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By Carmen Ensinger
There was a noticeable absence at Roodhouse Greene County Days this year and a definite air of sadness permeating the three-day event when those in charge had to explain to visitors why Roodhouse Mayor Tommy Martin hadn’t made an appearance yet.
Martin, 69, passed away on Sept. 6 in Springfield after an extended illness, much to the shock of everyone in the Roodhouse and the surrounding communities.
“We had just been up to visit Tommy a few days prior and while he was very weak, he was still very positive,” Roodhouse Police Chief Kyle Robison said. “He had a long road of recovery ahead of him, but no one thought this was going to happen. We all thought he would be back leading the city that he loved so much again very soon.”
Martin ran for his first term as Mayor of Roodhouse in 2013 when the city was in a state of utter turmoil. He breathed a breath of fresh air into the city and its residents. He was easily re-elected for a second term in 2017 and a third term in 2021.
Martin was a “working mayor” in every sense of the word. His van could be seen parked in the handicapped spot at city hall just about every day.
“He might have been in a wheelchair, but he did more work for this city than a lot of people realize,” Robison said. “He rigged up this little cart so he could go around the city and spray for weeds, or, he would go around and pick up the trash.”
There was no doubt that Martin was a hands-on Mayor.
“Every morning and evening, him and his dog, Bo, would go riding around town and look to see what was going on,” Robison said. “Whether it was a property that needed to be cleaned up or something else that needed to be taken care of. Then in the afternoon, he would have to stop at the Ice Cream Depot and get Bo a Pup Cup. People are going to miss seeing him driving around town.”
Robison said if he had to use just one word to describe Martin as a Mayor, it would have to be “fair.”
“Even if he didn’t agree with you, he would let you have your say,” Robison said. “He always gave you a chance to at least express your point of view.”
And if there was one thing Martin was, it was available to his constituents.
“If he wasn’t in the office, you could usually find him eating in a restaurant or down at Martin Lanes enjoying a cold beverage and sitting and chatting with folks,” Robison said. “He just loved being around people, even though he took a lot of grief from some of them sometimes. But he just loved being around people.”
He also loved taking part in the events that took place in his town. From the Roodhouse Fishing Derby at the Roodhouse Rez in the heat of June to the freezing temperatures when Santa comes to the square after Thanksgiving, Martin would be there no matter what.
“He was sick at the fishing derby this year and while he was there, I know the humidity was bad for him and he had to leave before he got to hand out the trophies, which he always loved to do,” Robison said. “I know the kids really missed him this year at our ‘Chillin’ with the Police’ event. Last year, the kids would get on the back of his motorized wheelchair and he would take them through the water stream that the firetrucks were spraying and they both had a lot of fun. Its things like that that made him so special.”
Basically, if there was anything going on in Roodhouse, whether it be Greene County Days, Trunk or Treat or anything else, Martin would be within earshot.
He was also very involved in the North Greene sports programs where he liked to watch his grandchildren play sports. He could frequently be seen at various games throughout the seasons.
Last year, Martin and Robison worked with North Greene FFA to redo the Veteran’s Memorial in Roodhouse Park and get some new seating. It was a very proud moment when Martin posed for a photograph with the students who helped build those benches.
Alderwoman Dawn Crum said she was appointed by Martin soon after he took office and has been with him almost since the beginning. She was shocked to learn of his death.
“I couldn’t quite believe it when I heard that he had passed away,” Crum said. “We all knew he was in the hospital and had been for some time, but I think we all expected he would be back again, just like before.”
Crum said his loss will be immeasurable for both herself and the city.
“For me, personally, and for the city of Roodhouse, Tommy’s passing is a tremendous loss,” she said. “He was really good for our community because he really loved Roodhouse and he wanted what was best for our community. He had a big heart for Roodhouse.”
Martin grew up in Roodhouse, attending Roodhouse Public Schools and graduating from North Greene High School in 1972. He went on to receive an Associates Degree from Lewis and Clark Community College and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from University of Illinois School of Business and Management in December of 1996, graduating with high honors.
Martin has been in a wheelchair since breaking his neck in 1990, but he never let that slow him down.
After a brief time with UPS, he spent the rest of his life in various management positions with trucking and brokerage companies. After a few years as Manager/Comptroller for a local asphalt transportation company, he spent the following five years in management overseeing the liquidation of the Roodhouse Envelope Company, which had operated for 99 years before its voluntary liquidation in 2010-11.
He kept busy in several civic organizations as well, including the White Hall Lodge #80, Springfield Rasna Shrine Club, University of Illinois Alumni, Lincoln Land Chapter of Abate and was a board member of Great River Service Coordination since 1993. At the time of his death, he was President of the Fernwood Cemetery Association of Roodhouse.