Craig J. Long
For The Coal Valley News
WHITESVILLE – Saturday, June 16, 2012, the mood in coal town of Whitesville on the Boone County-Raleigh County line was very somber.
Floyd E. “RED” Martin, 92, of the Whitesville Coal Camp, was laid to rest after a service at the Whitesville Volunteer Fire Department.
“Red” as he was called by everyone, was a staple of this county line community on the Big Coal River.
In 1944, “Red” entered the Army & served as a combat medic in the European Theater in World War II. Red received a medical discharge from the Army and earned the Purple Heart for his contribution in the war. Red grew up in the Cedar Grove area, but moved to the Whitesville area after World War II.
He met, fell in love with & married Catherine or “Cat” as she was known. She was the love of his life. “Red” & “Cat” had two sons, Bobby & Danny. “Red” joined the Whitesville Volunteer Fire Department in 1962 and has been a member ever since. For many years “Red” worked at the Whitesville Ambulance Service until a heart attack forced him into retirement.
“Red” & “Cat” were both central figures in the foundation of the Whitesville Fire Department, along with the late Chief Junior Stump, the late Jack Burnette & the late Dan Branham. Retired members of the department, Mike Browning, Johnny Kinder, Alan Nichols & others said when they joined the fire department in the late 60’s & early 70’s, they went through Red’s “Boot Camp” as they learned to become firefighters and work on the ambulance. Red was a staple in the Whitesville community.
He built his own “kiddie rides”, a twirling swing & ferris wheel, that were a staple of the Fireman’s Fair that used to be held annually in Whitesville. Red’s pride & joy was the department’s 1925 A Model Fire Engine, donated to the fire department by the Dorothy Coal Company.
Red enjoyed restoring the truck in his spare time & went to countless parades across West Virginia showing off “his baby”.
When the fire department last had the truck restored, the tank was lettered “Old Red”, and Red’s name was emblazoned on the rear of the truck under the hosebed. The gold decals 1920 - 2012 were added to “Old Red”.
Speaking at his service, the Rev. Ricky Peters, Chief Jim Hodges & Honorary Member Mike Browning all said they could stand for hours & tell stories about Red. Each talked about his love for his wife & sons, his love for the fire department & ambulance service, & his service, both in the military and to the community through the fire department and ambulance service.
“Servant” was the word that Rev. Peters used to best describe Red’s character.
Red’s red casket was loaded onto “Old Red” & Red was taken on his final ride in a procession to the Pineview Cemetery at Orgas to be reunited with his beloved “Cat”.
The ladder trucks from Whitesville & Racine Fire Departments were at the town limits with a huge American Flag for Red to pass under as he left Whitesville for the final time.
The Madison VFW was present at the graveside & Red received a 21 gun salute, taps was played & the flag that covered his red casket was given to his family.
Then Red received his “last call”, considered the “ultimate good-bye for a firefighter” from the Whitesville Fire Department.
The firefighters pagers were all activated to say good-bye to Red, “thanking & saluting him for his dedication, loyalty & most of all, his friendship.”
The broadcast included the loving statement, “Red, you have left a hole in the Whitesville Fire Department that can never be filled.”
There was not a dry eye among family, friends & fellow firefighters & ambulance workers.
After the last call the siren sounded on “Ol Red” and the chrome bell was rang 3 times, as the final farewell to a beloved citizen.