By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
Tom Martindale has had several jobs helping those who need help.
He has helped children prepare for kindergarten through several Head Start programs.
He has helped women overcome alcohol and drug abuse through Muskogee’s MONARCH program.
Over the past year and a half, he has helped people with low incomes find a better life through the Bridges Out of Poverty program. Martindale is the coordinator of Community Circles of Muskogee, which is part of Bridges Out of Poverty, an initiative to help people change mind-sets that keep them in poverty.
Martindale, 67, said the work has altered his mind-set, too.
“The biggest thing this program has done was to help me be less judgmental,” he said. “Before I got involved, I had my own idea of how people got into poverty and what it takes to get people out.”
As the son of a career Air Force master sergeant, Martindale grew up in various places — Fort Worth, Texas, until the seventh grade; three years in Puerto Rico; high school years in Omaha, Neb. He went to college in California and spent 10 years in the Marine Corps.
He then worked with a Head Start program in McCurtain, Choctaw and Pushmataha counties before he came to Muskogee 10 years ago to help open a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center for Green Country Behavioral Health.
“That never materialized, so because of my Head Start background, I got into Head Start here,” he said.
He became the director of MONARCH around 2008.
In 2011, Martindale took training classes for Bridges Out of Poverty and later became its coordinator.
Meet Tom Martindale
CAREER: Coordinator for Circles of Muskogee program.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in management from University of Redlands in California.
FAMILY: Wife, Angela. Two grown children, one granddaughter.
CHURCH: Timothy Baptist Church.
HOBBIES: Golf, motorcycling, woodwork.
Tom Martindale’s desk is surrounded by pictures of his wife, his kids, his granddaughter and one special woman.
“Linnie Joy Campbell contracted polio and spent the rest of her life in an iron lung before she died at the age of 42,” Martindale said.
The picture shows the woman encased in a white iron lung, with only her head visible. Yet she is holding a stick or paintbrush in her teeth, and an electric typewriter, with white paper in the roll, is hanging over her head.
Martindale said Campbell used her paintbrush to work the typewriter to write poems. She published two books of poetry and wrote a weekly column for a newspaper in her area, he said.
She also spent the early morning talking to people over the airwaves, he said.
“From her bed, from 3 to 6 in the morning, she had a voice-activated microphone and a CB radio. Every day she would talk to the truckers just to keep them awake,” Martindale said.
He called Campbell an inspiration.
“It was Linnie who taught me firsthand that it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you that makes a difference,” he said. “I keep her picture close by. From time to time I can use inspiration.”
Martindale said he finds inspiration in a verse Campbell wrote: “What can I accomplish on this brand new day? Will I be a stepping stone or a stumbling block along a person’s way?”
serve in Vietnam
Martindale also found a way to serve through the military.
“All of my uncles, every single one, served in the military,” he said. “I came from a long line of men and women. And a number of them made careers out of the military.”
For Tom Martindale, service meant 10 years in the Marine Corps — including 13 months of action during the Vietnam War. He was not drafted; he enlisted.
“In those days, the only people in the Marines were volunteers,” he said. “I enlisted to become a jet engine mechanic. After a few years, I was sent to flight school.”
He became a helicopter pilot in the Demilitarized Zone, which was intended to be a combat-free area along the boundary of North and South Vietnam.
“We flew medevac missions, ran supplies, did recon, the full gamut of combat missions,” Martindale said. “For 109 days, I was a forward air control direct close air support fixed wing attachment for infantry.”
He was based out of Marble Mountain Air Facility.
“The most vivid memory for all of us was being able to provide assistance to men who were wounded,” he said. “Flying the medevac missions provided us with the most satisfaction. But we always said the real heroes were the ones who did not return.”
Martindale said members of that unit get together every two years.
“It’s beginning to look like the World War II and Korean War survivors,” he said. “There’s getting to be fewer and fewer of us.”
Martindale’s involvement with Bridges Out of Poverty, MONARCH and other programs introduced him to more inspirational people.
“The city has big challenges, but at the same time, I continue to be amazed at the number of people who continue to appear in Muskogee, Oklahoma, who appear to have the interests of the community at heart,” he said.
He mentioned Mark Wilkerson, the director of Muskogee’s Parks and Recreation Department.
“He has dogged determination to make sure Muskogee’s parks are upgraded,” Martindale said. “Then, there’s Marlon Coleman and all the pastors who continue to be actively engaged.”
Martindale said there were so many other clergy members and civic volunteers he could name.
“Three members of our City Council are involved in the Circles of Muskogee program,” he said.
Volunteers are the backbone of Circles of Muskogee and its related programs, he said.
“There is no way we could have done what we have done without the work of volunteers,” he said. “All of our teams are staffed 100 percent with volunteers.”
Martindale finds inspiration and satisfaction with such efforts.
“If I felt like there were not a number of really caring individuals who were willing to go above and beyond, I would not be encouraged to do this work,” he said.
HOW DID YOU BECOME AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?
“I initially came when the director of Green Country Behavioral Health hired me to open up a drug and alcohol facility.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
“Clearly, the number of people who are willing to take on one more thing in order to help individuals. I know we have civic and service clubs, but I continue to be amazed at the number of people involved in church or some other volunteer effort. The number is really off the charts.”
WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
“If, somehow, we were able to attract an organization that paid higher wages, opened up jobs and offered something higher than minimum wage.”
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING IN MUSKOGEE?
Coordinator for Circles of Muskogee program.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
“I have a ‘honey do’ list for Angela. We are in the process of renovating our house. I also am part of a recovery support group at Jess Dunn Correctional Center, Rotary and the board for Habitat for Humanity.”
WHAT OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE?
“My pastor, Kelly Payne of Timothy Baptist Church. That admiration is due to the fruits of his labor, his willingness to tackle some tough issues he brings to the congregation. He rallies the congregation to provide for those in need.”
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
“Last year, when we graduated our first group in the Getting Ahead program. That entire evening, the faces of the individuals, hearing their stories. We filled the room up.”
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
“Great people doing great work.”