Marty Richman gave readers a window into his mind and life for nearly seven years as a columnist for the Hollister Free Lance.
Those who read his regular column from December 2007 until October 2014 knew he was brutally honest, immensely analytical and unabashedly bold in his views about local politics. If local residents looked closely enough, they learned a lot about his life, too.
Martin Gerald Richman passed away March 19 at age 78. He left behind his beloved wife of 55 years, two children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The ever-social “Marty” – as he was simply known – also left behind countless friends and a community of residents who knew him through the column, constant presence at government meetings and stint as a Hollister council member before his passing.
When I became Free Lance editor in June 2007, Marty had already established himself as a habitual writer of letters to the newspaper and public speaker at local government meetings. The Free Lance happened to need a columnist at the time, and Marty fit the bill as a unique voice with astute analytical skills and a no-nonsense approach to reasoning.
He was thrilled when I asked him to do it but had one requirement: Marty wouldn’t take a dime for the columns – which added up to a whole lot of work over the years – because he didn’t want anyone accusing him of favoritism toward the newspaper. He had his own voice, and he was going to use it under his terms.
I respected that, and his tenure began as a columnist – and a good friend of mine.
What I quickly learned about Marty is: If you phone him for a short conversation, it easily lasted an hour or two. Our long conversations about news, sports, pop culture and life – often three or four times per week on the phone – went on for years. Our 38-year age difference didn’t matter a bit because we were kindred spirits in so many ways. When we did disagree – and we had our fair share of disagreements – we always did so with respect and never left each other in angst.
I got to hear his views about national, state and local politics; his take on that morning’s latest ESPN sports debate; his playful boasting about how good looking he was as a youth.
About his rich, productive life.
It was through the column where Marty intermittently shared with the community – usually as an occasional break from typically biting commentaries on politics – his own story.
We learned about his East Coast upbringing.
“You could take the kid out of Brooklyn, but you couldn’t take Brooklyn out of the kid,” Marty once wrote.
We learned Marty met his much-adored wife Joyce while stationed in Europe, and that she became a naturalized U.S. citizen more than 50 years ago.
We learned Marty served 22 years in the U.S. Air Force and Army – retiring as a Chief Warrant Officer 4 – and then 22 years in private industry.
His column reminisced about such attributes as his appreciation for the doo-wop era, fandom for Elvis Presley, affinity for sports, appreciation for fellow veterans, curiosity about the human brain, fondness for his family cats, and by far his favorite holiday: Thanksgiving.
“Thursday is the perfect day of the week to have a holiday because after a Thursday holiday, it makes no sense to go to work on Friday,” Marty wrote in a 2008 Thanksgiving column.
We learned he was proud of his Jewish heritage. His final column closed by advising readers to be a “mensch” – Yiddish for a person of integrity and honor.
Most of all, Marty’s columns reflected his trust in the fourth estate – the press – and the importance of holding public officials accountable.
“I gave no one favor for friendship nor denied anyone favor or friendship out of bias,” he wrote in his goodbye piece. “I spoke my mind and my heart without fear or concern over who would be offended.”
He took the same approach as someone who most likely attended more public meetings – where he invariably spoke, often on multiple subjects – than anyone else locally for the past 15 years.
And he took that same perspective as a core member of the newspaper editorial board during his time as a columnist – Marty was known to debate fiercely and lead the weekly editorials’ direction – and then as a council member from January 2019 until his death.
He was a proud fiscal conservative, but also a self-described independent who often emphasized his support for many social programs.
Marty was undoubtedly critical about all levels of government, but offered more than his share of positive commentaries and optimism.
“More often than not, we regret the things we did not do as much as the mistakes we made,” Marty wrote in October 2009. “So what’s your excuse this year? Try to live a little before you die. You might just find out you like it.”
He certainly wasn’t shy about the inevitability of death. From a January 2013 column:
“All of us, not just great athletes, face an undefeated Father Time. The inevitability of our fate in this unequal contest is occasionally expressed in the ironic and only half-kidding expression – ‘No one gets out of this life alive.’”
Kollin Kosmicki is former editor of the Hollister Free Lance newspaper. He is currently a candidate for the San Benito County Supervisors District 2 seat.