Harold A. Martin – Glocester

Harold A. Martin – Glocester

Harold A. Martin, 77, of Glocester, R.I., passed away Sept. 5 at home from a cancerous brain tumor.

He was the son of the late Harold F. and L. Mae Martin of Glocester and brother of the late Samuel Martin and Kathleen Lawton of Glocester.

He leaves behind three nephews and a niece: Harold Lawton of Foster; Daniel Lawton and Justin and Alisha Martin, all of Glocester.

Harry, as he was known, was truly a renaissance man. He excelled in everything he did. He was a skilled engineer who understood metallurgy, machining and engineering well beyond most people with doctorates in the discipline. You might say he earned his own doctorate, self taught. He rebuilt a number of various machines and firearms over the years from an antique bulldozer to a 1948 Vincent Rapide motorcycle. If he couldn’t find parts, he made them from scratch better than the original manufacturer would have made them. In some cases that included intricate carburetor ingredients and other complex mechanisms.

He also was a cabinetmaker by trade, designing and creating the furniture for his home, from the dining set to his own bed and multiple art pieces besides. He custom made the mouldings and wainscoting in the house from boards he had milled when he owned and ran two sawmills early in his life. He made custom rifle and shotgun stocks from birch and maple for his own firearms as well as for various friends over the years. He was employed by Herrick and White as a master woodworker for a period of time.

He was associated with wood most of his life, beginning with his own pulp wood business in his teens, then subsequently starting a sawmill business. He bought a used sawmill, and rebuilt it entirely, including milling and pouring the bearings and learning everything there was to know about the business from how to sharpen a 6-foot diameter saw to understanding the workings of a successful sawmill business, from logging to marketing. Eventually, he added a second sawmill, a penny bolter, which sawed pallet stock.

Tired of working seven days a week, he accepted a position as a sawyer offered by Turnquist Lumber of Foster. Eventually, he wound up at Hull Forest Industries, Pomfret, Conn., where he was their chief engineer and saw hammerer (a complex skill involving knowledge of metal and tensions). When other sawmill owners learned of his talents, they began bringing their saws to Harry to straighten out. His was a well known name in the sawmill business even after he retired. Sawmill owners would bring their saws to his home to ask him to straighten and sharpen them. It is a rare skill.

He read constantly. Everything from classic literature and poetry to history and science. He understood and enjoyed opera, and classical and folk music. If you walked into his home on a given day, you might hear anything from Brahms to a local folk artist or opera playing loudly throughout the house. In addition, he himself was a talented classical guitarist. He also was an accomplished ballroom dancer, who competed in Boston at various events through the years.
An avid outdoor enthusiast, he enjoyed hiking, biking, canoeing and exploring. He was a Class C canoe leader/instructor for many years for the Appalachian Mountain Club. He canoed down wilderness rivers in Alaska, as well as almost all the navigable rivers in New England. He especially liked dam releases and anywhere he could find whitewater.

He was an expert marksman, who earned sharpshooter status when he was in the R.I. National Guard, where he served in the engineering unit. Harry almost always won the annual Thanksgiving turkey shoot competition sponsored by Hull Forest Industries when he worked there. At one point he missed only one clay pigeon out of 50 attempts.

Most of all, Harry was a good friend to many. A steady stream of friends and relatives visited him in hospice at his home during his remaining days to say goodbye.