Kay Martin Gaertnier Obituary
Kay Martin “Martin” Gaertnier, 91, died Tuesday, Jan. 9, at Mayo Clinic Hospital, St. Marys Campus in Rochester, with family at his side.
Martin was born in Davenport, Iowa on March 9, 1926, to Albert and Alma Marie (Martens) Gaertnier. He spent early summers working his grandmother’s farm, earning a dollar a day for endless hours toiling in the fields. His entrepreneurial spirit soon awoke, inspiring him to trade farming for construction, beginning as an independent flooring installer as a member of the Carpet, Linoleum and Tile Layers Local 1286. Dedication to country interrupted his burgeoning career when Martin, upon turning 18, enlisted in the United States Marine Corp.
After basic training at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Martin was deployed to the South Pacific Theater where he was wounded in action on May 9, 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa. Honorably discharged on Dec. 20, 1944, Martin remained a U.S. Marine and would fulfill the Corps ethos for the rest of his days. His service would again be recognized during the Honor Flight he took with fellow veterans to Washington D.C. in October 2016.
In 1946, after 10 months in the hospital, Martin returned to civilian life in Davenport and dedicated himself to learning construction and home building. He worked as a carpenter apprentice for Montgomery Ward before purchasing a flooring business with funds borrowed from his mother. Always looking for a deal, Martin drove to the carpet-manufacturing hub in Dalton, Ga., filled his station wagon with carpet rolls, drove home, and sold every piece at a sidewalk sale the following weekend. This was the start of 40 years of retail for Martin, culminating in Gaertnier’s Interiors, the furniture and floorcovering store he owned and operated in Waterloo, Iowa.
In time Martin retired to Lake Pepin, where he purchased and renovated an old campground that quickly put an end to thoughts of true retirement. After years of running Camp LaCoupolis, he purchased a cabin upriver in Old Frontenac, Minn., which launched another period of hard work and grand results. He would go on to build or totally renovate five more houses on the shores of Lake Pepin, including his final crowning achievement where he lived for the remainder of his life.
Martin was a friend to the community and earned easy grins as he tended to repairs around the property, all the while wishing his Old English Sheepdog, Winston, was still there to patrol and help keep watch as eagles eyed his beloved dogs Bella, Pearl, and Crystal. In between games of “May I?”, Martin was a terrific cook who kept his family and friends forever fed and entertained. He is and will always be dearly missed by all who knew him.
He is survived by his wife of 28 years, Marcia; two sons, Kreg Gaertnier of Waterloo, Iowa, and Blair Gaertnier of South River, N.J.; step-son, Charles Schmitt of Palm Springs, Calif; step-daughters, Shelly St. Martin of St. Paul and Julie (Peter) Hansen of Huntersville, N.C.; grandchildren, Kreg, Jr. and Amber Gaertnier; step-grandchildren, Jude Schmit, Evan and Vincent St. Martin, Mickey Lee Jett, and Emilee and Jeremey Hansen. He was preceded in death by his parents; daughter, Meta Gaertnier; and brother, William.
A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, Jan. 13, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Mahn Family Funeral Home, Anderson-Peterson Chapel in Lake City. A full military honors burial will be at Fort Snelling National Cemetery on Friday, Jan. 19, at 12:45 p.m.
Online condolences can be sent to www.mahnfamilyfuneralhome.com.