Photo: Pictured above, Skeet (left) and Imogene (right) Martin smile with their Glencoe Beautification Award sign at their home on Tuesday, June 2. The couple were presented with the award by the beautification board, Mayor Charles Gilchrist, Glencoe city council members and Glencoe VFW Post 10408 members. (Katie Bohannon/Messenger)
By Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer/ Photographer
Two years ago, Skeet and Imogene Martin suffered a tragic loss when a fire devastated their home in Glencoe. On June 2, the Glencoe Beautification Board recognized the couple’s newly built home with the 2020–2021 Beautification Award, representing the miraculous story of survival and faith that rebuilt gladness from mourning, praise from despair and beauty from ashes.
Glencoe Beautification Board Chair Regina Evans and members Mike Barber and Becky Henson joined Glencoe Mayor Charles Gilchrist, city councilmen Danny Wagnon and Wayne Farley, city clerk Tashia Blackerby and VFW Post 10408 members to honor the Martins and their lovely home. The city officials presented the Martins with a sign erected in their front yard and an official letter commending their efforts to create such a wonderful representation of the city.
The Martin’s home sits on a perfectly manicured lawn, ordained with vibrant greenery and blossoming flowers that travel up to their front porch. Any passerby might stop in awe of the magazine-worthy image and evident charm. But for the Martins, such a cheerful display represents a reminder of one morning they will never forget.
At 2:10 a.m. on a Saturday in 2018, Skeet Martin awoke to a stranger pounding on his window and yelling “Get out, your house is on fire!”
The stranger, a man in his early twenties, aided the Martins with the police as they escaped their burning home. Martin claims the lone man was driving down their street when he saw the house consumed in flames and warned them.
“I couldn’t believe my house was on fire,” said Imogene. “I went up the hall and by the time I got to the kitchen, the back porch just blew up.”
Though the man told Martin his name, no record of him exists. While Mayor Gilchrist and the fire department fashioned a plaque to honor the man for his heroism, they have been unable to locate him. When the fire department arrived at the Martin’s home that morning, he disappeared just as quickly as he arrived – proof of someone greater who Martin believes saved their lives.
“I believe in angels,” said Martin. “I know that 56 years ago, when we joined hands…He said, ‘trust and believe, and I will care for thee.’ That has been done.”
The house fire is not the first occasion where the Martins believe the Lord rescued them. While 600 miles from home in Texas, the Martins left a motel and were stopped by a state trooper who asked to check Skeet’s license. When Skeet reached for his billfold, he realized he left it at the motel. Rather than charge them with a ticket, the state trooper advised them to turn around and retrieve the wallet.
If the couple had never been stopped or if Skeet was not driving, they most likely would have not realized the wallet was missing until they reached the café where they were heading for breakfast.
“I picked up a habit when I was in the Marine corps to always put my billfold in my pillowcase at night when away from home,” said Skeet. “We’d been going to Tyler, Texas since 1955, and that’s the only time I’ve ever been stopped. If I had been sitting in the passenger seat, I wouldn’t have known [the wallet was missing] until we got to Louisiana.”
Next January, the Martins will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary – a testimony to a relationship bonded through their faith in God and their love for each other. The couple met in October of 1946, after Skeet returned from his service in World War II. Skeet attended an all-day singing at Pine Grove Church where he saw Imogene for the first time. After dating for four years, they married and eventually rented the home next door to the house they have now.
Before it burned, Skeet built their original home on their current lot with his own hands. Rotating his work hours depending on which shift he worked at the steel plant, Skeet labored day and night for three years to create a home for his family.
Though the Martins lost many photographs and material items two years ago, the fire could never destroy their faith. Today, Skeet (94) and Imogene (92) nurture their home as they did once before, treasuring the things they have but never forgetting the greatest gifts of all: each other, and God’s blessings in their lives. Encouraged through belief and inspired by God’s goodness, the Martins prove that possessions can always be replaced, but it is the people who truly transform a house into a home.
“God just took care of us,” said Skeet. “He got us out. There’s no doubt in my mind. He said, ‘I will care for thee,’ and He did.”