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PASSAGES George S. Martinez
2009-10-01

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George S. Martinez—a Chicagoan who was a beloved community activist and patient advocate—passed away June 14 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, surrounded by his loving family and friends. He was 56.

Martinez was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, where he held the position of Melchizedek priesthood. He went on missions and was devoted to his beliefs. He was a kind gentleman who was open-minded about life, people and cultures. He was a patient and loving man who was perpetually optimistic and was admired, respected and loved by all who knew him; he will be deeply missed. He maintained his keen interest in his family and friends even in the last days before his death, deprecating his own routine as humdrum and not worth discussing, but curious to know what everyone else was up to.

As a child, Martinez had polio and was in an iron lung for a while. He courageously faced this serious illness and a number of serious health problems throughout his lifetime and triumphed over them. He had been living with hepatitis B for many years; then he was a liver recipient in May 2004, after which he devoted much of his time helping others. He was instrumental in helping in the landmark legislation to expand organ transplant options for people with HIV/AIDS: by his working with then-State Rep. Larry McKeon, D-Chicago, on passage of the Illinois HIV Organ Donation Law ( 2004 ) and the Hepatitis Education/Awareness and Screening Law ( 2005 ) .

Martinez was an advocate in taking the Illinois HIV Organ Donation law to the federal level by going to Washington, D.C. While there Martinez talked to then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., about AIDS care.

He was very active on the National Institutes of Health, Steering Committee and Community Advisory board for the "Multisite Study on Transplantation with HIV," and was part of the HIV Prevention and Planning Group ( HPPG ) , CDPH Hepatitis C Task Force, EASE Caucus, Northside HIV/AIDS Health Coalition, AIDS Foundation Advocacy/Policy Committee, TPAN, TORCH, Vital Bridges ( working with activist Lori Cannon ) and other community groups.

Through his work with Kraft General Foods, Martinez was able to travel throughout the world. He visited such countries in South America as Brazil, Argentina and Chile; in Europe, he visited France, Italy, England, Greece and Germany. He also traveled to Australia, Mexico and many major cities in the U.S.

Martinez graduated from Purdue University with the degrees of the Degree of Bachelor of Arts 1976 and the Degree of Bachelor of Science 1982.

He won several awards, including the Kraft General Foods: Technology Center, Special Accomplishment Award ( 1994 ) ; American Liver Foundation, Illinois Chapter, Patient Honoree at Northwestern Memorial Hospital ( 2005 ) ; the Chicago Area HIV/AIDS Caucus Long-Term Survivor Award, EASE ( 2005 ) ; the Westside HIV/AIDS Regional Planning Council's Bennet Williams Award ( 2005 ) ; and the Chicago Department of Public Health's Award of Appreciation, The HIV Prevention Planning Group ( 2007 ) .

Martinez was preceded in death by his parents, Estanislado Martinez and Camila ( Garza ) Martinez, his son Richard Geoffrey Martinez ( Deceased at age 20 ) and his two brothers: Richard and Manuel; and two sisters: Irma and Cynthia Martinez. He is survived by one daughter Erin ( Martinez ) Holman, grandfather of Anabel, Richard, and Emberlii; two sisters, Rachael and Lydia; a brother, Carlos; sisters—in-law Delia and Carolyn; many aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces and godchildren; caregivers Michael Wall and Steve Stoddard; Richard J. Elia, a loving companion ( of 18 years ) ; and many friends.

Burial services were held privately with family at Ridgelawn Cemetery, 4401 West Ridge, Gary, Ind., 46408.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: Vital Bridges, North Side Grocery Center, 5543 N. Broadway, Chicago, Ill., 60640.

A remembrance meeting will be held Saturday, Nov. 14, 12-2 p.m., at Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted ( www.CenterOnHalsted.org ) .


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