Jan Martin: Community servant steps into the spotlight
It’s a Thursday afternoon and I go to meet Jan Martin at her Summerville home for an interview.
She’s outside on the porch waiting for me and as I stick out my hand expecting to shake hers, much to my surprise, it is overlooked and she pulls me in for a warm hug instead.
After talking with her, it’s obvious that’s just the kind of lady Martin is.
She’s an open book and invites me into her house right away as she begins chitchatting about her three young grandsons, whose pictures are littered throughout the home.
“This is the best time of my life,” she said happily as she spoke of spending time with 4-year-old Grantham, 2-year-old Eli and 8-month-old Daniel. “Having grandchildren has given me a new inspiration for life and a new love for life.”
It only takes a few minutes to realize just how important children are to her.
Not only was she a teacher for eight years before leaving the workforce to have her son, but her husband, Dr. Jim Martin, is also one of the area’s most well known obstetricians and gynecologists.
The proud grandmother said when she’s not spending time with her family, she is volunteering with several groups in the area that serve children, including Dorchester Children’s Center, the Summerville Good News Club and area schools such as Rollings Middle School of the Arts and Charleston Southern University.
“If you have the extra time to give to our children it will not be a moment wasted on their future,” she said. “I’ve always felt strongly that we all have a purpose, a value, and we should use that for good. If you believe in a cause you need to stand up for it.”
The conversation is electric and we’re quickly jutting from one topic to another, as if we’ve been friends for years. She’s silenced for the first time all afternoon, though, when I ask what she hopes for her grandsons and their futures.
“That they love the Lord… that they’re kind to each other… and to never give up,” she said finally.
“Gigi and Granddaddy will always be here for them.”
Almost as quickly as children are brought up, Martin’s love for music also makes its way into the conversation.
If children are Martin’s first passion, then music is clearly her second.
Despite being raised by parents with no musical talent, Martin said she and her twin sister would harmonize naturally while they did the dishes as children.
“Music is food for your soul,” she said.
Her love for singing only grew as Martin got older. She has performed in several Flowertown Players musicals and helps judge vocal competitions at Rollings Middle School of the Arts.
“She has the most beautiful voice,” said Marlena Myers, the former mayor’s wife and one of Martin’s close friends. “She sang at my wedding.”
Most of her musical activities are through her church, though.
Martin and her husband have been members of Summerville Baptist Church for more than 20 years. She works with the church’s JOY Singers and has never missed performing in its Lowcountry Singing Christmas Tree for the 23 years it’s been in existence.
Church is very important to the Martins; after all, they met through their church when growing up in Rock Hill. After five years of dating throughout high school and college, the couple married when Jan was 19 years old. This year they are celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary.
“So many people say those are the best days of your life, when you’re young, but I don’t think that’s true. Jimmy was in medical school, worked part time painting houses and had another job with the ports authority. Meanwhile I taught, nannied, and worked in a daycare,” she said. “We did every step on our own. It makes you appreciate so many things.”
Her husband is a frequent character in the conversation, but then again, so is everyone else Martin knows. In the hour we talked she mentioned more people than I could keep track of.
Martin’s selflessness and community-minded spirit are the defining characteristics of her personality, followed closely by her outgoing nature and warm heart.
She spoke of her husband with love, of her friends with admiration and of her many groups with a smile. The only person in town she didn’t talk lengthily about was herself. But as our chat came to an end, one of those rare moments surfaced.
“I’ve never made headlines, but I do believe I make a difference. People who are positive, who make other people feel valued… those people are sometimes just as important as the headliners.”