A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Br Martin Williams SM

Born: 30 August 1941, Wellington, NZ
Professed: 4 January 1970
Died: 11 March 2021, St Joseph’s Home of Compassion, Heretaunga, NZ

Ross Martin Williams, Br Marty, was born in Wellington. His mother was Gladys Williams. When he was a month old, Marty went to the Home of Compassion in Island Bay, where he spent about ten years. From there, Marty went to Sunnybank Boys’ Home in Nelson until 1957. It was there that he read his first book, “Nautilus,” written by an American sailor. Marty loved reading, and in his earlier years, he had a great ability to learn and recall facts, details and figures.

At age sixteen, Marty moved to Masterton – “through Social Welfare and God’s grace, Margaret and Martin Wynn took me in.” He attended St Joseph’s College briefly until his foster-father took him out of school to work in the family bakery, where he received £2/18/6 a week. He saved £35 and bought a typewriter, because he wanted to write, and then a Volkswagen on hire-purchase. He was a keen runner, winning the C A Willis Cup for Senior Men in 1962 at the Masterton Harrier Club.

From time to time, Marty would visit Futuna, where he met the brothers. He worked in the kitchen and dining room, became friends with such men as Brs Ben, Pius and Robert, and began to think that being a brother could be his cup of tea, as he put it, but it took him eight years or so to make up his mind. Marty was a novice at Highden in 1969 and made his final profession in St Mary of the Angels, Wellington, on 3 February 1974.

After appointments at Greenmeadows seminary and Hato Pāora, Feilding, he was the cook for eleven years at Futuna Retreat House in Wellington where he was justifiably famous for his crisp and crunchy hot bread.

In 1985, Marty went to Rome, having been asked by the provincial, and I quote, “to be the general dogs-body-cum-dish-master, in the kitchen ... I nearly fell out of my chair. I said, ‘when do I go’?” He arrived in Rome in February 1985, and was there for four years.

Marty loved Rome. He used to work in the mornings and go on tours in the afternoons. His cooking came into play when the usual cooks were on holiday. He enjoyed learning about the history of Rome, and said that he wept in the car on the way to the airport, as he knew he would never return.

It was a thrill for Marty that when he returned to NZ, his mother Gladys contacted him through the Social Welfare Department, and he met her at his sister Nathalie’s home in Dunedin.

Marty was at Cerdon in Wellington, and then he was at Highden for eighteen months, after which he spent eight and a half years at Greenmeadows, as a tour guide in the cellars, and where he also did some bread-baking, until July 1998.

The following years were spent in pastoral ministry in Hastings, then in Blenheim and Reefton and Adelaide Rd in Newtown, Wellington. In 2011 he moved to the Home of Compassion in Upper Hutt. Back with the Home of Compassion. The wheel had turned full circle.

There’s a sadness about Marty’s last few years. He wrote, “The Parkinson’s is slowly taking over. I used to walk to the shops and look around ... Now I can hardly stand up. It affects my speech and my appetite.” There was little or no self-pity though, in the memoir that he dictated: “At this point, I want to thank deep in my heart the people that have helped me to get this far. A lot of people have been involved and my faith has encouraged me to keep going. Br Robert encouraged me to join up 50 years ago. His loyalty and devotion are the hallmarks of a Brother of the Society of Mary.”

Loyalty and devotion – certainly hallmarks of Marty’s life – and he was a prayerful person. He was a man with his own way of doing things, single-minded, thorough, always interested in learning, giving himself fully and very successfully to whatever he was asked to do, using his talents and wholeheartedly living his Marist life.

Marty, be at peace, as you deserve to be, with the members of your family and your confrères who have pre-deceased you, with your risen Lord and with Mary whose faithful son you were.

Source: Eulogy given by Fr Kevin Head SM

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