Thank you all so very much for coming. As I’ve talked to some of you this past week, I’ve come to realize that everyone thought as highly of my father as I did.
I love my Dad very much, and I know he loved me. I was proud of the things he did in his life, just as I know he was proud of the man I had become. Many people do not get that luxury. I have countless moments in my life I can visit to remember the greatest man I’ve ever known. A Tarzan yell from the living room. I steady hand on the seat as I learned to ride my bicycle. The sound of his voice on the micro-cassette recorder as he sat at the kitchen table on the weekends, comparing the prices on the price sheet in front of him to the ones he had spoken to himself while walking the competitor’s stores. The gleam in his eye when he made a joke, often followed by a self-acknowledging, “Oh” and a sly grin. The sense of comfort of knowing if I called him, he would answer or call right back. Every time.
Tony taught me everything I know about being a good, honest man. He taught me loyalty. He taught me to respect people. He told me that a man never breaks his word, and that a handshake is more than a formality. He taught me generosity and strength. He taught me the value of a hard day’s work. He taught me how to laugh, even if the joke was on me. He pointed to John Wayne on the television and showed me the importance of heroes. Dad was my hero; I still want to be him when I grow up.
I want to share a particular experience with you. When I was in Cub Scouts, we took part in the annual Father Son Cake Bake. Neither of us was particularly skilled at baking, and we had to come up with something we could bake to fit the theme, which was, ‘New Frontiers’ this particular year. I was getting frustrated, and Dad finally said, “I have an idea.” We baked two round chocolate cakes, one a bit smaller than the other. We made a chocolate icing with copious amounts of green food coloring and various nuts. We assembled the cake in a lopsided fashion and Dad took a ceramic cowboy boot and made an imprint. We titled it, ‘Watch your Step’ and took it to the competition. All of the judges would stop, look at it a moment, and laugh. However, there were other cakes that had taken HOURS. Space Shuttles, forts, underwater scenes…so they couldn’t give our little cow pattie one of the top awards; however, they made a ‘Nice Try’ award for us that year to show us how much they loved the idea. That was my Dad.
My final memories of my father take place just before Christmas. He came to Tulsa, we had lunch, and went to see the remake of ‘True Grit’. As we were leaving the movie, I asked him, “So, what did you think?” He looked at me and said, “It was okay…” Then he got that sly smile on his face and finished, “…but it wasn’t The Duke.” I know how he felt, because there will also never be another Tony Martin.