Written by Anthony Moujaes
Friends and colleagues are remembering Oliver Wendel Martin III, his advocacy for people living with HIV, and the impact he left on the world. Martin worked to help those with HIV-AIDS live their lives with dignity,and a man who went "above and beyond" in his service to the United Church of Christ to raise awareness of the disease. Martin died on Saturday, April 19. He was 55.
Born Nov. 25, 1958, Martin lived and worked in Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Wis., and New York City. His life's work was promoting curriculum and resources for people living with HIV-AIDS and ways to prevent the spread of the disease.
Martin was a member of the UCC's Wider Church Ministries Board of Directors and Global Ministries Board of Directors until 2013. As part of the UCC's HIV and AIDS Network Leadership (UCAN) team, he helped reorganize and direct the work of UCAN in 2005. He later became board president when UCAN was incorporated as a nonprofit and served that role until 2013.
"Oliver was dear friend and an amazing leader," said the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, director of UCAN. "His relentless passion for justice and vision for a church and world fully engaged in HIV response lit up many a room. He knew how to bring diverse people together and his warm spirit set people at ease to deal with difficult questions. For the past nine years, he served UCAN and the national setting of the church in a variety of capacities, often going above and beyond the call. We will do well to draw inspiration from the witness of his life, so faithfully and generously lived."
Martin earned his bachelor's degree in information sciences from Robert Morris University. In his career he was founder and CEO of Conscious Contact of New York, administrative chair of NYC Faith in Action for the HIV and AIDS Coalition, national administrative leader of National Faith in Action for HIV and AIDS, and a lead organizer for community and faith events.
Martin's obituary describes him as a person who "brought people together from numerous parts of many communities."
"His ability to create, coordinate, and collaborate with hundreds of people is nothing short of amazing," the obituary reads. "He had an exceptional ability to plan events down to the minutest details, way in advance, and make them come off like well-synchronized works of art. Oliver was thought of as a virtuoso convener of people, a disseminator of life-affirming, life-saving, and life-improving information and resources."
Throughout his life, Martin was recognized with awards and honors. He was lauded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his HIV-AIDS ministry with Riverside Church (2007), the Love Alive International Foundation (2014) and the New York AIDS Coalition (2003).
Preceded in death by his mother Uther Jean Jones, stepfather Ernest Jones, and brother Kenny, Martin is survived by friends and family, including his partner of 14 years, Craig J. Kania, and godmother the Rev. P.J. Banks-Anderson.
At Martin's request, a memorial service is being planned for Aug. 16 at Riverside Church in New York City.