Marty Medin, a fireman and 56-year West Marin resident known for his generosity and knack for fishing, died in Petaluma on July 9. He was 73.
Marty was born in Seattle, Washington, in the early 1940s, to Dorothy Eldred, a Louisiana native who fastened rivets on the assembly line at a Boeing aircraft factory during World War II and later became a longtime chef at Vladimir’s, and Edward Medin, a commercial fisherman, mechanic and contractor.
In the early 1950s, the family moved to El Cerrito in Contra Costa County, where Marty played basketball at the local high school. On a fishing trip to Tomales Bay at the time, the family fell in love with West Marin. After his father took a job as a contractor nearby, they decided to move to Inverness. They lived in a temporary structure for three years while building a house on Drakes View Drive amid the bishop pine trees and blue forget-me-nots.
After graduation, while the Tomales High kids were still in school, Marty jetted around the Bay Area in his Mercury convertible. One early summer afternoon in 1959, he parked in the shoulder on Highway 1 and waited for the Tomales High School kids to drive home. One 17-year-old student pulled out behind him, thinking Marty was having auto trouble and needed help. As soon as the younger boy got out of the car, Marty stepped on the accelerator and hit him with a spray of rocks.
“Man, I gotta meet this guy,” Pete Valconesi thought, watching from the dust, and he became Marty’s oldest lifelong friend. “Like a brother,” Pete said. The pair bonded on regular fishing trips to the Smith River near the Oregon border, and their children would later become friends on joint family trips driving in an old station wagon to the Yuba River in the Sierra foothills.
Marty met his future wife, a Novato resident, in the summer of 1960 in mutual admiration of each others’ Corvettes when they pulled into Lund’s Drive-in on Petaluma Boulevard. They married in 1962 and two twins, Mark and Terri, soon followed. They lived for a time in Petaluma, but when the babies were still weeks old, a car crashed into their bathroom and wrecked their apartment. The newlyweds moved into the family home in Inverness before buying their own place in Woodacre, where they had a Great Dane and long-tailed cats. (He and his wife later divorced, and Marty returned to Inverness.)
Marty joined the Marin County Fire Department in the early 1960s. He studied to be a fireman at the College of Marin, where he was the running back on the football team. At the time, firemen worked shifts for 96 hours straight: reporting for duty on a Friday morning and returning home on a Tuesday morning built a strong camaraderie among the crew.
“Medical calls, fire calls, the violent fires, even a cat-in-a-tree call was fun,” Pete said. “It was a lot of stress, especially out here because you knew everybody, but any time you can save a house it was rewarding.”
Marty saved the life of one young boy who appeared to have drowned in a Woodacre pool. The child’s parents gave up after they couldn’t feel their son’s pulse, but Marty hunched over him and after minutes of administering C.P.R. managed to revive him. Even off-duty, Marty would stop the car as he was driving his kids home and check any smoke on the horizon or follow any sirens to see if he could help.
As he gained experience at the Woodacre, Tomales, Point Reyes and Hicks Valley stations, Marty mentored many of the younger firemen, including the eventual chief, Ken Massucco. “He took several of us guys—only 19 or 20 years old—took us under his wing and really explained what Marin County Fire Department was all about, the sense of community and the people that we serve,“ Ken said. “He taught us a tremendous amount, for which I’ll be forever grateful.” After contributing 24 years of service, he retired from the department in 1986.
Marty and Pete traveled the world together for Fishing International, a travel agency founded in 1974, scouting fishing locations and their accommodations to test whether they were good enough for tourism. They later led groups ranging from eight to 40 people. They explored the Western Hemisphere from the farthest reaches of northern Canada and Alaska down to Venezuela.
They cast lines for the quick and silvery bonefish in the Bahamas, catching more than they could count, and explored the wilds of Yukon and British Columbia catching trout in the icy lakes and sleeping in dilapidated trappers’ cabins. On one trip northwest, Marty caught 76 pike in one day. The record for most fish caught in one day—77 pike—was held by their guide, so he quickly turned them back to shore.
“We probably filled a passport in ten years,” Pete remembered. “We both always said that no matter where we went in the world, there was nothing wrong with coming back home. It’s one of the most beautiful places on the West Coast.”
Marty loved spending time with his family and giving to anyone who needed help in town. Tan and always wearing loud, brightly colored shirts, he and Terri loved combing estate sales for knickknacks and treasures and then searching for the best Mexican restaurants. They finally found one in Novato where the chile rellenos seemed to be as big as a shoe. Whenever he wanted to eat out, he called his daughter and told her, “I need new shoes.”
Whenever Marty had the chance, he was in the wild: deer hunting, duck hunting, crabbing, mushrooming (at an undisclosed location on the ridge with his friend Mike Coleman) or picking blackberries (and counting each one). “He was born outdoors,” Mark said. “He fished and hunted all around here his whole life, Bear Valley and Inverness Ridge before the park came in. A lot of those things are gone now, but he got to see the best of the best.”
A September 1966 issue of the Light gave as much space to the “experts”—Marty and Pete, among a handful of others—who could “just smell that touch of fall in the morning air and know right where to start fishing” as the opposing front-page article about Lady Bird Johnson dedicating the Point Reyes National Seashore the same week. Marty and Pete caught nine striped bass that week—the smallest, 15 pounds, and the top weighing in at 25.
Mark’s wife said she hasn’t shopped for fish at the grocery store for the better part of a decade because of all the fish Marty brought home. “I cooked fish every night for about two years,” Leona Medin said. People started locking their doors at the docks because Marty had so much salmon he would leave it in people’s cars.
A perfectionist, but never competitive, Marty would always want his friends to catch something. If you didn’t have a rod, he’d give you his and be happy driving the boat. On camping trips, he was always the first up, starting the fire, making breakfast and sandwiches. He woke everyone else up by bringing coffee into the tent.
While laying rocks and tiles in Woodacre, he met another close friend and fishing buddy, Bobby Wilson. In the last years of his life, Marty and Bobby still pushed their boat out early from Lawson’s Landing and were often docking again, nets full, as others were still arriving. Two summers ago, Marty was still pulling in hefty fish, including a 24-pound lingcod that broke his rod.
“We’ll miss you Marty,” the campground’s co-owner Willy Vogler said, “but the fish are relieved.”
Marty Medin is survived by his sister Carolyn Mansuetti, son Mark Medin, daughter Terri Heying, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, July 30, at 1 p.m. at the McIsaac’s deer camp.