BURRILLVILLE – A resident at Crystal Lake Rehabilitation & Care Center recently celebrated his 100th birthday, with a party and surprise visit from a local dignitary to honor the veteran’s life and service to the country.
Joseph “Pee Wee” Martin served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and was a lifelong East Providence resident before moving to the Burrillville facility.
At a celebration on Thursday, March 17, East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva presented a proclamation on behalf of the city, thanking Martin for his contribution to both his community and the nation.
Born February 13, 1922, Martin was the son of Portuguese immigrants. He worked for the Washburn Wire Company in Rumford for 41 years, and has long been known for his creativity, making items such as weather vanes, model boats and grandfather clocks. Martin donated one such clock to the Holy Ghost Brotherhood/Brightridge Club, where he has been a lifetime member.
His proclamation noted that Martin is also considered a, “Mr. Fix It,” repairing various gadgets and gizmos such as lawnmowers. He also built two full-sized boats, an 18-footer and a 20-footer.
“If you call him about a leaky faucet he will be there to fix it too,” noted the proclamation from the city. “Until the age of 95, Mr. Martin was still actively fixing things like his roof. He loves fixing things so much that he has asked to be buried in his work clothes so that he may keep working in the afterlife.”
DaSilva discussed the visit to Burrillville in a post on social media, noting that Martin is an, “American hero who put himself in the line of fire to rescue his fellow soldiers after the boat he was in during the invasion of Normandy was sunk.”
His service also included the Invasion of Normandy, France, in December 1944 through January 1945, and participation in the Battle of the Bulge.
“During the war when a boat was sunk by machine gun fire, Pvt. Joseph Martin swam about in the bullet-sprayed water, applying tourniquets to the wounded,” notes the proclamation. “His action helped save the lives of several of his comrades who were marooned for six hours on the enemy-held side of the river.”
Martin received seven medals for his time in service, including a Silver Star Medal.
Guests to his 100th birthday celebration at Crystal Lake also included Martin’s longtime friend Major Barry Ramer of the East Providence Police Department, along with Ramer’s father, Barry Ramer Sr., his sister Anne Sisto, and nephew Dennis Sisto.
“All who know him continue to say they love him for his character as well has kindness and willingness to help all,” noted the framed acknowledgement.