Former Somerset school president Martell dies at 64Tom Martell, one of the most impactful figures in the history of the Somerset School District, died at his home in Somerset Sunday after a lengthy battle with cancer. Martell was 64.
By: By Dave Newman, New Richmond News
Tom Martell, one of the most impactful figures in the history of the Somerset School District, died at his home in Somerset Sunday after a lengthy battle with cancer. Martell was 64.
Martell was a Somerset native, graduating from Somerset High School in 1965. He went into a lengthy military career, serving in the United States Army for more than two decades. He was a lieutenant colonel at the time of his retirement.
Martell returned to Somerset and ran for the Somerset Board of Education in 1987. After one year on the board, he was elected board chairman, a role he would hold until his retirement in 2004.
One of the early moves made by the school board during Martell’s tenure was the hiring of Dianne Beeler as the district superintendent. Beeler and Martell became a dynamic team. They led the call to upgrade the school facilities in Somerset and during their tenure the Somerset High School and Somerset Elementary school were built.
“It’s the passing of a giant,” Beeler said from her home in Florida. “He was amazing. He gave everything he had to get those schools built. They wouldn’t be there without his leadership and conviction.”
Beeler said Martell was a visionary leader who was able to communicate his vision to others. His military background and leadership training taught him the importance of setting goals and having a plan for the future.
Somerset Board of Education member Mike Connor, who served with Martell throughout his term, credited Martell for his honesty with people.
“He didn’t put up any political smoke screens,” Connor said. “He asked the hard questions. He was a great interviewer. He could really asked the questions and get to the core.”
Long-time Somerset Athletic Director Brad Nemec, who was hired by Martell and Beeler, said Martell was widely respected because of his vision for the school district.
“He was an honest man. You always knew where he was coming from,” Nemec said. “He did great things for the school district and the community.”
Beeler said that coming back to his Somerset roots was very important to Martell. She said his ability to communicate with the long-time residents of the community was a key reason they were able to pass two referenda to get schools built.
“Even when they didn’t agree with Tom, they respected him as a person for his forthrightness. He was so committed to the people who lived in Somerset all their lives,” Beeler said. “Trust is such a good word for him. People always trusted his opinion.”
After Martell retired from the school board, he became heavily involved in growing grapes for wine. He and his wife, Deb, developed Martell Vineyards at his home north of Somerset. His leadership rose to the top again, with Martell serving 10 years on the board of the Minnesota Grape Growers Association, six as president.
Martell’s visitation will be held Friday at Bradshaw Celebration of Life Center in Stillwater. His funeral will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday at St. Anne’s Church in Somerset.