We cannot imagine a more deserving candidate for Cary’s Hometown Spirit Award than David J. Martin.
David moved to Cary with his widowed mother and three siblings in 1936, when he was nine years old. As he helped his mother support the family during some severely lean years, he learned the valuable lessons of hard and honest work at a young age; lessons that have guided his productive career as one of the Cary’s first entrepreneurs.
Applying many of the skills he acquired during his tenure in the US Coast Guard, David began what would become his long and successful career in the development/construction industry. His first project was an exercise in recycling before recycling was fashionable: refurbishing old houses into the University Apartments complex in 1954. In 1963 he established himself as Cary’s proto-developer when his Southland Center opened on a finger of land strategically located between Buck Jones Road and US highways #1 and #64. Southland Center was later converted to South Hills, Cary’s first shopping mall.
David would probably be the first to acknowledge that God and Cary have been good to him and his family. That may be one of the reasons he is such an avid advocate for our town. “The only place you can go that is better than Cary is heaven” is how David often greets newcomers. And he has done much to keep Cary just that kind of neighbor-helping-neighbor community. Helping a widow repair a leaking roof, giving emergency housing to a family in financial stress, incubating beginning churches with free meeting space are just a few examples of the many acts of kindness and generosity that David routinely makes to his community and the people in it. Several years ago he was at one of the big box stores when he heard a woman screaming that her purse had been stolen. When David saw a man running away with a purse, he and another shopper caught the thief and held him until the police arrived. David says that an acronym borrowed from one of his daughters, helps keep his life’s priorities in proper order. JOY-Jesus, others, yourself.
David and his wife, Marilyn, have been married 60 years. They have five daughters and one son, 21 grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Throughout his life David has been an active member of First Baptist Church, Cary, serving several terms as deacon and on two boards at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
When David was 13 years old, he built his first structure: a chicken house made of scrap lumber and two metal Tru-Aid signs. Now at 86, he still goes to work every day. His materials and the scope of his projects may have changed but still, in his own distinctive and inimitable way, he is helping to build a better Cary. His retirement plan? “I retire to bed each night and the Lord renews my strength for another day.”
Nominated by: Joe and Edna Strudivant and Margie McLawhorn