Earle Plain Martin, III
Earle Plain Martin III, loving husband, father, son, brother and uncle, went to be with the Lord on December 31st, 2020, at the age of 65, after battling complications from COVID-19.
He is survived by his wife, Deborah Bearden Martin; his sons Thomas Martin (fiancée Allison Trost), Daniel Martin and Grant Martin; father Earle P. Martin, Jr. (Nancy); brother Grant Martin (Rev. Paul Fromberg); sister Melinda Martin Stubbs (Samuel); nephews Andrew Stubbs, M.D. (Leigh Anna Stubbs, M.D.), Charles Stubbs, Maxwell Stubbs; niece Whitney Stubbs Newton (Mark) and grand niece Jolene Newton. He is preceded in death by his mother, Katherine Cummings Martin, and son, Earle Plain Martin IV.
Earle is remembered as an exceedingly forthcoming, honest and genuine man. He loved and provided for his family as a devoted husband and dedicated father. He loved his profession, leaving a lucrative law practice to become a successful air charter pilot. On a more practical level, Earle loved to go fast; in addition to flying his airplane, he repeatedly rode with his sons in go-karts and on roller coasters. He loved stories, constantly telling and absorbing them. He would fall asleep to classic movies and pore through books on historical figures. He shared what he learned with enthusiasm and eloquence. When Earle walked in the room, you knew exactly who he was and what he cared about.
Customers of Mid-Coast Air Charter recall Earle's attempts to be attentive, save them a buck or go the extra mile. Each year, he hand-delivered more than a hundred pecan pies for the holidays and often stayed awake into the wee hours making them fresh fruit trays before a trip. His respectful treatment of co-workers at all levels within his aviation hub at Hobby Airport garnered him a nickname: "Captain Beloved." They pinned it to a sign on his office door.
Born in Houston, TX, to Earle and Katherine on August 14, 1955, Earle III was the oldest of three children and took charge of the role at an early age. He was mature beyond his years and brilliant in his schooling, attending various schools in the Houston area growing up. Although he had only entered The Kinkaid School as a junior, he was elected class president his senior year. Earle delivered the commencement address to Kinkaid's graduating class of 1973, concluding his classmates, "have shown themselves to be people willing and able to accomplish tasks rather than watch others do so." Earle attended Vanderbilt University, serving as the treasurer of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. He received his law degree from the University of Texas, where he made Law Review. It was during this time Earle developed a love of flying and got his pilot's license.
He returned to Houston in 1980 and joined Vinson & Elkins as a lawyer in the Business, Real Estate and Energy group, led by the late Rush Record. Though he loved his colleagues and worked tirelessly for the firm, Earle's dream was to be in the air. After three years at Vinson & Elkins, he made a decision that would change his life forever: He gave up his law practice and started his own private air charter. Friends and family would affectionately cheer on "Air Earle" as he laid the foundation for a three-decades-long career. It began with an obvious clientele: Lawyers who needed to travel for recruiting trips. Earle donned a suit and tie, a nod to his roots and a memorable element of the first-class service he would provide to every customer.
Before he left Vinson & Elkins, Earle met Deborah Bearden, though they could have met much sooner. Deborah — two years Earle's junior — walked the same St. John's School hallways as Earle in elementary school. If they didn't cross paths there, they almost certainly could have at Vanderbilt or Texas, both of which Deborah attended while Earle was still on campus. In 1984, they enjoyed a single date together and went their separate ways. Four years later, upon Deborah's return from living in Boston, they were set up on a blind date by a mutual friend, this time sparking a romance that led to their engagement after just eight months. The two were married in July of 1989, spending 31 years together in a loving, harmonious union.
Earle once flew Deborah to New Braunfels for a date floating the Guadalupe. His flying business, Personal Air Charter, began to grow, and in 1988, he met a fellow charter business owner, Jack Chapman. The two began to refer customers to each other until Earle joined Chapman's business, Mid-Coast Air Charter, as a co-pilot. In 1996, Chapman left the business to pursue a career as a commercial airline pilot and sold Mid-Coast Air Charter to Earle. With the business came its prized possession: the airplane, a Mitsubishi MU-2. One cannot imagine a stronger relationship between pilot and plane.
Earle so believed in the MU-2's capabilities that he committed himself to its community of pilots and owners. He volunteered time and money to speak publicly to the aircraft's reputation if it came under scrutiny in the press. He single-handedly rallied the community to take industry-wide product surveys; as a result, Mitsubishi retained its number one rating for 18 years running. A colleague dubbed him "Mr. Mitsubishi" for his service to its pilots, new and long standing. Throughout his flying career, he became known for his over-emphasis on training and safety. And he never drank alcohol; only unsweet iced tea, with lemon.
Many within Earle's loyal customer base stayed with him for decades. He also had his share of special projects, flying donated organs to hospitals and injured persons attached to stretchers. He once flew the ill son of a family friend cross-country pro-bono because it would ensure the best care. And when he wasn't flying oil workers to address rig blowouts and hunters to ranches and businessmen and high-ranking officials, he took time to fly his "non-revenue" passengers: his family. Deborah, Tom, Daniel and Grant Martin would trade chances to sit in the co-pilot's seat on the way to the White House, Mt. Rushmore, Niagara Falls and so many more American landmarks. Earle prioritized one in particular: Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, home of the first flight. A picture of his MU-2 in front of the Wright Brothers National Memorial still hangs in his office to this day. He simply loved to fly. And to the surprise of many, he often cruised through blue skies and cumulus clouds to one XM radio soundtrack: Broadway showtunes.
In later life, Earle took up what he called "urban hiking," walking miles to and from any and every destination that for most required a vehicle. While on work trips, he would walk to his hotel from the airport. He was once spotted outside Hebbronville, TX, by a line technician from Jet Aviation, and Earle's past kindnesses led the line tech to offer him a ride. In Houston, Earle traded his luxury sedan for a pickup truck; its primary focus became driving the family black lab, Steele, to restaurant patios to share lunches. Servers at their usual haunts knew to have a grilled chicken and water ready; not for Earle, for the dog. Earle cherished dinners spent with his family at River Oaks Country Club, before walking the three miles back home.
Earle's final days at home included a sweet memory: His son, Tom, got engaged to his fiancée, Aly, with whom Earle had quietly conducted meaningful phone calls for months. Earle saw the ring the day before his admission to Houston Methodist Hospital. He passed peacefully to the sounds of a CD playing messages from family members and songs to keep him comfortable and calm, broadway showtunes included. The grieving family takes comfort in knowing Earle lived the life he wanted to live, accomplishing so much and impacting the lives of so many. In his own words, he was "just glad to be here."
The family would like to thank the incredible doctors and nurses at Houston Methodist who gave Earle wonderful care.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Houston Food Bank, The Brookwood Community or to St. Martin's Episcopal Church.
A small family service is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, January 12, at 4:00pm CT. Guests are invited to view the services on YouTube via a live stream link that may be found on the St. Martin's website at https://stmartinsepiscopal.org/funerals