Obituary: Frank G. Martin

April 5, 1938 – Oct. 23, 2010

Frank G. Martin, 72, spent 54 years living with and loving Al Vezza. For friends and LGBT community members, Frank and Al were role models, shining examples of how love and commitment bound two men together for more than a half century.
Martin died Oct. 23 after a prolonged respiratory illness, ending over a half century of partnership with his beloved Al, who described Martin as the kindest and most generous person he knew.
"He was non-judgmental, of anything or anyone in his life," said Vezza. "Anyone who knew him saw and felt his compassion. He never said a mean word about anybody."
In April 2006, Martin and Vezza were featured in BTL's Special Commitment Ceremony issue. They had just celebrated their 50th anniversary, and they told BTL how they first met all those years ago.
It was April 5, 1956, one week before Martin's 18th birthday, when he hopped onto a streetcar after school to go to his job at the Fisher Building. He noticed a man who resembled a young Frank Sinatra stepping on board, and instead of riding to his regular stop, Martin got off early and followed the handsome former Navy man.
"He stopped and looked in a window, over his shoulder," Martin told BTL. "I did the same. Then he asked me, would I like a cup of coffee? Fifty years later, we're still together We were going steady from that first day."
In their Huntington Woods home there is a photo of that streetcar, the #235 Log Cabin Trolley, along with a copy of a ticket dated April 8, 1956, the last day the streetcar operated, just three days after they set eyes on each other.
"We might not have ever met," Martin told BTL wistfully in 2006.
Martin, born in Detroit April 12, 1938, graduated from Pershing High School and later attended Wayne State University. An avid reader and book lover, in high school he got a job as a stock boy at the Doubleday Book Store in the Fisher Building, and after several years he become the store manager. He continued his rise up the bookstore chain's ranks and eventually became a district manager, overseeing all the stores in greater Detroit.
After the Doubleday retail chain left Detroit, Martin was recruited to manage a new store for legal and medical textbooks on the campus of Wayne State University. He and Vezza ended up buying that business in the early 1970s. They discontinued the legal textbook part of the business, and went on to operate the Laco-Wayne Medical Book Store for over 25 years, right across the street from Hutzel Hospital.
"Frank was a great, great reader. He would often read a couple of books a day. He was very knowledgeable," said Vezza, who said he helped a little with the bookstore, but it was really Martin who ran the store. Vezza spent 35 years in industrial relations at Ford Motor Company.
Martin was an active supporter of the LGBT community. He served as both president and later secretary of the Association of Suburban People, a LGBT group in the 1980s that provided social support. ASP also helped to raise funds for HIV/AIDS organizations that were rapidly forming to combat the new disease. On behalf of ASP, Martin was tireless in hosting shows, guest bartending and helping to coordinate support for AIDS groups. Later with Vezza, Martin was a contributor to the HOPE Fund at the Community Foundation for SE Michigan, Affirmations and numerous AIDS service organizations.
Martin's health quickly declined over the summer, and finally hospice came into their home to help in the last weeks. Yet Martin wanted to be part of Vezza's life right to the end. He organized a surprise party, complete with a custom-made cake, to celebrate Vezza's 81st birthday Oct. 13.
"I guess I could say I was the luckiest person to have him. I shall miss him," said Vezza.
Per Martin's wishes, his body was cremated and Vezza will distribute the ashes at a later date. Vezza said a memorial service and dinner is planned for Jan. 8, 2011 at Farina's Banquet Hall in Berkley. Guests will be invited to come celebrate the life of Frank Martin.
Martin is preceded in death by parents, Elden and Wilma, and sister, Harriett May. He is survived by uncles Andrew May and Edward May. Memorials may be sent to William Beaumont Hospice.

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