Memorial set for homeless man befriended by Warner Robins community

bpurser@macon.comMarch 20, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- A memorial has been set for a homeless man who was befriended by many people in the community.

Alvin Comer Whitson Martin Jr., 45, died Sunday when a pickup truck struck the bicycle he was riding on Watson Boulevard. His memorial is at 1 p.m. Saturday in the chapel of McCullough Funeral Home.

The death of Martin and his possible pauper’s burial struck a chord in the community, with people offering to find the family and help with a memorial.

Thad Driscoll found a 2006 obituary of a Moultrie woman that listed Martin as a surviving son and called Warner Robins police with the information. Driscoll said he learned police were tracking the same lead.

“I felt so sad,” Driscoll said. “I’m a computer geek. I figured it was the least I could do.”

Authorities have since located family members, who cannot afford to pay for the service. Martin’s father, sister and possibly other family members are expected to attend the memorial.

McCullough Funeral Home, which also received calls from people in the community, stepped forward and offered to hold the service. The family-run funeral home is donating a casket and burial plot at Magnolia Park Cemetery.

“This has been a blessing to me to see how much people cared for him,” said funeral director Michael McNeal. “It’s encouraging.”

The Rev. Walter Mosher, pastor of Warner Robins Pentecostal Holiness Church, was among two pastors who volunteered to do the memorial. He will officiate.

“I’ve known Whit for a few years,” said Mosher. “He would come to the church and get food, and he’d come in and keep warm. When I heard he’d been killed, I didn’t want him to become another homeless statistic. At the very least, I wanted to say a few words at the gravesite.”

Apart from finding family or someone stepping forward, a pauper’s burial that doesn’t include a service would likely have taken place.

Shad Scheffer, manager at Taco Bell, said Martin frequented the restaurant. He described Martin as a friend.

Scheffer let Martin sleep in the cab of his truck and drove him to a motel when he was able to rent a room. Martin had told him he’d been chased out of the storage sheds set up for sale at a nearby business where he’d sometimes find shelter.

“I’d see him riding around, and we’d shoot the breeze,” Scheffer said. “We’d have heart-to-heart conversations.”

Through the more than two years that Scheffer knew Martin, Scheffer said he learned Martin had washed cars when he lived in Moultrie, had been married twice and had a son named “Chad.” The name was tattooed on Martin’s arm, Scheffer said.

He said Martin also talked to him about his battle with cancer, which resulted in the removal of a section of his face and, Martin said, caused his second wife to leave him. Martin also had great respect for his father and talked about him often.

“He would tell me some interesting stories -- about being electrocuted and seeing electricity coming out of his foot,” Scheffer said. “He was a pretty good storyteller, I’ll give him that.”

Scheffer said Martin told him once that “I know I’m ugly, and I know I stink.” But he was OK with that, Scheffer said.

“The one thing that always stuck out about him was he was never mad at the world or upset,” Scheffer said.

Martin genuinely seemed to care about other people, Scheffer said. He even scolded Scheffer for working late and told him he needed to get home to his wife.

Martin also offered advice. Scheffer recalled Martin asking him, “If today was your last day on earth or your last day of existence, how important is that stuff that you’re moping about?”

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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