Eulogies for Thom Martin


Thom died on November 13, 2000 after a long and valiant fight against AIDS. He was surrounded by his friends and loved ones and will be forever missed by those of us who knew him. This is all for you, Thom!

Personal Eulogy by Ian

I would think that at the best of times, writing an obituary is a difficult task. As I sat the other day trying to write something to submit to the papers for Thom's obituary I found myself angry that I even should have to attempt to compress a man's life into a couple of paragraphs. Thom's life would take volumes in order to even come close to describing this wonderful man.

Similarly, I tried to think what I could possibly say to everyone here that you all don't already know.

I could say that he was funny, but you already know that. Whether roaring with laughter or grinning that impish little grin of his, he was one of the happiest and funniest men I have ever known. He had such a deliciously dry wit and his one-liners and side comments were so seriously delivered that it would sometimes take a few minutes before I would dissolve into laughter. I know that he brought joy to every day that we were together and that we cackled away constantly. Most of the stories are far too rude to tell here but wherever he went you would hear people laughing not long after he arrived.

I could say that he was smart but any of you who dealt with him professionally, politically, in one of his many charitable or activist roles, or simply asked his advice on something know that. What you may not know is that Thom himself never graduated from high school and was working at a very young age. This was a constant source of shame to him which I found remarkable, as he was better educated than most college graduates I know. It also explained his insistence and efforts to ensure that his nieces, Ana and Jennifer received the best education they could.

I could say that he was hard working and that would be an understatement. He never stopped and even during that last few months while he was ill, I had to beat him away from the computer to stop him from exhausting himself writing proposals, dealing with clients and so on on many occasions. He worked as an efficiency analyst at a company in Colorado Springs called Current, and when he moved to Washington took his time to find a job in which he believed. While he did that, he opened the first art gallery in Washington that dealt solely with the works of gay and lesbian artists and changed the art scene dramatically as a result. He also worked for a company called Rescon, where he helped design indigent patient programs for people who could not afford heart medications and so on, as well as assisted with a newsletter concerning AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. During this he also volunteered at the, then, Human Rights Campaign Fund, the Carl Vogel Foundation and the Whitman Walker Clinic. When Rescon was bought out by a conglomerate, he left to form his own company and started MMS, of which he was justly and rightfully proud, which has since produced conferences around the country and a newsletter called Positive Populations which educates about HIV and AIDS in prisons. The upcoming issue of Positive Populations will contain a tribute to Thom from his colleagues and clients.

I could say he was an activist but that couldn't come close to describing his epistemology or his commitment. Thom truly believed that we have an obligation to leave this world a better place than we found it. Not many of you know this, but many years ago, in Colorado Springs, there was some particularly bad harassment and bashings going on. Thom sat down with two of his friends and they decided that something should be done about this to increase our visibility and show that fear was no longer an option. Using borrowed equipment, a small microphone and loudspeaker and an immense amount of bravery, they called for a Pride March through Colorado Springs ending in a picnic in Palmer Park. They expected only a couple of people to attend but that did not deter them. Over 500 people showed up and marched despite being harassed and heckled. Not only did this succeed tremendously but it became an annual event and this year, 2000, the organizers honored Thom by naming him the Grand Marshall of the parade. Unfortunately he was too ill to attend but over 20,000 men, women and children attended this huge march in which an empty car bearing Thom's name led the way. In addition, upon hearing of his death, The Board of Directors of the Pikes Peak Gay and Lesbian Community Center recently met and announced that they have created the Thom "Major" Martin Annual Community Leadership Award to honor his extraordinary contribution to Colorado Springs. The first award is scheduled to be presented at a dinner on February 3, 2001 in the Springs.

Thom worked tirelessly in the fight against AIDS but that was not his only commitment. He worked in the fight against breast cancer, he sat on the Ryan White Planning Council. He helped the AIDS Network of the Tristate area. He donated time at the Human Rights Campaign Fund. He donated time to the Whitman Walker Foundation and the Carl Vogel Foundation. He is one of the few men whose papers and letters are in the Lesbian Herstory Archives. He donated to so many causes that I can hardly begin to list them but they included Whitman Walker, CATF, Queer Nation, ACT UP, HRC, Victory Fund, Emily's List, NARAL, ACLU, Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League, Hetrick Martin, Millbrook Orchestra and more political candidates that you could possibly imagine.

