- Associated Press - Saturday, April 23, 2016

DALTON GARDENS, Idaho (AP) - At 96, Marty Martell has found the perfect friend to hang with - a fellow World War II veteran. But Martell said he prefers to do the driving.

That’s because his buddy, Denney Seamster, is 100, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported (https://bit.ly/1SjfyaR).

“We go places together, but I definitely like to drive,” Martell said with a smile while chatting with Seamster.

Amazingly, both men, who became acquainted via the Friendship Corps through the Area Agency on Aging of North Idaho’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), still drive.

“Oh, he’s offered to drive, but I’m just a little leery,” Martell said.

Seamster said he was told by a driver’s license staffer when he renewed his license that he was the oldest resident in Kootenai County to have a license. As long as residents pass vision and sign recognition exams and a skills test they can maintain a license, regardless of their age.

“It didn’t bother me,” Seamster said of the exams. “I thought, ‘At least I’ve been driving quite a while.’”

RSVP director Bob Small recalls when Martell popped into his office a year ago hunting for someone to regularly visit with. After Martell requested a cup of coffee - decaf, thank you - Small said he was pleased to find Martell a match in Seamster.

“They spoke for four hours the first time they met,” Small said.

Friendship Corps pairs volunteers such as Martell with clients such as Seamster who can benefit from companionship.

“Study after study indicates that socialization helps with depression and anxiety,” Small said.

Dave Hoover, Friendship Corps volunteer specialist, added: “A caring person in someone’s life can make a world of difference.”

Both veterans are thankful for each other’s friendship.

“One of the things I learned early on in life is that you don’t volunteer,” Martell said. “You don’t want to be the sucker. But this is a great program. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t like it. I like to talk to veterans. It’s important.”

He said he hopes his visits inspire others to overcome hurdles.

“A lot of people would be OK if they just try,” Martell said. “You have to fight a bit. I have a cane in my car, but I’ll be damned if I ever want to use it.”

The veterans trade war stories, go out for breakfast and chat about just about anything. Even while others are in the same room.

Speaking to them, the veterans will oftentimes spark a separate conversation between just them, a sign of a special bonding.

“He’s a buddy and a fine old guy,” Martell said of Seamster.

The feelings are mutual, Seamster said of Martell.

“I haven’t found anything to dislike about him,” Seamster said with a grin. “He’s open to talking about anything.”

Martell said he’s still learning about Seamster in bits and pieces, but that’s OK, he said. That keeps him coming back.

“I’m still trying to get all of his background, but it’s hard,” Martell said. “He’s still a mystery. I’m still trying to get it figured out.”

Martell was one of the Allied troops who invaded the beaches of Normandy, France, on D-Day (June 6, 1944) to fight Nazi Germany. He was a driver and fired heavy weapons in the Army.

“I had a lot of close calls,” Martell said. “I was stubborn and did not go back to the aid stations. The DAV (Disabled American Veterans) wanted to give me a Purple Heart, but I already had bled across Europe so I wasn’t interested.”

During the Battle of the Falaise Pocket, the decisive engagement of the Battle of Normandy, Martell said, he was “blown off the ground” by an Allied tank.

“(The Allied forces) were so far apart that I think we thought we were Germans,” Martell said.

It’s those kinds of stories that Martell enjoys sharing with Seamster.

Seamster said he served overseas in the Army during World War II, but was not in combat. He was also sent to an IBM school in Baltimore.

In addition to conversation, the two veterans get a kick out of each other by just being in the same room.

“I was in a chair for four hours and having a hard time getting up so he came over to give me a hand,” Martell said of Seamster. “I told him, ‘Come on. I can get up by myself.’ A 100-year-old man doesn’t need to be helping a guy who is 90-some.”

The two attended a free breakfast for veterans at a local restaurant together for Veterans Day.

“We had a special dessert with strawberries, blueberries and cream on a cake, so they called it the red, white and blue,” Seamster said.

Martell said he wants to be just like Seamster when he grows up.

“He doesn’t take pills or anything,” Martell said. “He’s healthier than I am and he’s a lot skinnier, too. I don’t think I’m going to catch up with him (in age). I’m just living on borrowed time so I don’t worry about it anymore.”

In the meantime, Martell said he’ll continue to converse.

“I’m just interested in veterans,” he said. “A lot of them don’t get the attention they deserve. I don’t care where or how they served. If they served, they served.”


Information from: Coeur d’Alene Press, https://www.cdapress.com

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