Longtime Ela Township road commissioner dies at 69, remembered as family man

By Mitchell Armentrout
Posted5/3/2012 4:43 PM
  • Memorial services are Saturday for Jose M. Martinez, who served Ela Township as a laborer and highway commissioner for more than 30 years.

    Memorial services are Saturday for Jose M. Martinez, who served Ela Township as a laborer and highway commissioner for more than 30 years.

Jose M. Martinez, a longtime Ela Township highway commissioner, was remembered Thursday as a dedicated worker, father and husband.

Martinez died at Lakeview Medical Center in Rice Lake, Wis., April 12 after a long battle with leukemia. He was 69.

A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. Saturday at Ahlgrim Family Funeral Home in Lake Zurich, Martinez's hometown for more than 40 years. "You couldn't ask for a better father," said daughter Velma Cuellar. "He inspired our whole family."

Born in Alice, Texas in 1942, Martinez grew up there before coming to Lake Zurich to work around 1958. He raised a family and ingrained himself in the community, where just about everyone knew him as "Joe."

He served Ela Township for 32 years, including 14 as highway commissioner until his retirement in 2001.

Family members said Martinez loved being on his farm, the 40-acre parcel in Exeland, Wis. where he retired with Rupaja, his wife of 52 years. He enjoyed spending time outdoors, especially while hunting or riding a four-wheeler with Rupaja. More than anything, though, he loved being around family.

"He was a great teacher," said daughter Lisa Halstead. "He taught his grandchildren never to take life for granted."

Ela Township Clerk Bill Donnan worked with Martinez and lived across the street from him and his family in Lake Zurich for more than three decades, before Martinez retired to his farm in 2001. Donnan called Martinez a great neighbor who always offered his help when Donnan worked around the home.

"He was a fantastic, all-around good man," Donnan said. "More than anything he was a very giving person -- anything you needed, he was more than willing to help."

Michael Sullivan's 25 years as an Ela Township trustee coincided with Martinez's tenure on the highway commission. He lauded Martinez's efforts, citing him as a key contributor to the township's growth.

"Joe was as loyal, hardworking a man as you'll ever find," Sullivan said. "He was never afraid to go that extra distance to get the job done."

Martinez was cremated, and he requested that some of his ashes be spread at his beloved farm.

"That was his favorite place in the world," Halstead said.

Martinez is survived by his wife, a son, three daughters, nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Memorial visitation starts at 2 p.m. Saturday until the service at 5 p.m. at Ahlgrim Family Funeral Home, 415 S. Buesching Road, Lake Zurich.

In lieu of flowers or cards, the family is asking that donations be made to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. A signup sheet will be available at the memorial service, or donations can be made at www.lls.org.

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