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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Philanthropist Nicholas Martin died New Year’s Day

Nicholas Martin, who with his wife, Louella, donated millions of dollars to organizations as wide-ranging as Baylor Scott and White, the North Texas Community Foundation, Texas Wesleyan University and Michigan Trout Unlimited, died Jan. 1. 

He was 96 and died peacefully in his sleep. 

Mr. Martin and his wife have been generous contributors to a variety of causes and institutions in Fort Worth and across the United States. 

Nick Martin, along with Brad Corbett and Amon Carter Jr., were early owners of the Texas Rangers. 

Among the Martins’ beneficiaries is Texas Wesleyan University, where Louella Martin serves on the board of directors. Her family has been involved with the school since its founding in 1890. Her grandfather, James B. Baker, was a trustee from 1895 to 1912, and her father, Edward L. Baker, served on the board from 1945 to 1969 and chaired the board for 12 years 

Nick was a great friend, business leader, and philanthropist,” said Texas Wesleyan President Frederick G. Slabach. “But most importantly, Nick made it clear how much he loved his family – Lou, his wife of 43 years, seven children and stepchildren, 19 grandchildren and step grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren. 

“He will be profoundly missed,” Slabach said. 

Community Foundation North Texas Toolbox Grants presentation in Fort Worth, Texas on May 6, 2014. (Photo by/Sharon Ellman)

“The board and staff of our hospital were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Nick Martin,” said Mike Sanborn, president of Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center. “Nick and his wife, Lou, have been among our most loyal and generous supporters whose philanthropy has left an indelible imprint on our hospital through substantial gifts over the years, most recently for the construction of our new Emergency Department. Nick was an extraordinary man whose presence here will always be felt.” 

The Martins established the Nicholas & Luella Martin Charitable Fund at the North Texas Community Foundation to support Texas Wesleyan, Cook Children’s and many other organizations, including the Fort Worth Zoo, The Cliburn, Texas Ballet Theater, United Way, the Red Cross, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tarrant County, the Museum of Science & History, Fort Worth Country Day, All Saints’ Episcopal School and Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center. 

“Nick Martin made all the difference in our community,” said Rose Bradshaw, president and CEO of the North Texas Community Foundation. “Over the past 40 years, Nick’s business success made it possible for him to provide generous support to many local organizations. We have Nick and  his wife Lou to thank for everything from Baylor All Saints’ Main Tower and Emergency Room, to the Boys & Girls Club in Poly, to countless campus improvements at All Saints’ Episcopal School and Texas Wesleyan.” 

“The Community Foundation will always be grateful to Nick for his service on our board of directors (1997-2002; Board Chair 2001-2002) and providing us with the funding to launch our ToolBox Grant program to build nonprofit capacity,” Bradshaw said. “Nick Martin left Fort Worth a better place. I know we will all continue to benefit from his incredible generosity for years to come.” 

“Nick brought soft-spoken joy to all of our conversations. My time with him was almost always connected to when he and Lou were celebrating grandchildren at Fort Worth Country Day,” said Fort Worth Country Day Head of School Eric Lombardi. 

Fort Worth Country Day is home to the Lou and Nick Martin Campus Center, a 2,200 square foot commons area that opened in 2010. 

“He was proud of his family and eager to make not only their school experience better, but to also have those experiences be better for all in the FWCD community. He made a difference in the lives of others, including many at our school. I am grateful for the opportunities I had to be with him seeing children experience joy,” Lombardi said. 

“Nick Martin is a legend to our hometown Boys & Girls Club. His namesake location, the Nicholas and Louella Martin branch, is located across the street from Texas Wesleyan University,” said Daphne Barlow Stigliano, chief executive officer and president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County. 

“For decades Mr. Martin rallied for kids at Boys & Girls Clubs who he always believed simply needed the opportunity to succeed. His passion for lifting up the mission and those it serves included providing fully paid scholarships to All Saints’ Episcopal School for over 20 Boys & Girls Club members,” Stigliano said. “He never missed the chance to help and to ask others to join him in helping. His legacy of service to the Club will not be forgotten.” 

Joy Ann Havran, herself a philanthropist of note and a supporter of Country Day where the track is named the Barrett Havran Track in honor of her late son, said she and her husband Bob had some wonderful times with the Martins. 

“They were the first on the dance floor, the last on the dance floor. They were just a very fun-loving couple,” Havran said. “Nick was truly a giant among men. He was witty, he was brilliant, and he was so much fun. 

“From a lifeguard at the Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan, to one of the owners of the Texas Rangers and a series of successful business ventures, he did it all. He and Lou were some of the most generous philanthropists certainly in Fort Worth and in the state of Texas. They have touched so many different facets of Fort Worth. It was truly an honor to be his friend,” Havran said. 

Mr. Martin was born Feb. 23, 1924, and grew up in Birmingham, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. As a child, he was athletic and loved to play ice hockey and football. Mr. Martin served his country in the U.S. Army at a pivotal time during World War II. He served in European combat as a sergeant in the 94th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, the family said in its official obituary. 

After the war, he graduated from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and went to work in the wholesale lumber business with his father at Dealers Wholesale Supply. 

In 1969, Mr. Martin joined others including Brad Corbett to create Robintech, a Fort Worth-based plastic piping company and became a part owner of the Texas Rangers baseball franchise in 1974. 

In 1977, he married his wife, Louella “Lou” Martin and moved to Fort Worth. 

