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Friends rally around Martin after loss of wife, son

Despite several days of hope and prayers, there was no reprieve for state Treasurer Dean Martin, whose wife and newborn son died within days of each other due to complications from childbirth.

Martin announced the death of his son, Austin Michael Martin, at Phoenix Children’s Hospital on May 28 while surrounded by family members. He thanked well-wishers from across Arizona for their thoughts and prayers, and thanked God for the time he was able to spend with his son.

“While that was not the miracle we prayed for, we got the miracle we needed. The Lord gave us all strength and peace and the opportunity to get to know him. Myself, my family, we were able to experience the miracle of holding my son, Austin, in our arms and hugging him before he passed on,” Martin said. “God gave me three days to know my son, as my wife had known him for nine months. He gave me the gift to hold him and say goodbye.”

Kerry Martin died on Memorial Day at the age of 34. The couple, who met while they were registering for their first college classes at Arizona State University, had been married 13 years. Austin was their first child.

Martin said he will answer questions about the details of his family’s tragedy “in due course,” but said the circumstances surrounding his wife’s death were rare. He said he decided to speak publicly about the tragedy to assure other expectant mothers and urge them not to worry.

“I know many expectant mothers are probably very worried right now. I know Kerry would have been. But I want you to know that the events that led to Kerry’s death are very rare, and that she would not want you to worry. Hug your family and cherish the miracle of life, but don’t worry,” he said.

Martin said the details of Kerry and Austin’s memorial services will be released as soon as they are set. He also asked that those who knew Kerry share their memories of her, “so those who have been touched by this tragedy will know why everyone loved Kerry.”

Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who attended the press conference with House Speaker Kirk Adams and Senate President Bob Burns, spoke about Martin’s loss.

“It’s hard to express in any way that feels appropriate the condolences that we feel, but somehow the prayers of everybody around the state have allowed Dean to somehow pull through this so far, and I think it’s because of the family and loved ones who are by him,” said Bennett, who served with Martin in the Senate. “I did get to spend an hour-and-a-half with him and his son yesterday, and the family. He was a beautiful boy.”

Adams, whose 11-month-old son died in an accident three years ago, said, “We’ve all had tragedies in our lives, but this one, to lose both a loving spouse and a new child, I think all Arizonans can at least have a sense of the sadness that he must feel.”

Friends and colleagues described Dean and Kerry as inseparable through 13 years of marriage. Bennett recalled their time in the Senate, when Kerry was in her husband’s office on a near-daily basis.

“Of all the elected officials I’ve ever met, she was probably more a partner in Dean’s political public service than any spouse of any other elected official I’ve ever known. They were just almost an extension of each other. She was as committed to helping him do a good job in everything he worked at in his public life as he was,” Bennett said.

Alberto Gutier, who ran Martin’s first Senate campaign in 2000, said the Martins had a “perfect marriage” and epitomized the old saying that behind every successful man is a great woman.

“She was funny, always happy, always with a smile, always projecting that great image of a young couple who love each other and take care of each other and who did things together. I couldn’t see Dean without her. Where Dean was, she was there,” Gutier said. “Kerry Martin was liked by everybody.”

Adams echoed those sentiments after the press conference, describing the Martins as a “true partnership.”

“At the drop of a dime, life can change, and this is an example of the tragic way that can happen,” Adams said. “Kerry Martin was loved by everybody, and everybody who knew Dean knew Kerry.”

Kerry moved to Arizona as an infant. She attended Shadow Mountain High School before attending ASU, where she graduated with a degree in political science and was awarded the university’s highest honor, the Moore Award. For the past five years, she worked for the city of Phoenix, where she headed the recreation department’s Kool Kids program, which provided free swimming for at-risk youth.

Jim Burke, who worked with Kerry, said she was dedicated to her work and was well-liked by her colleagues. “She was a delightful, young person, always energetic, always smiling,” he said.

A memorial fund will be set up in Kerry’s name to support causes that were important to her, such as water-safety education and financial literacy. “While she may be gone, her work will continue to help people across this state she loved,” Martin said.

Adams said Martin was right. “She leaves an incredible legacy,” Adams said. “But it’s not so much what she did; it’s the person who she was.”

Memories of Kerry or notes of encouragement for the family can be e-mailed to the treasurer at dean@americanvisuals.com.

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