Alphonzo Quinto Martin was born the fifth of eight children by his parents at a time and place when laboring, learning and love of others was the rule, ... not the exception for virtually all he would see and hear for many years even after relocation of the family to New York City.
Whether he knew or not, Alfonzo was a critical player in the great game by his generation. Boys like him with fathers like Lewis Martin had to prove they could play major league ball, not simply on the field of dreams but everywhere that mattered to father Lewis's generation.
Alfonzo and his siblings were inspired, motivated and educated to compete in a world in which most people truly believed them inherently inferior and unable. And, they all learned to take competitive examinations ranging from military, police, firemen and postal service exams to law school entrance and state bar exams.
By the time he was able to intelligently recognize family members other than his ever present mother and father, ... a near twin (character and personality) Harold Martin, Sr. brother was born who would be his life-long alter ego. Consequently, it is difficult to remember or describe his life, learning and love as significantly different from that observed with Harold during my frequent weekend visits to Grindstone when we were all children. I read a lot but the two would apparently always gang up on me with questions about matters they had read and I had not, ... such as circumference of the earth. I can still see Alfonzo's smiling face and hear their voices joking "you go to a city school and don't know that?"
They were always seen together at home and on vacation in Lowry, Virginia at our common grand-father and grandmother's home. As son of a father and grand-father that valued characteristics in boys that learned to labor long and hard, there were rarely anytime remembered with Alfonzo being idle. His father and mother like most Black and White families in Grindstone came from the soil where getting hands dirty was common in skills laboring to live. Most of these coal mining families engaged in additional part-time tasks such as country gardens, raising fowl and pork that could be used to support their families.
It is very significant to understand that Alfonzo and brothers were sons of a coal miner in the hard-nosed tradition up from slavery. Boys normally by six years of age began learning to labor in not only running errands for their mother but accepting coaching and direction from older siblings and fathers about matters like carrying water to pour on growing plants.
By the time World War II disrupted their lives, Alfonzo and Harold had learned to do all the tasks their brothers had to do ranging from above to slaughtering and butchering hogs along with maintenance of the community's field of dreams by boys who loved baseball. Alfonzo's church work also included whatever his father and mother deemed as pursuit of goodness such as freezing ice-cream for church social hours and putting coal into the church furnace to make warm for choir practice.
Both were very bright and learned as children, reading a lot and poised to ask challenging questions and listening for accurate answers. Alfonzo always had a penetrating smile almost like a lawyer seeking to penetrate my mind as a cousin determined to be equally knowledgeable in the presence of our grandparents Lee Lowry and Ida Ann Wilkerson Lowry.
Lewis Martin was injured in the coal mines around Grinestone, Pennsylvania and unable to work or receive workers compensation for his bad back in an era and place where the union still viewed Black men as strike-breakers who ought not be employed at all. Alfonzo and Harold saw their father suffer not simply from being injured but the humiliation of being denied worker's compensation benefits he earned and deserved. This experience undoubtedly affected the family desire to move away to New York City but never forget what they saw and heard.
Alfonzo graduated high school in New York City after the war and his intellect allowed him easily to take and pass competitive examinations such as the various civil service positions. We are told by his children that he served in the Army during the Korean War and attended Hunter College until family responsibilities as a father prompted him to become a police officer and later a fireman.
Other family members have confirmed for us that he had a unique ability to remember whatever he read. I think that when all is said about the brothers and their sisters is that Alfonzo was exactly an example of our website theme about the generation of goodness being the multi-generation pursuit of it.
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