The Superior-Douglas County Senior Center was renamed Wednesday, March 20, after pioneer broadcast journalist and longtime public servant Lew Martin, who died Feb. 17, a day after his 102nd birthday.
"I can't think of any better way to honor Lew than to name the senior citizen center (after him)," said Doug Finn with the Douglas County Board. "He was active there. He was on the board there. He ate there. He partied there. He danced there. He did everything at the senior center."
The Superior City Council unanimously voted during its Tuesday, March 19 meeting to rename the building the Lew Martin Senior Center. Superior Mayor Jim Paine made the resolution official Wednesday by signing it at the center, surrounded by seniors eating lunch.
"While Lew certainly did great things throughout his life. He was a servant in public office; he worked many years telling the stories to us about our community and about our world on the news. Maybe the greatest work he ever did was here in this building," Paine said. "It is a great thing to wash dishes. It is a great thing to make people smile when they're sad. It is a great thing to be a good friend, which Lew was."
Some of the senior diners traced their connection with Martin back to childhood, when they listened to his voice on the radio. In more recent years, they got to know him at the senior center. They said he was humble and told great stories.
"He was a very special friend," Cindy Root said.
The insurance calendar on the wall was an annual donation from Martin, who not only ate lunch at the center, but washed dishes there into his 90s.
"When he hung up his apron from working here he gave it to me because I volunteer here too," said George Louese. "Green Bay Packer, of course. He was a big Green Bay Packer fan."
The coat hook and mirror near the back entrance of the building were set up for especially for Martin, Root said. Every day, he'd stop there to take off his hat and check his hair.
Martin cast his first presidential vote for Harry Truman, they said.
"And he still drove up until six months before he passed away," Louese said.
Community leaders gathered to watch the signing. Millie Rounsville, executive director of Northwest Wisconsin Community Services, has known Martin since she started at the organization.
"He was on our board for 30-some years," she said. "Lew's been involved with our agency since the '60s."
She was always impressed with Martin's keen mind and his thoughtfulness when making decisions that impacted customers and constituents.
"His passion was always going back to the person, the people, the connection back to individuals," Rounsville said.
When pastors Joel and Barb Certa-Werner came to Faith United Methodist Church nearly 18 years ago, Martin was already a member of the congregation. Martin and Joel Certa-Werner shared the meaning of Christmas carols with back-and-forth radio banter during an advent service one year.
After Certa-Werner wrote the script, Martin edited it. Then, in front of the congregation, Martin went off-script and added to it.
"Probably our best advent service ever," Certa-Werner said.
Martin interviewed presidents and served on the Douglas County Board for decades. After retirement, he returned to the airwaves for another 20 years as the newsman on KUWS' Radio Superior program, sharing his talents with a new generation.
"I'm glad that they're doing this for him," Barb Ceta-Werner said. "It's just a tribute to his dedication to our community."
A celebration of Martin's life is scheduled for Friday, March 22, at 5:30 p.m. at Faith United Methodist Church, followed by a gathering at the Superior Elks Club, where Martin was a member for 75 years. Everyone is invited to attend, and bring stories of Martin to share.