"I wanted to be there for people in their time of need," Martin said. "If something I did made things a little bit easier for them, then that's good. I just wanted to be there for them, even if it was just talking and sharing stories. I was there to help as much as I could."
Martin, who is retiring from Irby's this month, will be honored during a special ceremony beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27 at the General Baptist Church fellowship hall to which all his many friends are invited.
Martin began working at Irby's in 1988. His joining the company, which he has come to consider family, was not planned. Back then, Martin operated a glass shop in town. His wife, Barbara, owned a flower shop in Rector at the time, with Bill often making deliveries to the funeral home.
"I was making deliveries and (former owner) David Jelks asked me, 'Why don't you help us some?'" Martin recalled. "I told him I had to think about it, but eventually I decided to help. I wasn't all that sure about it at the time, and I told David if I didn't like it (the job) I wouldn't stay. I guess I must've liked it. I've been here ever since. This is the start of my 24th year here."
Little did Martin know the job he was "trying on" would come to mean so much to him, especially in terms of the coworkers he has grown close to over the years.
"It becomes a family to you. The ones that I work with have been good to me and I've enjoyed working with them. I've got fond memories of every one of them. Me and Shirley Vangilder worked together for 22 years. When she retired (in 2010), I missed that gal. I've worked with Cheri (Boyd) for the past seven years, David (Floyd) on and off for 15 years and Andrew (Cavaness) has come along here in the last few years. They're all good people and I'm proud to know them. Alton Speer and David Jelks hired me those years ago, and Alton's come back here to Rector in the past couple years, and I've enjoyed working with him again. I've been fortunate to work with all of them."
Though he continues a very active schedule, Martin, 77, said he decided to retire in order to spend more time with his family. He and Barbara have two children, Janet at Senath and Terry at Jonesboro, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
"What makes me as proud as anything is that they're all good Christians," Martin said.
Martin will also continue to pursue his hobbies, chief of which is restoring classic tractors. He has six older model tractors he has been working on in recent years. While he's fully restored a couple, he's in the process of completely tearing down an old International he plan to restore before moving on to his remaining tractors.
"I like to work on old tractors. I've got a stove out there in my shop, so it doesn't get too cold for me to be out there working. I enjoy being out there with those old tractors. It's peaceful to me. I can't just sit in the house."