Ben’s father died last night. He was only 72.

I was very fond of him. I don’t think many can say they are as fond of their father-in-law as I was of mine. He always treated me well and was very supportive of me, so I’d like to write a post about him.

He and I have exchanged emails semi-regularly over the years and in fact, the last email I have from him is dated the 24th of January when he must have been ill in hospital and yet he did not mention it. Instead he told me about this article in the NYTimes, Industry awakens to threat of climate change. He sometimes commented on my blog, his handle is MikeM, and I always loved it when he did because he wrote clever, sensible things. We had similar views on many things, including climate change. He also disliked Auckland as much as I do and for similar reasons. The phrase I sometimes use to describe it, “featureless suburbia”, I stole from him.

He had a good appreciation of art and music and was a bit of a painter himself, he was also interested in economics, politics and ethics and had a great sense of humour. He was one of the least materialistic people I’ve ever met and not at all interested in stuff.

We had an annual birthday present ritual of gifting socks to each other. He would always give us socks for our birthdays and we did the same for him. Every year I got a very cool pair of tastefully chosen socks for my birthday from him. I’m not sure how this started or who started it, but we all enjoyed the ritual and I always looked forward to seeing my birthday socks and whatever crazy colour/pattern they might have.

He was an academic at the University of Otago in computer science for a time. He left mid-way through his career to join the private sector when he moved to Australia and worked as an IT professional before retiring a decade or so ago.

I’ve got this old photo of the new computer at the University of Otago taken in 1973. That’s MikeM (this is what I always called him), third from the left.


Here’s a young version of MikeM, looking very James Dean.


And a very young version with his mum:


And an older version with two of his grandkids:


He became a photographer in his later years and developed a very popular Flickr account of his wanderings around Sydney called Newtown Grafitti. He used to boast to me that it got in excess of 20,000 hits per month which is pretty good. I see his last posting was on the 5th of January.

On one of his wanderings once, he saw some musicians filming a music video. They asked him whether he’d like to be in it. He said yes. Here’s the result:

Although he’s portrayed as a sufferer of Alzheimer’s disease in the video, the truth is that he had his wits about him until the very end.

He was born Richard Charles Lowes Martin (but called himself Mike) in New Zealand on 8th August 1941 to Charles George Martin and Dorothy Wall Martin (Lowes). He leaves behind a wife, four brothers, four children and eight grand children.

I know that he was very fond of Bach and the cello, so MikeM, this is for you. I will miss you.

19 responses to “MikeM”

  1. So sad to hear that Rachel. You and Ben are very much in our thoughts. Much love, Susie and Annabel xxxooo

    1. Thanks, Susie and Annabel.

  2. My sincere condolences. Having recently lost my father to cancer I can truly empathise with you and your family. Your father in law sounds like he was a special man.

    1. He was a very special man. Thanks, Catmando.

  3. Oh Rachel, I’m so sorry to read this about the loss of your wonderful MikeM. What a looker he was, wow! He sounds like a fascinating man and I love the photos of him with his mum as a young boy and then as a granddad. This must have been quite a shock since you had no idea of his illness. You have written a beautiful tribute to him. Sending love and hugs to you your husband and family x

    1. Thanks, Sherri. He looks does look good in that James Dean photos, doesn’t he? Would be even better without the cigarette though.

      1. Yes, he certainly did, but then it seemed that everyone smoked back then…

  4. I just found out last night.
    I don’t have many memories of Mike. The very first thing I remember, however, involves him. I was about 6 months old (nobody believes that I can remember this) and I was visiting him in Australia. I remember being in his backyard, and I remember his cat. We also have a lot of pictures similar to the one you posted, of Mike sitting with me as a toddler.
    We went to visit him in Australia in 2008 and I got to know him really for the first time. He was very, very nice to us and he gave me and Jess a chocolate bilby each. I named mine Bilbo the Bilby, that was funny. Another funny moment was when Mummy walked into the glass door at his house. We all laughed a lot. Mike had a good sense of humour.

    1. I laughed at the bit about the glass door. I seem to remember MikeM’s cats doing the same thing on a regular basis. I could be wrong about that though.

  5. Nicely written and my sympathies. He sounds like a great fellow.

    1. He was a great fellow. Thanks, Graham.

  6. Sorry to hear about your father in law Rachel. He sounds like a very cool guy who anyone would be lucky to have had in their life.

    1. I feel very lucky to have had him in my life and he has influenced it in many ways and for the better.

  7. Sorry to read about the loss for your family. What a lovely tribute you have written. Mike certainly lived a full life and touched many.

    I think traditions are very important for a family. I loved the giving of socks.

    1. The socks tradition was great. I’ll have to find someone else to do this with now so that I don’t run out of socks.

  8. An interesting and well-written tribute, Rachel. I was very sorry to hear of your loss and saddened to think you weren’t able to say goodbye to him. Lately, I had noticed an absence of Mike M’s posts on your blog. They were always extremely well written and knowledgeable even if i rarely agreed with them. My father and husband had a variation on the sock theme with an unopened bottle of scotch going back and forth at birthdays.

    1. I remember the Scotch gift giving. I seem to remember the same bottle of Scotch getting recycled once or twice too. The socks we gave were always bought new except for the pair that I crocheted one year.

  9. […] a sort of follow-on to my last post about the death of my father-in-law, I want to post this obituary which was written by him for his own father in 1990. Apparently the […]

  10. […] father-in-law, Mike, died earlier this year but before his death plans were in progress to take some of his 29,913 […]

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