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Among friends from beginning to end
Rosie remembered as colorful Short North character

By Jennifer Hambrick
April 2008

Margaret "Rosie" Martin. Photo/Harry Williams Jr.

A longtime Short North resident known as a “character of the Short North” died recently while enjoying a drink at one of her favorite neighborhood bars. Margaret Martin, known to her friends as “Rosie,” died at Mike’s Grill, on High Street, Feb. 27 of a massive heart attack. She was 71.

Martin, who lived in Italian Village at the time of her death, shuttled every day between her favorite neighborhood watering holes, Mike’s Grill and the Short North Tavern. Regulars at both establishments remember her as a colorful individual with an ebullient personality and a strong will.

“She was like a little leprechaun,” Joe Theibert, a Short North Tavern regular and friend of Martin’s, said. “She had blue, twinkling eyes. She was small and always had a smile on her face. She was cantankerous and always did what she wanted. No one was going to tell her how to run her life – she always said that.”

Even at 5 feet 2 inches tall, Martin knew how to get noticed. She used the same non-verbal cues – unambiguously – to let you know if she liked you.

“If you made her mad she gave you the finger,” Peggy Todvin, a bartender at Mike’s Grill, said. “And if she was in a really good mood and she really liked you, she’d give you the finger again, you got the friendly finger.”
Almost every day Martin went to Mike’s Grill in the late mornings and early afternoons. She’d nurse a vodka and Coke while working crossword puzzles at the bar. In the afternoon she’d change both her scenery and her beverage, leaving Mike’s and taking up her perch near the front window of the Short North Tavern, where bartender Nate Chase served her vodka Sevens.

“She made it a point to go (to the Short North Tavern) at four o’clock to see them,” said Peggy Todvin, a bartender at Mike’s Grill. “She always said, ‘I’ve got a couple of friends I’ve gotta go see,’ and every day at four o’clock she headed down there and had a couple of drinks, then she came back here.”

But at the end of the day, Martin knew how to make an exit.

“When she left, she’d always give you a kiss and you’d try to get it on your cheek, but she’d always get your mouth and give you a slobbery one,” Theibert said. “She was just a character of the Short North.”

On Feb. 27 Martin was sitting in her usual seat at Mike’s Grill and had barely started working on her first vodka and Coke when she collapsed from what was later determined to be a heart attack.

“She ordered, took two sips, and she just fell over,” said Paul Armstrong, who was tending the bar at Mike’s when Martin collapsed.

Armstrong called 911 and paramedics worked on Martin for at least an hour before taking her to Grant Medical Center, where doctors pronounced her dead.

As of this writing, the Franklin County Coroner’s Office says Martin’s sons have not claimed her remains. Franklin County Coroner’s Office Chief Investigator Jack Sudimack says the number of people abandoned at the morgue each year has risen steadily over the last several years. In 2002, 28 people went unclaimed. That number rose to 39 in 2003, 81 in 2004 and 142 in 2005.

Sudimack says reasons for abandonment cases vary, but his office tries to help families bury their dead.

“Regardless of what kind of history there is, our philosophy is, let’s see what we can do to put them back together,” Sudimack said.

According to her friends, the bar-hopping Martin had once worked as a bartender at the Short North’s High-Starr Lounge. Carter Abel, a regular at Mike’s Grill and a friend of Martin’s, met Martin at the High-Starr Lounge more than 20 years ago. Around 1985, he got a private lesson on Martin’s no-nonsense worldview.

“We were sitting (in the High-Starr Lounge) and horsing around and I pinched her on the butt in a joking manner, and she turned around and slapped me silly,” Abel said. “I had an imprint on the side of my head. Then it was all over and forgotten.”

Robert “Bo” Wylie, who had known Martin since the late 1950s when he was 10 years old, won’t forget how her unstoppable spirit led him out of deep despair. When Wylie, who had been a sawyer, lost a hand on the job in 1993, Martin wouldn’t let him wallow in self-pity.

“When I lost my hand, she lived right around on Buttles and she walked to the hospital almost every day to see me. She was there and pushing me to go and do, keep moving, keep active. ‘Everybody loves you,’ she’d say.”

Wylie says Martin pushed him into finding another line of work. He now works seasonally for the Short North nursery, The Urban Gardener.

“What she did for me inside was more than the government’s ever done,” Wylie said. “It was just her no quit attitude on the whole universe in everything that she did.”

Not long before her death, Martin had faced some challenges of her own. She had seriously injured her neck in a fall on a flight of stairs at home and had been released from the Heartland Victorian Village rehabilitation center about a month before she died.

Neither the neck injury nor a stroke several years before kept Martin from getting out and about, walking around the neighborhood in her trademark sneakers and baseball cap, visiting with friends. Martin’s final exit shocked and saddened her friends, but there was something fitting about it, even though no slobbery kiss was involved.

“She went the way Rosie was going to go,” Theibert said. “She was with friends, in her element.”

© 2008 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

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