Kenneth Gerald Martin

September 15, 1934 ~ June 9, 2016

Ken slipped away in his sleep in the afternoon of Thursday June 9th surprising family and friends. He leaves behind his wife, Bernice (Beauchamp) of 60 years this August 24th, his son Randy, daughter Jodi, her husband Chris Duplessis and grandson Greyson. While we are deeply saddened, we are comforted by the peaceful grace that he left by.

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Ken grew up living near trains, and was always drawn to them; his grandfather worked on the national railway, his dad worked on the electric railway and he had his own Lionel layout by age 5. Inevitable that trains would shape his life, as an interest, a business, and a hobby.

Sports was the other of Ken’ passions, first as an athlete minding the net for local hockey teams and pitching for the Elmwood Giants until 1954, later as an armchair quarterback supporting his beloved Blue Bombers and cheering for the Jets.

Ken and Bernice met working at Ashdowns in Winnipeg. She ran the elevator and he as a young manager found plenty of reasons to travel between floors. They married in 1956, and he started the first of Ken Martin Enterprises in their basement with Bernice as shipper/receiver for ‘Midwest Hobbies’, establishing the partnership that would last for more than half a century. As the wholesale business moved into its own warehouse, Ken branched out into retail and the first “Ye Olde Hobby Mart” opened at 365 Portage Ave, with 4 other locations following in the 70’s and 80’s. Model trains, planes and automobiles, toys and games filled the stores. Bernice looked after crafts, and they added dollhouses after Ken searched for one to build for daughter Jodi’s collection of miniature furniture.

Many a miniature enthusiast got started peering through perfect little windows of the mini manors and tiny country farmhouses, leading Ken to explore another market niche, collectable giftware. ‘Cricklewood & Co.’ opened in Polo Park Mall in 1979. The little country store was as full of charm as the brimming antique display cases and an actual turn-of-the-century delivery wagon displayed kitchen, giftware and collectible miniatures. Run by Bernice, Ken’s vision of a unique specialty store was a joy for 13 years.

Ken saw the decline in hobby sales as electronic games took over as an opportunity to streamline his focus on the one thing that started it all, the love of trains. ‘Warehouse Hobbies’ was Ken’s last retail enterprise, specializing in model trains, and customers came from all over Winnipeg to shoe horn into the tiny shop.

By 1993 Nanaimo’s gentle coastal weather beckoned, and he and Bernice decided to bring their working days to a close there. Too restless to be retired, he took up working with the Kens at Leisure Time Hobbies sharing his vast knowledge of model railroading, and starting a whole new generation of rail fans with their first train set.

10 years, 2 houses, 2 cats, 2 heart surgeries and one busy grandson later, it was time to work on his own railroad full time, and the layout was redesigned and rebuilt to accommodate the many scale models he loved to build. Ken was a master craftsman, perfecting each detail, applying a rich patina of age and use. Many happy hours were spent with grandson Greyson, who from age 2 was apprenticed to work the lines until it was time to “go for beans”.

Ken became the shopper as Bernice’s health kept her close to home, and weekly grocery shopping became the act of masterful planning. With a lifetime of merchandising to draw on, he employed a tactical approach and regularly returned home triumphant with free items.

He enjoyed his status as a railroad master and was often asked to evaluate railroad model legacies. He was frequently sought out as a vendor at Island train shows. His great friend Alan Crawford, helped him bridge e-commerce by placing his ads for brass engines and cars on Ebay. He was really pleased to reach such a broad audience that way, knowing that railroading was growing in places as far away as Japan.

Ken’s health had been slipping, but he wasn’t ill or suffering. And while it is hard to say goodbye to your solid, faithful engine, the journey must be taken, and we’ll wave from the platform until the last car rounds the bend and the whistle fades to evening song.

Please join us for a celebration of Ken’s life Friday June 24th at his home 6473 Ptarmigan Way, Nanaimo at 2:00 p.m.

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