BEMIDJI - Amidst a world of mediocrity, there exist those who live their lives with grace, dedication, and goodwill. Some call them role models, while others refer to them as idols. A more accurate definition may simply be "hero."
On Wednesday, friends remember Martin Sathre, who died Sunday at age 87, as a Bemidji icon who worked tirelessly as a community steward, public servant and humanitarian.
"Everyone loved him," Kevin Cease said. "He had this amazing humble personality. He was a mentor."
After graduating from Bemidji High School in 1943, Sathre served three years in the U.S. Army before returning to his hometown, where he schooled at Northern Business College and began working as an abstractor at his father's company, Sathre Title and Abstract.
Sathre helped his father turn the business into a five-county abstract, title insurance and real estate closing company. His obituary, which published in Wednesday's Pioneer, said during his career Sathre gave advice to thousands of people buying and selling real estate.
"He was pretty wonderful," Jim Smyithe of Sathre Title Abstract recalled Wednesday. "It's hard to put in words."
An honorary member of the American and Minnesota Land Title associations, Sathre also served as president of Minnesota Land Title in 1984.
"He put a lot of time and a lot of effort in it," Smyithe said.
Smyithe, who began his career at Sathre Title and Abstract in 1990, bought the company from Sathre.
"Martin was highly regarded by everyone who knew him," Smyithe said, "He was an icon in our business - pretty much everywhere else, too."
In 1949, Sathre married Dorothy Muckala. The couple had two sons and a daughter.
Sathre's loyalty and commitment to the municipal and communal aspects of Bemidji remain celebrated.
He worked as Bemidji's treasurer from 1951-52 before serving a term on the Bemidji City Council. He also worked as Deputy Register of Deeds from 1952-60, state president of the Minnesota Association of Register of Deeds, Beltrami County recorder from 1961-82, and Beltrami County emergency services director in 1984.
In addition to his role in government, Sathre was a member of American Legion Post No. 14, VFW Post No. 1260, Bemidji Jaycees and served on the Bemidji Development and the First Federal Bank boards. He was elected the Jaycees' Man of the Year in 1952 and was scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troup No. 23.
Martin Sathre was the head along with Charlie Naylor (who has also passed) of Bemidji Development Corp, a volunteer based organization. BDC helped construct and develop the Bemidji Industrial Park, and the businesses in the park..
"Although Charlie Naylor was more vocal about the organization, Martin was the main source of knowledge," Dave Hengel, executive director for Greater Bemidji said. "The Industrial Park, and all businesses within were touched by Bemidji Development Corp, and through that, by Martin and Charlie."
"He was quiet and humble, a steward of the truth," Hengel added. "Martin was a leader that Bemidji needed, and continues to need."
Friends said Sathre's dedication to the Bemidji community went back to his own beginning.
"His dad (Elias) was a charter member of the Bemidji Rotary club," said Kevin Cease, adding that Martin Sathre joined the club as a young man. "He's been an integral part of the community ever since."
Larry Young, a long-time member and past president of the Bemidji Rotary Club, noted that Sathre's more than 60 years as a Rotarian was remarkable.
"He was very active in Rotary," said Young, "He probably held every position there is at a local level."
Sathre found passion in many things, one of them being history that surrounded Bemidji, friends recalled.
"He had the history pretty much in his head," Young said, who always saw Sathre as a "grey-haired person of distinction."
Through his kindness and genuine nature, Sathre continued to support the Bemidji area through his involvement with the Bemidji Development Corporation and Industrial Park.
Martin Sathre is survived by his wife, Dorothy, two sons, Jerry and Michael, and daughter, Kaye.
"He was very instrumental in a lot of people's lives," Smyithe offered, "He was about what was right with the world."
Memorial services will be at 10:30 a.m. today at Bemidji's United Methodist Church. He will be buried with military honors at Greenwood Cemetery.