By STEVE LENOX
PATERSON, NJ – Politicians, business leaders, members of the clergy, educators, and others with a variety of titles joined together by the dozens on Tuesday to honor the life and longtime service of Manuel Martinez Sr.
No matter the role they played, or formal connection they had to Martinez, who passed away three years ago to the day, each one, in their own way, remembered the man who will forever be memorialized in Paterson with a street named after him, as one thing: Family.
The unveiling of Martinez Way, one block of East 28th Street that connects Market Street to 20th Avenue, marked a joyous occasion for all of those who were in attendance to honor someone that was repeatedly referred to as a man that all could look to for support and guidance.
While the crowd maintained social distancing guidelines and bore the face coverings that have become synonymous with our COVID-19 way of life, there was no masking the love so many had for Martinez, a father of three, the founder of the first Latino funeral home in New Jersey, a lifelong Paterson resident whom his son Manny told TAPinto Paterson “always had a helping hand to extend, no matter who you were.”
“We loved him and respected him,” Congressman Bill Pascrell said, the first of several dignitaries that would speak. Senator Nellie Pou, striking an even more personal note, brought to mind the many weddings, baptisms, and other family events they celebrated together before concluding that he “gave so much to this community.”
For Mayor Andre Sayegh, part of the memory of Martinez were the Halloween parties he held in his funeral home. “A class act,” Sayegh called him, adding that he will forever be remembered for his ability to “deal with people at their most vulnerable moments, comfort them in their times of need.”
Rounding out the event before all gathered just a little bit closer as the street sign was unveiled was an emotional former Mayor Joey Torres. Pointing out the elder Martinez’ three grown children, Manny, Derek, and Marisol, all of whom have developed their own record of community service, through firefighting, teaching, and the arts, Torres called his friend a “pillar of a greater Paterson community.”
Torres also donated a tree in Martinez’ honor, one, that he said, like the great man did during his own life, will “spread strong roots of love and compassion.”