As family and friends gathered to mourn the deaths of Kerry and Austin Michael Martin, they heard how everyone, from people close to them to ones to casual acquaintances, was left with an indelible impression that will always stay with them.
Loved ones gathered June 2 to eulogize the wife and newborn son of state Treasurer Dean Martin, sharing their memories of Kerry and Austin, and their confidence that the mother and child are now together in Heaven, where their families will one day be reunited with them. Kerry died on May 25 due to complications from childbirth, and Austin, the couple’s first child, died two days later.
Martin spoke lovingly of his wife of 13 years, describing her as a soul mate who kept him on course in his life and career. He recalled the day the two met as high school seniors while registering for classes at Arizona State University. Kerry asked a university official a question to which he did not have an answer, so Dean answered instead. He offered to get her a registration book, and when he came back he sat next to her.
They dated during all of their years in college, organizing the class schedules so they could spend more time together. Dean, a business major, took constitutional law courses so he could sit in class with Kerry, a political science major, and she took micro and macroeconomics to be with him.
“Everything, every trial and tribulation, every problem, all led to the point where I got to meet her. It would’ve been so simple to have been at a school of 60,000 students to have missed her,” Dean said. “We’ve done everything together from the get-go.”
That story likely came as no surprise to those who knew the couple. Friends and loved ones described them as inseparable. Kimberly Yee, Dean’s communications director who also worked closely with Kerry on Republican district functions, said the couple ate lunch together most days in Dean’s office, taking advantage of the small amount of time in the workday when they could be together and strategize about work. One of the last times she saw Kerry, Yee said, she was sitting in Dean’s chair in his office, reading him a newspaper article while he worked.
“Kerry always had an encouraging word to say to Dean. She was not only his loving spouse but she was his closest political partner,” Yee said.
House Speaker Kirk Adams said Kerry and Dean were “partners in the truest sense of the word.”
“I have two mental images of Kerry in my mind. The first one is of her by Dean’s side, always by Dean’s side. The second is Kerry, clipboard in hand at some event, gathering signatures, shaking hands, helping and service,” Adams said.
Many mourners described Kerry as someone who made people feel like they were most important person in the world to her, whether they knew her for a few fleeting moments or for all of her 34 years. Adams remembered that side of Kerry as well.
“The Kerry I knew always had what seemed to be a permanent smile on her face. When Kerry said hello and flashed that smile, her eyes revealed a genuine interest,” he said. “When Kerry said, ‘How are you?’ it was not in the trite way that most of us say it. Rather she left you with the feeling that she really meant it.”
It’s likely nobody was more familiar with those traits than Kerry’s family.
“So many people have spoken about how important and special Kerry made them feel with only spending a small amount of time speaking with her. So you can imagine what it was like to have that warmth and care constantly present in our family,” said Tracy Smitherman, Kerry’s sister.
The night of Kerry and Dean’s wedding, Smitherman said, she came home feeling alone without the sister with whom she had shared a bedroom while growing up. As she went to bed, wishing her sister was still asleep on the other side of the room, she found a card from Kerry under her bedsheets.
“She wanted to say how glad she was that we were sisters, and how much she loved me. I think I slept with that card under my pillow for months, just needing to have my sister close. How I wish I could crawl into bed now and talk with her across the room, or find a card from her under my sheets. Even though I will never have another sister, I could not have had a better one, if only for a short time,” Smitherman said.
John Mabey, Kerry’s brother, shared his memories of how comforting Kerry was when their mother died unexpectedly while they were growing up. After their mother’s death, while he lay in bed unable to sleep, Mabey said he raised his arm above him, as if he could still take his mother’s hand if he reached far enough. He couldn’t, but when he looked at his doorway, it was Kerry he saw standing there.
“I don’t know how she knew to be there,” he said. “I said I was just stretching my arm, and being Kerry, she did not buy that. So she came over, and she knew, and she took my hand. And she took me back to her room and had me sleep there.”
Though Austin passed on just two days after he was born, he also made a deep and lasting impression on those who knew him. When Dean announced his son’s death, he thanked God for the two days he was able to spend with his son, and as friends and family eulogized the mother and child, others gave thanks as well.
“I will forever cherish the few days I had to spend with him (Austin), to be an aunt, his Aunt Tracy. I will always love you Austin,” Smitherman said.
Austin brought great joy to his mother as well. Dean said she loved being pregnant, and talked about how she would miss being with Austin “24-7″ after he was born. Anita Martin, the treasurer’s mother, described the game Kerry would play with her unborn child- placing a remote control on her belly and letting Austin knock it down with his kicks.
Dean said he knows that he and all their other loved ones miss Kerry and Austin, and are hurting as they mourn their loss. But he remembered his time with both as a blessing, and took solace in his belief that God wanted the two of them in Heaven, where are they are together now.
“She’s in a better place. She’s with her baby,” Dean said. “People have asked how could this happen, how could God let something like this happen. I want to tell you what Kerry would tell you. God gave her a great life.”