This time of the year many men begin the annual investigation into what would be an appropriate gift for their wife for Christmas. In my case, the exercise is made more difficult by my stubbornness in not asking for any suggestions from her on what she would like. I have always held to the idea a gift should be well thought out, and reward both the giver and the one receiving the gift. I suspect my philosophy is made somewhat easier by the situation: I only have one person to reward each year. The recipient of mine handles all of the other gift selections.

Imagine my gratitude several years ago when I received a call from Don Martin. He called to let me know that my wife had recently been in Gallery One and had lingered over a piece of jewelry on display. According to Martin, she would walk away from the case and stroll around the store to observe the other art on display, only to return and loiter over the particular piece of jewelry in the case. This happened several times, he said. She did not end up buying the item, but he thought it might be information I would find valuable at the particular time of year. I went by the art gallery several days later, mostly to return the courtesy he had shown my wife. As I am sure he expected me to do when he shared the information with me, I ended up buying the bracelet for Carol for Christmas.

I first met Don Martin when we served together on the board of the Family Services Center. He was the long-time superintendent of Brownwood ISD and I was the new publisher of the Bulletin. The organization was in the early stages of development and was still under the umbrella of the Brownwood Chamber of Commerce. It was my role as a member of the board of directors of the Chamber of Commerce that put me in the middle of the development of the Family Services Center. I was still trying to sort out in my mind how this endeavor really qualified as chamber work. Martin was an invaluable board member. One of the basic tenets of the FSC concept was co-location of services so families in need of services did not have to travel all over town from agency to agency. The whole family could be helped in one location. The facility in which the organization set-up business was owned by the Brownwood ISD. Martin had to be conscious of protecting the interests of the school district but his commitment to the organization and its potential to be of significant help to the children and young people of the city was unwavering.

It was not until later that I learned of Martinís athletic background and storied coaching experience. I remember how impressed I was at the first luncheon honoring the inductees into the Gordon Wood Hall of Champions. I listened as former coaches Southhall, West, Blackburn and Martin introduced former Lion players and talked at length about their memories of the individual students. Very little time was devoted to the wins and losses in football games or the winning or losing records of the seasons in which they played. They spoke about character, hard work and commitment. In another context, I had I witnessed the dedication, commitment and team concept Martin had learned during his athletic career, and it was clear he was an educator who practiced what he taught.

I have often thought about the solid sales instincts Martin demonstrated with his telephone call to me regarding my wifeís interest. Academics are usually not noted for their business acumen. Carol and I both hated to see Gallery One close. Visiting the store was a wonderful experience, particularly the special evening events. Martinís investment in the business and his efforts on the board of Downtown Brownwood Inc. and as its president provided a catalyst and a hope for the central business district of the city. It is obvious, at least to me, that Martinís commitment to the future of his students extended to the community in which they lived. His life was one of leading by example and encouraging others to do likewise. I am glad we arrived in Brownwood in time to have known him.

Robert Brincefield is vice president and publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday. He may be reached by e-mail at bob.brincefield@brownwoodbulletin.com.