(Photo by John Schneider) Adam Martin, owner of Martin Funeral, Cremation & Tribute Services, which has facilities in Vassar, Grand Blanc and Mount Morris, says that assisting veterans and giving back to the community are two of the pillars of the company.

Adam Martin is a third-generation owner of Martin Funeral, Cremation & Tribute Services. And like the two previous owners – his father and grandfather – he believes a community is made stronger when local businesses give back.

In particular, Martin Funeral – which has locations in Vassar, Mount Morris and Grand Blanc – has earned a reputation for assisting military veterans and their families.

“We have been working with veterans’ families for a long time,” Martin said. “When we started our funeral business, we buried a lot of older Civil War veterans.”

Martin Funeral is part of an organization called Veterans Funeral Care Network. In December, in conjunction with the network, Martin Funeral hosted Operation Toy Soldier in an effort to make sure the families of veterans and active military would have a merry Christmas.

“It’s very similar to Toys for Tots in that new and unwrapped toys for boys and girls are collected,” Martin said. “We work locally with veterans’ groups and they help us distribute the toys. In the Vassar area, we had a super big event, a lot of the area businesses, like Cook GM Superstore, Shop Rite Supermarket and Vassar Building Center, were involved.”

It was the second year of the fundraiser. Before Christmas 2019, about 500 to 600 toys were collected. But last holiday season, about 1,500 toys and $5,000 in cash donations were raised.

“Everything goes locally,” Martin said. “We have enough oversight to make sure the donations get where they need to go.”

Martin Funeral was founded in Mount Morris in 1929 by Martin’s grandfather Miles Martin, who operated the business with his wife Mildred. The Mount Morris facility has been at its current location, 1194 E. Mount Morris Road, since 1934. The family would go on to open a second location in Grand Blanc. In 1996, two more funeral homes were added to the mix when the family purchased the Clark Funeral Homes in Vassar and Fairgrove, owned and operated by former Tuscola County Commissioner and county coroner Bill Clark.

The Fairgrove Martin Funeral business closed in 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic playing a factor in the decision.

The Mount Morris location acts as the main office of Martin Funeral. On its walls are photos from decades ago of how the funeral home looked throughout the years. Martin Funeral has been a member of the National Funeral Directors Association for decades, Adam Martin said. Also displayed at the Mount Morris location are plaques earned from the NFDA for pursuit of excellence.

“There are about five different categories, like community service and continuing staff training, which you need to excel at to qualify for the award,” Adam Martin said. “Between our four funeral homes, we’ve received more (Pursuit of Excellence) awards than any other funeral home in Michigan, and second in the country.”

Adam Martin, 47, took over the business in 2006 after his father and mother – Tom and Darnell Martin – retired. Tom Martin passed away in 2016. Adam Martin runs the business with his wife, Jenni.

Adam Martin has made continuing the legacy of giving back to the community a top priority.

“We’re involved in the community in so many ways I can’t even keep them straight,” he said.

Martin Funeral was Fairgrove Bean Festival parade organizer for several years, he said. And the business presently coordinates the annual Mount Morris Memorial Day Parade, which the Martin family began about 50 years ago.

“And we have a retire your flag with honor program,” Adam Martin said. “We collect old, tattered (U.S.) flags and lay them over the body of a veteran when they’re going to be cremated. It’s a win-win situation.”

The U.S. Flag Code states that when an American flag is “no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

Adam Martin said that cremation services have been trending upward in the funeral home industry for some time, and that sometimes causes confusion when families are faced with a death.

“People think they know what their options are with cremation, but there is so much to know,” Adam Martin said. “Burial is cut and dry, you have physical body. With cremation, you have an urn and take it just about anywhere. You can have a funeral service at a country club, or on a boat, anywhere you like. Most places won’t allow you to have a body.”

In addition, he said, Martin Funeral offers the option of a traditional funeral with an embalmed body in a casket, with cremation coming after the service.

Adam Martin said while most families are prepared for the passing of a loved one, there are still plenty of instances when families are blindsided – and unprepared – for the death of a family member. Even when the death is inevitable.

“People should take the time to think about what they want to do and what funeral home they want to use well before someone dies,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people don’t have a plan.”

Families of veterans, especially, should look into the funeral benefits available.

“Exploring your options is important, and that can help me as much as it can hurt me,” Adam Martin said. “We’ve seen that veterans’ families can get reimbursed for quite a few things.”