After battling COVID in a hospital, an area school board member and volunteer firefighter died on Monday.

Rick Martin served his country and community in various aspects. He retired from the Air Force, and more recently from his job in civil service, which stemmed from his career in the military. He also was a trustee on the Navarro ISD School Board, served in the Geronimo Volunteer Fire Department, and helped out his community where ever he could.

News of his death came as a shock to many, including Geronimo Fire Chief Michael Castro.

“It took a while to set in, like I’m dreaming,” he said. “Reality hadn’t set in until I had to contact the department president and talk to him about the department email letting all of our members know and the announcement on Facebook. That’s when reality set. I sat there at my counter in my kitchen and bawled my eyes out just saying ‘it’s not real. This is not happening.’”

Martin joined the Geronimo Volunteer Fire Department in 2007. In the past 13 years, he held various positions within the department including president of the board, EMS Captain, and most recently treasurer of the board.

“He was a great leader,” Castro said. “He was a very knowledgable, very humble man. He cared for others. He is irreplaceable. He is a man of many talents and a lot of knowledge. He had a great attitude, always had a smile on his face. He had love for children and love to help out anyway he could.”

His love for his community, carried over to his service as a school board member. In 2010, Martin was sworn in a Navarro ISD trustee. As a member of the board, he had the privilege of handing both of his sons their diploma.

NISD Board President Greg Gilcrease said Martin’s death is a devastating loss to the community.

“He was always prepared,” Gilcrease said. “He looked at things in-depth. He was just a blessing to have on the board. He was a fantastic individual. He really cared about the schools, cared about the kids.”

While Navarro Superintendent Wendi Russell’s time with Martin was short, she said it was obvious that his passion was to ensure children had the best education.

“Rick Martin put kids first,” she said. “Even though he didn’t’ have kids in the district currently, he was constantly bring back the fact of academics and is this what is best for our students. It is extremely difficult and devastating for the community and the school district to lose him suddenly, he is going to be sorely missed.”

Rick, along with his wife, Kim, was very passionate about the Panthers Feeding Panthers project, Gilcrease said.

While Gilcrease admitted he and Rick didn’t always see eye-to-eye, he knew they would talk it out and come to the best possible solution for the district.

“We didn’t agree on everything, but we would talk about it, work things out and come to a compromise,” he said. “That is a blessing to have someone that you can talk intelligently with. With him on the board, the agenda was always, what is going to be best for the kids. This is a huge loss.”

Martin recently retired from his job and was just beginning to enjoy life after his career, Gilcrease said.

“He had moved from active to civil service and then retired from that just six months ago,” he said. “He was just now enjoying the benefits of being able to sit on the tractor and just mow the grass. Mill around and do the things he wanted to do.”

Gilcrease said it was still hard to fathom that Rick was gone.

“I got the call and it was one of those things, you really just don’t want to believe,” he said. “I still get chocked up. It went so fast. You never think it’s going to happen to someone you know. It really is a devastating loss. He will be missed.”

However, it’s not just the community who is devastated by Martin’s death. Rick is survived by his wife, their sons Kyle and Ryan and their families.

“He loved his kids and grandkids,” Gilcrease said. “He was so proud of his kids.”

Castro described Rick as a family man, and a grandfather everyone would want to call their own..

“He was a big time family man, loved his grandkids,” he said. “When he would talk to my daughter, he was very respectful, always playing and laughing. He is everybody’s dream of a grandfather.”

Just as Rick has been there for the community, Castro said it is their turn to step up to the plate.

“We’re going to come together as a department, and as it affects Kim the most, we need to be there for Kim and the boys and their families, help out as needed,” he said.

Felicia Frazar is the managing editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail her at felicia.frazar@seguingazette.com .

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