Early this week I found myself researching and writing about Peter Cook, a successful West Michigan business owner, Davenport alumnus, former DU board member and generous supporter. Peter was among a group of men and women who helped create the Grand Rapids we know and enjoy today. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of working for or with great members of that group, including Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel, Fred Meijer, Peter Secchia, and others.
Last year around this time, I met one of the lesser known members of that great group of philanthropists — Bill Martindill. I wrote an article about him for Grand Rapids Magazine. Bill was a driving force behind a project called “The S.O.U.L. of Philanthropy,” a documentary about giving in West Michigan, which included interviews of men like Meijer, DeVos, Cook, Ralph Hauenstein, Harvey Lemmen, and others. Several of these men, including Cook and Martindill, were members of a group called “The Improvement Association,” which has always consisted of 12 men since it was formed within the Peninsular Club in the 1940s. When a member passes away, a new member is invited to join. Sadly, two seats opened this week.
I was reading an article about the passing of Peter Cook on one page and, turning to the next, I was struck by a smaller article about the passing of Bill Martindill. I literally gasped.
Bill turned 100 in April, when he also celebrated 77 years of marriage to his 99-year-old bride, Inetta. When I met Bill in October 2009, he was thrilled to have someone sit and listen to his stories. An interview that normally would last an hour took four hours with Bill. A return visit to drop off a booklet he had shared with me took another two hours. He then invited me to meet with someone who had project managed the S.O.U.L. of Philanthropy project. He hoped the connection between us two “youngsters” would be mutually beneficial, in terms of our separate consultancies. He then asked me to meet with the head of a security company that might need PR help.
Bill wandered the halls of Porter Hills, which he helped found back in the ’60s, as if he were the mayor. In fact, he sort of was the mayor of Porter Hills. He headed up the finance committee that raised the money to build it. When he sold Michigan Litho in the 1970s to retire, he served as volunteer CEO for Porter Hills, helping establish the first center to provide care to those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. He then led the fundraising and provided the lead gift to name Porter Hills’ health center.
I want to re-watch the “S.O.U.L. of Philanthopy” video Bill gave me so that I can see him again and remember the way he told stories. I’m sad because I wanted to see him again soon to talk about how my life has changed a year later. I know he was genuinely concerned for me last year around this time because I had only gotten started with my PR business and didn’t have a lot of clients yet.
My thoughts and prayers are with Inetta, who will be on her own for the first time in more than 77 years. I’m thinking about the Improvement Association, dealing with the loss of two members in one week. And my thoughts are with the Porter Hills community, which lost its mayor. God rest your S.O.U.L., Bill.