SUGARCREEK TOWNSHIP — Word had barely gotten out about the death of Jim “Pee Wee” Martin, Greene County’s oldest living veteran, Sunday before the accolades from friends, fellow veterans, and admirers from across the globe began sharing their memories of the WWII hero on social media.
Martin celebrated his 101st birthday earlier this year at a special JumpFest held at SkyDive Greene County in April.
Dozens of paratroopers flew in to celebrate the USAF 75th anniversary and to honor Martin by jumping out of 1942-era planes like the Placid Lassie and the Tico Bell over the Air Force museum runway. The Placid Lassie, a WWII transport plane that flew troops in and out of France on D-Day, was a plane familiar to Martin and other members of the 101st, 82 Airborne Division crew.
When SkyDive Greene County co-owner Kelly West took Martin up for a jump on his 90th birthday, she asked him if he was a little anxious about jumping.
“This is a piece of cake,” replied Martin. “At least we’re not getting shot at.”
Country music performer Karen Waldrup (who co-wrote and performed her song “Normandy” which she dedicated to Martin), is said to have been in awe of Martin ever since she met him. That was a common feeling.
“We have lost a great American and friend with the passing of Jim Martin. I have known him since the 1970s when I was county prosecutor,” said Gov. Mike DeWine on Facebook. “Among his many accomplishments, Jim parachuted into France shortly after midnight on D-Day, becoming one of the first Americans to land. May our friend rest in peace.”
Martin received a resolution in April 2021 from the Greene County Board of Commissioners thanking him for his service and sacrifice to his country.
“As long as I’ve known Jim, he was part of a group that had sacrificed for our country — a special generation — and he tried to make his community and country better,” said Commissioner Tom Koogler. “He was a great American and he will be missed. He wanted to make a difference and he did in so many different ways.”
Known for his humble nature but fierce devotion to his country and fellow veterans, Martin has received the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the European African Middle Eastern Service Medal and was one of the last remaining members of the “Screaming Eagle” paratroopers. He also saw battle in Operation Market Garden (September 1944 in Holland), and the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944 to January 1945 in Belgium).
After returning from the war in 1946, Martin purchased 55 acres on Stewart Road in Sugarcreek Township where he built his home. He served on the Sugarcreek Township Board of Zoning Appeals and was instrumental in getting the Sugarcreek Fire Department its first Jaws of Life.
“He was savvy and kept up on politics and current events. He was my mentor and always gave me sound advice,” said Commissioner Rick Perales, who skydived in Martin’s honor at last year’s JumpFest.
“When he passed, we lost a true hero,” added Perales, who considered Martin a good friend, a strong patriot, and devoted husband of 75 years to his wife Donna and beloved father to five children.
Martin’s granddaughter, Jodi Martin Puterbaugh, has been working with various organizations to plan, design, and raise funds for a bronze life-sized monument of Martin in honor of his service and sacrifice. The monument will be erected in a designated place in the township area and will depict the strength and fortitude of WWII paratroopers and war veterans.
Visitation is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 20, at Sugar Valley Country Club, 1250 Mead Road, Bellbrook, from 4-7 p.m., with a Celebration of Life service following at 7:15 p.m.
A military burial is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 9 a.m. at the Dayton National Cemetery, Veteran Affairs (VA) grounds, 4400 W. Third Street. In lieu of flowers, the Martin family is suggesting contributions can be made to the Jim “Pee Wee” Martin fund through Greene Giving.