After selling his share of Robintech in 1979, Mr. Martin founded Master Shield, a vinyl siding company, which he sold in 1985. Beginning in 1988, Mr. Martin worked in numerous real estate ventures developing real estate in Texas, Michigan, and Kansas City. 

Mr. Martin was an avid golfer and longtime member of Shady Oaks Country Club and Orchard Lake Country Club. He also developed Waterchase Golf Club in Fort Worth. 

While he was a successful businessman and entrepreneur with business relationships throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Japan, Mr. Martin made perhaps his biggest mark on the Fort Worth community as a philanthropist and volunteer, the family said. 

He felt he had been blessed with a fruitful life and that he had a responsibility to give back to the community that had afforded him so much. To that end, he formed the Nicholas and Louella Martin Fund, which is associated with the North Texas Community Foundation to provide support to worthy causes, the obituary said. 

Mr. Martin also provided scholarships to deserving underprivileged students to attend All Saints’ Episcopal School. 

He worked with the Boys & Girls Clubs in both Detroit and Fort Worth for many years, and his philanthropic work also touched Denison University. 

Mr. Martin’s faith sustained him throughout his life, his family said. He was raised in the Episcopal Church and he and his wife, Lou, were longtime members of First United Methodist Church. He endeavored to express his Christian faith by meeting the needs of his community and helping those around him succeed. 

“Nick was an all-time great and one of my favorite human beings: Irascible, yet fun-loving; rough-hewn, yet soft-hearted; incredibly smart and remarkably giving,” said Tad Bird, head of school at All Saints’ Episcopal School. “Our regular meetings were filled with creative, comforting and colorful dialogue. Nick was quite a raconteur with a wickedly dry sense of humor. I was fortunate to call him friend.” 

The buildings that bear the Martin at All Saints’ were important, Bird said, but more important was Mr. Martin’s passion for supporting underserved children, as is evident through his dedication to partner the Boys & Girls Club with All Saints’ Episcopal School. 

“His desire was to ensure highly capable, motivated students with financial need had the opportunity to be challenged and matriculate to excellent colleges and universities and, in turn, be positioned to make a positive difference in their respective communities. These students, 30 to date, have graduated from such institutions as Dartmouth, Rice, Trinity and TCU to name a few and have gone on to serve the world in diverse and meaningful ways,” Bird said. 

In 1998, Nick and Lou were awarded the Saints’ Award, the school’s most honored recognition. 

“Nick’s benevolence extended throughout his family. Cindy Adams, Nick’s daughter, served prominently on our board of trustees and her daughters, Nick’s granddaughters – Kelly Adams Katz (’95) and Melissa Adams (’98) – are proud alumni of All Saints’ alongside Nick’s grandson, Baker Parker (’13),” Bird said. 

Mr. Martin is survived by his wife of 43 years, Louella Martin; his daughters, Cynthia Martin Adams and husband John, Christine Ellen Kraatz, and Barbara Martin; his son, Kirk Martin and wife Kathy; his stepdaughters, Julie Parker McBride, and Cynthia Parker Macdonald and husband Bob; and his stepson, David Parker and wife Nancy. 

The family said Mr. Martin especially enjoyed being a Grandpa and nothing brought him more joy than spending time with his 19 grandchildren and step-grandchildren: Michelle Ferris, Heather Minor, Kelly Katz, Melissa Adams, Cory Akers, Nick K. Martin, Lindsay Jaffa, Jonathan Martin, Barron Parker, Baker Parker, Ben Parker, Natalie Campbell, Richard McBride, Georgeanna McBride, Isabelle McBride, Alexei Zimmer, Rob Macdonald, Catie Macdonald, and Patrick Macdonald. He is also survived by 13 great-grandchildren. 

Fort Worth Can Academy Holds Grand Opening for Wee Can Academy – Lancaster Ave.

Services are pending. 

In lieu of flowers, the family suggest gifts to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Tarrant County. 3218 East Belknap St., Fort Worth, Texas 76111 and Jewel Charity Inc., 3301 Hamilton Ave. #121, Ft Worth, TX 76107 

The Martin name is prominent all over Fort Worth on buildings where they were the lead donors. Those include: 

  • The Nicholas and Louella Martin Tower at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center, constructed in 1994. 
  • The Nicholas & Louella Martin Branch of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County at 3123 Avenue G, Fort Worth. 
  • The Nicholas Martin Hall at Texas Wesleyan University, funded in 2001 to transform the auditorium in the Ann Waggoner Fine Arts Building from its original structure to a state-of-the-art venue for performing arts. 
  • The Nick and Lou Martin University Center at Texas Wesleyan University, a 44,000 square foot student center. At a cost $20.3 million, it was the single largest capital improvement project in the recent history of a school that was founded in 1890. 
  • Lou and Nick Martin Campus Center at Fort Worth Country Day School, a 2,200 square foot commons that opened in 2010. 
  • The Louella and Nicholas Martin Wee Can Academy, 1316 E. Lancaster, Fort Worth. 
  • The Nicholas and Louella Gymnasium and Martin Commons in the Upper School at All Saints’ Episcopal School. 
Paul Harral
Paul is a lifelong journalist with experience in wire service, newspaper, magazine, local and network television and digital media. He was vice president and editor of the editorial page of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and editor of Fort Worth, Texas magazine before joining the Business Press. What he likes best is writing about people in detail and introducing them to others in the community. Specific areas of passion are homelessness, human trafficking, health care and aerospace.

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