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Patient Snapshot: Howard Martinson

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Patient Snapshot: Howard Martinson

In a tragic yet ironic twist, my dear friend and multiple myeloma survivor, Howard Martinson, unexpectedly lost his beloved wife and caregiver last year. Teresa was an amazing woman.  But an innocent sinus infection somehow became unstoppable; she died last fall with Howard at her side.

I hadn’t heard from Howard for a while, so I emailed to wish him a Happy New Year and make sure he’s holding up OK.  He replied by sending me this article from their local Idaho paper, the Coeur d’Alene Press:

Fresh Start director Martinson to retire

GEORGE KINGSON/Staff writer – January 3, 2014

COEUR d’ALENE – Longtime Fresh Start executive director Howard Martinson, 65, will be retiring Jan. 31. He has worked at the drop-in center for the homeless and mentally ill for five years.

“My wife, Teresa, and I used to work together there to ensure the viability and strength of the organization, but now that she’s not with us anymore – we lost her Sept. 12 – things have changed for me,” Martinson said. “I think it’s time for the organization to figure out how they’re going to go forward withoutthe two of us.”

Teresa Martinson was the volunteer coordinator and corporate secretary for Fresh Start and worked with both staff and homeless clients.

Howard Martinson said the two biggest concerns of the executive director’s position have been the safety of staff and clients as well as the financial solvency of the organization.

“For the past five years I’ve written grants for Fresh Start,” he said. “We’re not flush now nor are we wealthy, but we are very solvent and the grant writing has been successful.”

One of the things Martinson is known for is his creation of Fresh Start’s Warming Center, an all-night drop-in center for the homeless which is open when temperatures are expected to drop below 25 degrees.

“The idea was the inspiration of Gary Edwards, our founder, but I guess I was the nuts and bolts guy who made it happen,” Martinson said.

Before coming to Fresh Start, Martinson was a regional account manager for Verizon Wireless.

“A big part of my job was selling Yellow Pages advertising,” he said.

After retiring from Verizon, he went to work for Fresh Start. “They paid me enough to cover my Internet and my cell phone and then a little bit extra. It was more than a volunteer position, but a very small amount more – it was all the organization could afford.”

After Jan. 31, Martinson said he plans to spend more time “working on my health and that means more time in the gym.” He’s also looking forward to spending time with his five grandchildren.

“I’m thinking about getting a dog to have some company and then maybe finding some other work – either volunteer or paid. I don’t have a clear vision of what that might be, yet, but I do know Fresh Start would like to have me continue writing grants for them.”

Howard invited me to speak to their multiple myeloma support group in the fall of 2012.  That’s where I met John Knighten, who I featured in an ongoing Patient Snapshot series in 2013.  (If you type “Spokane” into the long query bar at the top right side of the page, a number of links to related posts will appear.)

I had always wanted to visit Spokane and Coeur d’ Alene.  So I made sure to schedule a few extra days to stick around and play tourist.  Howard and Teresa were amazing hosts.  I stayed in their home, toured Howard’s shelter, met Teresa’s parents and toured picturesque lakeside settings, framed by majestic mountain and pine forests.

Here are some pictures I took while visiting:

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And a picture of Howard and Teresa:

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Howard is understandably sad, but he’s trying to live life without Teresa the best he can.  His myeloma is stubborn, but still under control.  I hope our paths cross again soon.

Thinking back on my visit led me to reflect back on the many friends I have made during my myeloma journey.  Tomorrow I’m going to feature several more that have touched my life and helped change me for the better.

Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat