Douglas Martin sat at a wooden podium just inside the automatic doors of Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital for close to 64 years. Everyone knew him as Mr. Martin — the greeter who directed patients, helped them out of their cars and pushed patient gurneys.
On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Martin’s chair sat empty, and the usual larger-than-life man had been replaced with a bouquet of roses, his favorite flower that often adorned the lapel of his uniform.
Martin, 81, died Wednesday after decades of service at the hospital.
“He’s sort of been the face of Carilion, greeting our patients, greeting our staff as they come and as they go,” Carilion Clinic CEO Nancy Agee said. “Doug was an amazing man who meant the world to us.”
Martin started his job at Roanoke Memorial Hospital on Jan. 27, 1958. He was just 17 years old at the time.
His younger sister, Yvonne Baskerville, said he used to walk to the hospital from their home in Vinton. It didn’t matter whether it was raining or snowing, he always showed up.
“Once they got him up there they couldn’t push him out the door,” Baskerville said. “He loved his job. He loved people.”
Agee said Martin only took one sick day in his entire career at the hospital and it was to attend his mother’s funeral. On his days off, he often came in to wash patient wheelchairs.
She said he greeted every single person as if they were the most important person in the world and it made all the difference for people who were coming to the hospital scared, worried or sick.
From his seat at the front door, Mr. Martin could also see the hospital’s helicopters coming in to land on the roof. Agee said that whenever he saw an incoming helicopter, he would pause what he was doing and pray for the patient, family and staff involved.
Baskerville said Martin was a dedicated member and deacon at Reed Street Baptist Church in Vinton.
Years ago when she was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia, Baskerville said her brother came to sit with her in her hospital room every day after work. She drifted in and out of consciousness, but every time she opened her eyes, her brother was there praying for her recovery.
She said there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for someone who needed him.
In a previous Roanoke Times article, Martin said he couldn’t imagine not working at the hospital. He said he wouldn’t retire “until the Lord says so.”
Mr. Martin continued to work up until his last days.
“Our hearts are breaking today,” Agee said. “You couldn’t be in his presence without feeling a bit of his joy. You were always going to get a smile, you were always going to be made special.”