He raised staggering amounts of money for charity. Barely a week went by when we lived in DC that one event or another was not held at our home. From cocktail parties to thousand dollar a plate dinners, Thom would always volunteer to help raise money for a worthy cause.

One interesting note is that on one occasion we hosted an event for Roman Kalinin, a Russian activist visiting the US who was trying to raise money to publish a gay and lesbian newsletter in the newly freed Moscow. The money raised went to buy a copier for their efforts. Not long after, the right wing attempted to oust Gorbachev and surrounded the Parliament building in Moscow. That copier was one of the few in private hands which was used to educate the citizenry of Russia as to what was happening and helped end the attempted revolution.

I can't begin to list all the political candidates that Thom assisted but if you look through some of the books we have laying out at home, you will see "Thank you" after "thank you" from men and women around the country who were helped by Thom.

I could say that Thom was gorgeous and no one who ever saw him line dance would disagree with that. It used to drive him crazy that the first thing that people would judge him on was his physical appearance but in Thom's case, that beauty went down to his core. He was a beautiful man in every sense of the word.

Thom had endless compassion. He went out of his way to help others, often to his own detriment but that would never stop him. I remember vividly leaving a large dance party late one night and Thom noticed that a young man had been viciously mugged and was lying, bleeding in the street. Thom immediately rushed to his assistance, sat with and comforted this man, called an ambulance, gathered his personal possessions and remained by his side for hours until he received medical care at the hospital. He never learned the victim's name and the victim never knew Thom's but that behavior was symptomatic of Thom. On another occasion Thom stopped by the Giant in Mclean to pick up some lunch. A young girl of about 15 who noticed his bumper sticker came up to him and told him that she had just come out to her parents who had reacted badly, refused to allow her to leave the house and were going to place her in reparative therapy (something, incidentally condemned by the APA). Thom immediately canceled all his appointments and spent the afternoon meeting with and talking to her parents. By the time he left that evening, the parents had agreed to not only support the young woman but also to drive her to Washington each week so that she might join a peer counseling group with the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League.

Thom was an entertainer without peer. His singing abilities were truly gifted and I can not begin to count the number of times that he reduced a room to tears with his music. The very first time I met Thom, he was scheduled to appear as one of many performers at a large rodeo event in Denver. When we arrived we found that the sound system had crashed and that none of the other performers would go on the stage. Thom immediately leapt up and sang acapella for about 40 minutes so that the attendees would not go away feeling cheated. It was at that moment that I realized I could fall for this man. No one who ever attended one of our parties or events both in Washington and here in West Virginia could ever find fault with his style and taste and the wonderful manner in which he could mix disparate and often radically different groups of people together to create many lasting friendships.

Thom was a great believer in the family. Although he never used the words "family values", he epitomized what those words should mean. I do not just refer to his family by blood, and you all know how much he loved them and especially the care he took of his mother Joyce, his sister, Barb and his two nieces, Ana and Jennifer; who referred to him as "D Thom" as though he were their father. Nor do I refer to his family by marriage and the love and friendship he felt for Val and Cliff and Julia and Gary and Collin and Duncan. I refer instead to the family here present in this room. His brothers and sisters not by blood but by an unshakable and unbreakable bond of love and respect and support that transcends friendship and becomes a familial relationship. Every time that Thom was in the hospital even the nurses were in awe and astounded at the love that surrounded him. I was told on a number of occasions that they had never seen such commitment and love. Thom was never alone, not for a second and one of his family were always by his side, holding his hand, talking, laughing, reading and comforting him. This past weekend he commented again and again how happy he was that most of the people he loved were with him and around him.

