Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian HONORING Michelle Martinez Kamalani and her mother, Judy Martinez, pay a memorial day visit to the grave of Miguel R. Martinez at Valley Catholic Cemetery.

For Michelle Martinez Kamalani and her mother, Judy Martinez of Watsonville, Memorial Day meant setting time aside to visit Valley Catholic Cemetery. 

With an electric weed-whacker, a whisk broom,  hand clippers and two bunches of fresh flowers, the pair wandered through the rows of flower-festooned burial sites to the grave of Miguel R. Martinez, Michelle’s late father and Judy’s husband. 

Below his name on the simple bronze plaque reads: “US Navy, June 2, 1942 — Oct 27, 2009. Mike — You’re Forever in Our Hearts.”

Placing the flowers in the two bronze cemetery vases, Judy Martinez described her husband as “the greatest father, and a great husband with a big heart. 

“And he loved the Navy,” she said. “He served aboard the USS Jupiter, a supply ship, and the USS Kitty Hawk, an aircraft carrier.”

Micehlle added that her father was born in Pajaro and his family was from Guanajuatoa and Michoacan, Mexico.

“He loved being outgoing — that was what he was — so friendly and warm,” she said.

Judy said that after returning from his service in the Navy, Martinez worked in cold storage in Pajaro and then at Firestone Tires in Salinas. He became deeply engaged in labor issues and moved on to become the vice president of the United Rubber Workers. After earning a BA in business, he worked in labor relations for the State of California where he was the representative for labor groups between Santa Clara and King City.

“ He was really behind the labor movement, MIchelle said. “I remember, during the Firestone Tire strike, he was a major figure and we had workers’ families coming to our house and we’d give them food. I’d even hand out clothes to strikers.”

Judy also said that Martinez was a football coach around the Pajaro Valley for area youths for over 20 years.

“He loved working with the kids; he loved his community,” she said.

Memorial Day falls on the last Monday of May to remember those who have died during active military service.

Thanks to a crew from VFW Post 1716 of Watsonville, a lengthy stretch of Freedom Boulevard was lined with hundreds of coffin flags throughout the day.

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.



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