each of you. I know that the Savior died that each of us might live again. I know that because of that infinite Atonements I will be able to reach out to take my father’s hands once more. I am so thankful for this great gift.