In the span of an hour, more than 50 people filed into Montclair’s De Novo European Pub on Bellevue Avenue for one person: Mattie Martin.
Laura Gardner put together a “Farewell to Mattie” party – held on Friday, May 19 – to celebrate Martin, who has served the Montclair community in a plethora of roles for more than three decades. She worked at Acme Markets on Valley Road from 1988 to 1999. After her 11-year stint at Acme, Martin went on to work as a parking enforcement attendant for the township for 24 years while also working as a cashier at Kings Food Market on Valley Road.
Now, after providing smiles to her customers for years, Martin is saying goodbye to Montclair and heading home to Alabama.
“I’m leaving part of me because all my time since high school has been in Jersey,” Martin said. “I’m leaving home to go back home.”
For the last 53 years, Martin has spent her time in New Jersey where she attended school, worked her first job in Newark and raised her children. Though not a native Montclairian, she has become a staple in the community.
At her farewell party, people of all ages stopped by to give Martin their well wishes. Alongside her tribe of best friends and co-workers, families who would flock to Martin’s line at Acme or Kings, no matter how long, all showed their support to Martin.
Roberto Alvarez, a postal worker, met Martin 15 years ago while she was working for the township as a parking enforcement officer. “She’s so sweet,” Alvarez said about Martin. “She’s easy to talk to. She’s very friendly to everybody.”
Joness Gonzales, a supermarket customer, showed up with her two sons, who Martin has known since infancy. “Our son was 2 years old when we first moved here,” Gonzales said. “So she was always very nice. I always had great conversations with her. So we’re going to miss her very much.”
Joness Gonzales and family with Martin. (Talia Adderley/Staff)
Martin was showered with bouquets, balloons and praise throughout the afternoon as she sat at the head of the table. One of her co-workers, Destiny Charleston, who has worked at Kings for five years, said she will remember Martin as being a hard worker. “She’s one of the first people to do eight-, nine-, and 10-hour shifts with no hesitation.”
Looking back at their relationship, Charleston said that she didn’t usually expect much out of co-workers but that with Martin it was different.
“At work your co-workers don’t owe you anything,” Charleston said. “It’s a job, you do what you need to do. And you leave but I have that support from Mattie if I need it. And the same way I can come to her for anything. She comes to me for anything.”
One of Martin’s best friends, Alyne Ainkson, has known her for more than 10 years. “She’s one of the sweetest people anybody can know,” Ainkson said. “She’s always there for me when she sees me.” One of the favorite pastimes the two women shared was shopping. Ainkson said she was going to miss those outings with Martin.
“It really saddens me because she has been such a joy to my life,” Ainkson said. “ And now that she’s leaving, I’ll really miss her.”
As the event was coming to a close, Martin and others were pleasantly surprised as members of the Montclair Fire Department walked in. The department wasn’t there to give a warning on the flow of people coming in and out of the restaurant but instead to give their final goodbyes to a pillar in the community.
Lt. David Hill said, “She has given a lot of service to the town.”
Gardner, who put the event together, said even though she hadn’t known Martin as long as others, she had the need to celebrate her. She recalled the funny moments they would share when Gardner would leave a note on her car saying, “Mattie please don’t ticket me,” while Martin worked as a parking attendant. Martin would even jokingly reprimand her when she would fill up other people’s meters so they won’t get fined.
“Mattie would say, ‘Laura, don’t do that – you’re not allowed to do that!’ So she’s very by the book but she has a heart of gold.” Gardner said.
For Martin, she calls the overwhelming outpouring of love “a feeling that I didn’t think I would ever see.” While thinking about the number of friends and customers who came to show their support and offer their well wishes, Martin became choked up.
“I would like to thank them for everything that they did,” Martin said in a final farewell. “For their love and the smiles and the hugs. And I would thank them for showing up the way they did. And I appreciate them for coming. This just let me know there is someone out there that’s for me.”
— Talia Adderley/Montclair Local