MANCHESTER — James Hammond, one of many who went to the Connor-Healy Funeral Home Wednesday to pay their respects, aptly summed up the life of Paul “PAL” Martel.
“He was a kind, generous man who would give you his last cent,” said Hammond who, in a span of 40 years, served as a teacher, vice principal and principal at Manchester Memorial High School before his retirement in 2002. “I knew Paul when he was a student and continued to know Paul through his adult years. He never changed. He always had a kind soul, always gave whatever he had to give to others.”
Martel, 70, died after a period of declining health last Saturday.
Whether it was at Manchester High School Central, where he worked as a custodian for 20 years or, as a volunteer at the JFK Coliseum, Gill Stadium, Manchester Central Little League, Manchester Pony League or Manchester South Soccer, Martel always made time for people, especially kids.
“I first met Paul back in the 60s when I went to high school,” said Ray Goulet, a 1967 graduate of Memorial. “There was something about his character that made everyone feel good. I can remember one night at the JFK, seeing Paul tie a kid’s shoe or skate and then giving them a quarter to get a soda or candy bar. He just loved kids and did everything he could to make their day happier.”
Martel would always greet people, whether he knew them or not, with a simple “hello.” If he knew you, he’d generally strike up a conversation about the game that just took place that day at the park or skating rink.
“If there’s one thing about Paul, he was a trusting soul,” said Memorial Vice-Principal Peter Perich, a former head boys’ soccer coach at the school who also coached and organized programs for the Manchester South Soccer League. “There were countless times when he’d have just a quarter or a dollar to his name and he’d give it to a kid who didn’t have any money for a soda or food. Whatever money he had, he’d give it to someone who he thought needed it more than he did.”
People, not money, were dear to Martel’s heart. He enjoyed his job at Central because he was able to interact with all the kids, teachers and administrators. Unfortunately for Martel, that bond was broken when the city decided to privatize custodial jobs, causing Martel to lose his job after 20 years.
“I’ll never forget the day he lost his job,” said Mike Battistelli. “He came to the JFK and just cried all day. He took it hard and it wasn’t because he was worried about money. He could care less about money. He cried because he wasn’t going to see the kids or teachers at Central like he had for 20 years.”
Dan Marchand, a neighbor of Martel’s, said there was another strong bond in Martel’s life.
“It was his mother who loved him as much as he loved her,” said Marchand. “Paul never got married, never had kids. He never drove a car, which means he’d walk to work and, from his home on Silver Street to the JFK, Gill, or Central, that was a good mile, mile-and-a-half both ways. Even during the winter months. But every night, even in her later years, his mother would always wait up for Paul until he got home safe.”
To that Battistelli added: “I can tell you that Paul would go home and always give his weekly check to his mother to cash. He loved her and was devoted to her. It was a strong bond.”
Dan Healy, who owns the Connor-Healy Funeral Home, said his daughter, Ryann, who now works for her dad, played South Soccer 20 years ago.
“She played on a team called ‘PAL’,” said Healy. “They named a team after Paul because he had spent hundreds of hours at the park cleaning up and doing whatever was needed to help the league. He was a special person who would talk to anyone and help anyone who needed it. He will be missed by many in our community, that’s for sure.”
A mass of Christian burial will be celebrated Thursday at 10 a.m. in Saint Anthony Church, Belmont Street, Manchester.