March 27, 1927 – Aug. 21, 2018
Allene Van Son Martinez, a registered nurse who developed and headed the diabetes information program at Erie County Medical Center, died Aug. 21 in Beechwood Homes, Getzville. She was 91.
Born Allene Elizabeth Rankin in Erie, Pa., she grew up there and in Madrid, N.M., where her parents moved to find work during the Depression. She came to Buffalo to attend the E.J. Meyer Memorial Hospital School of Nursing.
Upon graduation in 1949 as a registered nurse professional, she married John R. Van Son, a broadcast engineer. They had five children before divorcing in 1962.
She worked as a part-time general duty nurse in Meyer Memorial Hospital and Buffalo General Hospital and as a substitute nurse in the Amherst and Williamsville schools until 1969.
A member of Central Presbyterian Church, she was tapped on the shoulder one day during services by another parishioner, Jack C. Anthony, the longtime director of Cradle Beach Camp, who offered her a job as the camp’s nurse. She served there from 1962 to 1969 while her children attended the summer program.
She returned in 1969 to Meyer Memorial, soon to become ECMC, for a full-time position as its first coordinator of diabetes teaching services. Until she retired in 1987, she provided patients with information about diabetes and was a clinical assistant professor in the University at Buffalo School of Nursing.
She participated in eight research projects, contributed to 16 publications and was author of two books on diabetes education. She was the first national president of the Diabetes Education Association.
She was honored as Employee of the Year at ECMC and was presented with a Distinguished Service Award by the American Association of Diabetes Educators in a ceremony at the White House. Since then, the award has been named in her honor.
For several years, she traveled weekly to Salamanca to provide education sessions for the Seneca Nation of Indians on nutrition and the effects of alcoholism in relation to diabetes.
She began studying oil painting at the age of 39 with artist Harold “Hal” English and continued painting until she was 90. She created more than 300 works and exhibited widely.
After her children were grown, she traveled extensively, visiting Asia, Australia, Europe and many points in North America.
She met her second husband, Jaime Martinez, in 1986. In retirement, they lived near Bethany Beach, Del., until 2013, when they moved to Amherst to be closer to family. He died in 2015.
Survivors include three daughters, Patricia Szabo, Linda Jean Cranmer and Paula Connors; a son, John E. Van Son; a step-daughter, Rachel Martinez Finn; a step-son, Paul Martinez; nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for August 2019.