Nov. 22, 1943 - May 23, 2017
Lacrosse came naturally to Larry “PeeWee” Martin, who died Tuesday in Kenmore Mercy Hospital after a long battle with small cell lung cancer. A Town of Tonawanda resident, he was 73.
A player and coach for more 50 years, he was the son of Garland “Beans” Martin, an Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame defenseman.
Mr. Martin started following his father’s path on defense, then switched to goaltending after filling in at goal when a teammate was injured. An all-star goalie, he helped lead his teams to Senior B lacrosse championships in the predecessor to the Can-Am Lacrosse League, and was described by one sportswriter as “the Bernie Parent of lacrosse.” Parent was an NHL goaltender who won two Stanley Cups with the Philadelphia Flyers.
“He really was a legend with people in lacrosse,” his son Michael said.
Mr. Martin took up his father’s mission to bring box, or indoor, lacrosse to Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ont., after his father died in an auto accident in 1967. He also toured the Northeast promoting the game.
When he went from player to coach, he worked with his children in the Indian Athletic Club minor lacrosse program, then with Senior B Men’s teams, where he was chosen as a coach for the all-star game.
Playing Masters (Old Sticks) Lacrosse, he had the chance to compete with all three of his sons in a tournament. At the age of 71, he shared the floor in a game with one of his sons and a grandson.
In recent years, he helped coach his grandson, Dawit Martin, whose team won an Ontario Lacrosse Association Provincial A championship in 2015. He also assisted with his grandson’s field lacrosse teams.
Hours after his grandfather’s death, Dawit scored eight goals as the Niagara Wheatfield High School Falcons lacrosse team defeated North Tonawanda, 23-1, in a quarterfinal playoff game.
“I knew he would want me to play,” he told a WKBW-TV reporter afterward, “especially because it’s the playoffs. He loves the game. ... He’d be here, I know he’d be here if he could be.”
Mr. Martin’s other passion was for softball. A pitcher in fast pitch and slow pitch leagues, he played for many local teams. After teaching his daughters to pitch, he coached them to numerous league championships in Buffalo and Fort Erie.
Later he taught his granddaughters to pitch. In return, they always dedicated their games to him. He traveled with one granddaughter’s college team to a game in Tucson, Ariz., and in April went to Orlando, Fla., to see another granddaughter play with her high school team.
Born in Buffalo, he lived with his family on the Six Nations Grand River Territory in Ontario as a boy, then returned at the age of 8 to city’s West Side.
When he was 16, he dropped out of school and worked with harness racing horses with an uncle in the Carolinas. He worked with horses for several years, spending his honeymoon in the barns at a racetrack.
Later he became a laborer with Local 210, working at numerous construction sites, notably with ABC Paving Co. installing telephone cables. He retired in 1994.
He was a member of the West Side Sportsmen’s Association, the Six Nations Benevolent Society, the Loyal Order of Moose, the Native American Community Services Elders Group and the Haudenosaunee Sour Springs Longhouse.
Also an avid bowler, he competed in several leagues on the West Side.
His wife of 43 years, the former Leona “Tuffy” General, died in 2007.
Survivors include three sons, Larry, David and Michael; two daughters, Lori Persico and Michelle; two sisters, Joann Maracle and Vicky; and seven grandchildren.
A Haudenosaunee funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in Sour Springs Longhouse on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ont.
Story topics: Lacrosse