Thom was the bravest man it has ever been my privilege to know. I don't mean brave in a physical sense, although he was that indeed. He would always speak up when he heard injustice or bigotry, regardless of the physical danger. He would do AIDS education in the most dangerous neighborhoods to IV drug abusers with no thought for his own safety and he would always go to the assistance of anyone in need. I don't mean brave in a moral sense either in that he always spoke his own mind regardless of the venue or the potential for censure. I speak rather of bravery that allows a man to live with a fatal disease for over fifteen years and never complained, never sought sympathy and never gave in. He had chemotherapy every week for over five years and I can not begin to express nor detail the indignities, horror and pain that he lived through. When asked how he was, he always responded "fine…how are you" and he was always more interested in how he could help others rather than vice versa.

We all have different memories of our time with Thom but I find, even now, at this most difficult time, that I can only see him smiling and laughing and I think that that is how I will always see him.

Thom Martin was my friend, my partner, my soul mate and my husband. I am privileged to have loved and been loved by this man. Each of us is enriched and bettered by his life and diminished and bereft by his death.

Thank you.

Professional Rememberance Printed in "Positive Populations"

January 2001

Thomas G. Martin, founder and president of Martin Medical Services (MMS) and publisher of Positive Populations, passed away on November 13, 2000 after a long battle with AIDS. He was 34.

Thom, a native of Denver, Colorado and a long-time AIDS advocate, began working in the HIV/AIDS field in 1987 as the AIDS Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Southern Colorado AIDS Project in Colorado Springs. In that capacity, he designed and presented AIDS-101 Curricula for health education programs in several Colorado school districts. In 1990, Thom moved to the Washington, DC area and was named Special Projects Coordinator for RESCON Inc, a pharmaceutical research and consulting firm based in McClean, Virginia.

Thom developed, designed and implemented several educational forums on behalf of some of the nation's largest pharmaceutical companies while at RESCON, including Hoffmann-La Roche, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck & Company and Glaxo-Wellcome, among others. He also was instrumental in planning and organizing the very first National AIDS Drug Assistance (ADAP) Educational Forum in Washington, D.C., which is now recognized as the nation's premier ADAP event. That forum provides invaluable programmatic, technical, clinical and legislative expertise to ADAP administrators and others interested in providing a high level of care for people with HIV and AIDS. Thom played a key role in elevating the forum to national prominence and for turning the meeting into an annual event.

Thom devoted his life's work to ensuring that people with HIV and AIDS had access to medical care and the latest drug therapies. He served as a technical consultant to the Ryan White Title II Community AIDS National Network (T * 11 CANN) and was a planning council member on the Ryan White Title I EMA for the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. He also worked closely with the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, serving as an advisor on various projects, including efforts to develop a community-based ADAP program.

In 1997, Thom launched Martin Medical Services (MMS), using his expertise and skills to form a pharmaceutical research and marketing firm that has been able to harness and utilize the resources and knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry to benefit both industry and patients alike. During the past three years, MMS has planned and conducted several industry-sponsored HIV/AIDS educational forums throughout the United States, meetings that have enhanced the programmatic capabilities of dozens of AIDS-related programs in the public and private sectors, and which have, in turn, improved patient access to care and treatment.

Like many others in the HIV/AIDS world, Thom became increasingly concerned about the growing numbers of offenders and ex-offenders with HIV/AIDS and other chronic conditions in our nation's prisons and jails during the 1990s. He subsequently started pushing the concept of a national correctional newsletter that would address the disproportionately high rates of HIV/AIDS and other illnesses behind bars, efforts that led to the creation of Positive Populations.

In a sense, Positive Populations serves as a testimony to Thom's unrelenting efforts, a fitting tribute to a man who spent most of his life working to improve the lives of others. As the publisher of Positive Populations, Thom edited and oversaw the production of the newsletter. But he did much more than that. He provided guidance, direction and foresight to a publication that has always been willing to address many of the fundamental challenges and concerns of providing care to inmates with HIV disease and other maladies in correctional settings. Thom looked at the newsletter as a valuable resource, a tool that would ultimately improve the plight of disadvantaged and disenfranchised population groups which he cared deeply about.

As we say goodbye to Thom Martin, we applaud his good works and take solace in the fact that his accomplishments will always live on.

© 2012 IanThom Foundation