Bob Mart was always the first to walk through the door.
The longtime chief of the Altona Police Department made this clear to officers under his command, even though there was no such policy in the department.
Actions considered to be contrary to Mart’s edict would not be tolerated. Then again, no one dared challenge these orders during the four years that Norm Carter wore a badge at Altona.
Do not think for a moment that no perilous scenario is lurking on the other side of the door in the tight-knit community of southern Manitoba.
“Whenever we had to go through situations that could be questionable or even dangerous, we had to call Bob. He always went out to make sure he got through that door first,” says Carter. “I guess he never wanted to break bad news to spouses and their families. So he always went ahead. It’s something that I took with me for the rest of my career. . ”
Those closest to Mart say the altruistic approach was typical of the consummate protector, who inspired those around him, at home and at work.
“He was a great husband and father, extremely protective of his family, and he was also protective of his officers and their families,” Carter said. “He was probably one of the bravest men I have ever known. Bob made a reputation for being fair, but he was there to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves.
“All of us in Altona at that time felt safe in his presence.”
Robert (Bob) Mart, whose law enforcement career spanned nearly five decades, died in March in his residence at the Tuxedo Villa Personal Care Home. He was 86 years old.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Lillian, his sons Alan (Madeleine), Brad (Connie) and Chris (Christine), his grandchildren Curtis, Holly, Rob and Pat, and his great-granddaughter Briawna. .
Family members say being a police officer was more of a calling than a job for the Patriarch of Clan Mart.
“He devoted so much time to it. He never really had a day off, and in the days before cellphones, we had a dedicated landline (in Altona) just for police calls. He answered 24 hours a day. 24/7, ”explains Lillian. . “At work, he was both a dog catcher and a family counselor. People used to come to your house for advice.”
Bob was a larger than life figure in the community, and children were drawn to him, especially a student at Elmwood Elementary School with special needs.
“This boy was always so excited when he saw the police car, so daddy showed up one day and took him for a ride and let him press the siren button,” says Chris. “The boy was so thrilled and his mother was so grateful. They didn’t have a lot of money but a day later she brought a little gift basket, with eggs and a few other things, because it did. a big difference in the life of his son. life. ”
Whether in uniform or plain clothes, Bob was deeply invested in the good work people did at Altona and never missed an opportunity to help.
“Dad organized funding for essential medical equipment at the request of hospital staff. He sat in an immersion tub to raise money for community events. He formed a group of crossing guards to increase security at the elementary school and invited them to a hockey game. or a movie for a job well done. He helped establish a drop-in center for young people, ”says Brad.
“Dad would join Mom with the local church group to serve coffee and food at special events they had. He spoke at local receptions and schools when asked, he interacted with local people. local mall and always took the time to listen to someone in need.
“If daddy would give you his word, he would do everything in his power to make it happen… his word was his link.”
Bob was born in 1934 and raised in the Point Douglas area of Winnipeg and was the eldest of two sons.
As a child, he helped his uncle make deliveries for City Bread, who used a horse and cart to roam the city. On a cold winter morning, Nelly, the trusty steed, slid all the way down the slippery Louise Bridge, but kept the wagon upright. With deliveries completed for the morning, Uncle Norman was treating his nephew to a corned beef sandwich at Oscar’s Deli, at his original location on Main Street.
Bob and Lillian married in 1956 after a courtship that began while they both worked for Johnson-Hutchinson Jewelers, located at 286 Portage Avenue.
He was an excellent fastball player and loved shooting pool, says Lillian.
Bob was only 20 when he was hired as a police officer in the East Kildonan Public Safety Division, located on Watt Street, with the understanding that he would also be trained to fight fires and crime when the firefighters were understaffed. He would tell his sons stories about the reaction to huge hells in the dead of winter, regularly soaking and freezing himself to the rungs of the ladder.
In 1963, the East Kildonan Council split the division into fire and police departments, and Bob stuck to law enforcement.
The Marts moved to Altona in 1974 after Bob successfully applied to be a police officer. Three years later, he replaced chef Joe Villeneuve and held the management position until his retirement in 1989.
Carter was 26 when he was first interviewed by the leader of Altona in 1981.
“He was a tough, tough, gruff guy. But that was just the outside,” says Carter, who got a glimpse of her boss’s soft side when Mart met the young couple, with baby in her arms. , to verify a rental property.
“He said, ‘You’ll see and I’ll hold your baby (Chris).’ He had this way of smirking when he didn’t want anyone to see him smile, “Carter recalls. “He did the unthinkable, a little dance that we all do when we hold a baby, just rocking back and forth.”
At the time, officers from small municipal departments were trained in on-the-job instruction and guidance in the community after being hired. After a six-month probationary period, the police were sent to the police academy for more intensive training, which in Carter’s case took place in Brandon.
On Day 1 of his new contract with Altona Police, the recruit received a rather painful introduction to his new position; he maintains that it was one of the most valuable experiences of his career.
With apprehension, he accompanied Mart on a sudden death appeal in Altona.
“I was shaking inside because I didn’t know what to do. All I did was watch him work, his investigative process, to make sure there was no foul play. “Carter said. “I was amazed at how thorough he was, carefully checking the evidence… but very respectful of where he was and what he was doing.
“I have learned so much from him in four years. He was a great teacher.”
Bob shed his hardened exterior when he returned to his three sons.
“He was a great guy with us, he always did well with us,” said Brad, the second son, who admits to having tested his father’s patience much more than his brothers. “He tried to be the opposite of what he was as a cop, tough at work and with family, he was much gentler.
Alan, the oldest son, remembers the family camping trip to the Boston area, adding that he was happy to see his mom and dad leave more often after retirement.
San Francisco was a favorite spot for its “rolling streets, friendly locals, and fishing wharf.” The couple traveled the West Coast several times until Bob’s health began to decline.
Bob’s commitment and dedication to his wife and family was an inspiration, one of the many lessons passed on to his children.
“You can’t think or talk about daddy without thinking and talking about mom, the love of her life, her partner who would always be there for that,” says Alan. “His moral compass was based on the principles of truth and integrity, family and doing well. These are all qualities that he and mom instilled in us.”
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