FLY CREEK – Peter L. “Pete” Martin, an integral and beloved part of the Fly Creek community and life-long farmer, passed away early Saturday afternoon, Jan.18, 2020, at Cooperstown Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing. He was 96.
Born July 22, 1923, in Gloversville, Pete was a son of Charles Edward Martin and Grace Vida née Odell Martin. From an early age he helped on his family’s Cloudlands Farm on Tansey Hill at Edson Corners in Milford.
He attended school in Milford, during which time he was a member and president of the FFA (Future Farmers of America). After graduating from Milford High School, Class of 1942, he spent some of that summer recovering from a hernia operation, and as he couldn’t lift, he did all the mowing with horses.
That fall he took a two-week course at Cornell University to get a milk testing license. Opportunity came and he drove his 1931 Model A to Norwich for an interview, and became a Babcock milk tester with the Central Chenango Dairy Herd Improvement Association. Responsible for approximately 25 farms, he often recalled many interesting experiences with various farms and farmers and their families, some of which presented challenges that he always met with success.
As Pete once wrote, “After this job Uncle Sam called and kept me for 2½ years, with about 1½ years in India.” He entered into active service with the Army Medical Corps on March 23, 1944, and served his country during World War II with the 164th Malaria Control Unit.
The consummate farmer, he introduced the use of DDT, Malaria Oil, the dusting of rice paddies and drainage of stagnant water, and supervised 300 native laborers and enforced malaria precautions amongst the troops. In all he spent 17½ months in China, Burma and the India Theatre. Sergeant Martin received his honorable discharge on May 26, 1946.
Returning home, he married Dorothy J. Day on July 25, 1946, in a ceremony at the Milford Methodist Church.
Pete returned to farming, and worked up the farm ladder as a farm laborer in Delaware County. He and Dot then rented a farm in Milford for five years. In 1952, the Martins purchased a home from Howard Aufmuth, Sr. on the corner of Bailey Road and Goose Street in Fly Creek.
Throughout their lives Dot and Pete always enjoyed doing research and traced their large red Federal-style home back to the land purchase in 1786 by William Cooper from George Croghan as Lot #17 of the Balston Purchase. In the beginning they had over 300 chickens, 25 milk cows and 15 young stock.
During the early 1950s they offered farm vacations to families from New York City, but in 1956 Dot started teaching first grade in Cherry Valley, which brought an end to the farm vacation folks. In 1963, they sold the dairy and Pete went to Cobleskill Ag & Tech to study agronomy, while Dot continued teaching in Cherry Valley until 1966. After Pete graduated from college in 1965, they rented their home in Fly Creek and moved to Tioga County where they lived for 13 years. During that time Pete worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service, while Dot taught 1st and 2nd grade at Newark Valley Central School. They moved back to Otsego County in 1979 and Pete continued to work for the USDA Soil Conservation Service, a career that wound up totaling 22 years.
For many years Pete was an active, faithful, devoted and much loved and respected member of the Fly Creek United Methodist Church, where he served for many years as a trustee, historian and was active in maintaining the Old Chapel Burying Ground. As one parishioner noted, Pete was, “a grandfather to us all, a pillar of the church.”
An avid historian, Pete was a long-time and dedicated member of The Fly Creek Area Historical Society (a vital part of his and Dot’s lives), as well as the New York State Historical Association, the Connecticut Genealogical Society, and the Dutchess County Genealogical Society. He was also a member of Westville Grange No. 540, the Farm Bureau and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, and while living in Newark Valley was chairperson for Project Neighbor for seven years.
Pete will be greatly missed by his daughter-in-law, Judy Brown; two grandsons, Martin R. Osterhoudt and wife, Michelle, of Oneonta, and Timothy L. Osterhoudt and wife, Meka, of Cobleskill; three great-grandchildren, Alex, Ella and Emma; a brother-in-law, Leslie C. Day, Jr. and partner, Joan Wilber of Milford; a sister-in-law, Joan McLean Day of Cooperstown; many, many nieces and nephews, and his many, many friends in Fly Creek and beyond.
In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his beloved wife of 71 years, Dorothy J. “Dot” Martin, who died Aug. 18, 2017; a foster son, Charles F. Osterhoudt who died Sept. 29, 1991; his sister, Eva G. Chamberlin, who died Aug. 30, 2019; and three brothers, Homer Frederick, Charles Herbert and Odell Dart Martin.
A celebration of Pete’s life will be offered at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, at the Fly Creek United Methodist Church, 852 County Highway 26, Fly Creek, with the Rev. Sharon Rankins-Burd, pastor, officiating.
Burial with Military Honors will be later this spring in the Fly Creek Valley Cemetery in Fly Creek.
Memorial donation may be made to the Fly Creek United Methodist Church for the Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 128, Fly Creek, NY 13337, or the Fly Creek Area Historical Society, P.O. Box 87, Fly Creek, NY 13337.
Arrangements are under the care and guidance of the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown.