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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, November 22, 2002

Dolores Martin, mainstay of Democratic Party

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

Dolores Martin, a pioneer of the modern Democratic Party in Hawai'i, died Saturday in Honolulu after suffering a stroke.

Martin, an advocate for Democrats at a time when women were not very welcome in politics and Hawai'i was dominated by Republicans, was 93.

The daughter of Lahaina butcher and Postmaster Antone Furtado, one of the few Demo-crats in town, and a Hawaiian woman who was a schoolteacher, Martin was at the heart of the 1954 Democratic revolution and the drive for statehood.

As Democratic national committeewoman from 1956 to 1964, she was one of the attractive faces of Hawai'i on national television coverage of the presidential conventions, and it was from her that many national Democratic leaders gained their impressions of the Territory.

When U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy came to the governor's mansion at Washington Place a few years ago during a campaign swing for local candidates, he looked around the room and asked, "Where is Dolores Martin?"

Told that Martin didn't get out much, Kennedy asked for a telephone and called her. They talked for 15 minutes while all the other Democrats stood waiting, said Martin's son, Watters Martin Jr.

She was a longtime close friend of the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, and of Mink's husband, John, who yesterday described Martin as "a driving force in the Democratic Party during its early formative years, and deeply involved and highly recognized on both the local and national level, particularly during the Kennedy-Johnson era.

"She served all of her party functions well, and she managed to do the things she did without causing any animosity," John Mink said.

Martin attended The Priory, graduated from Punahou in 1928, and then attended Woodbury Business College in Los Angeles. She returned to Hawai'i to work for her father in the Lahaina Post Office, then in the law firm of William Heen in Honolulu.

She met and married ardent Alabama-born Democrat activist Watters Martin, a used car dealer, and became his partner and then successor after his death in family real-estate investments, which included property in the heart of Lahaina, as well as in Waikiki.

She was a member of the Daughters and Sons of Hawaiian Warriors, of 'Ahahui Ka'ahumanu Chapter 1, of Daughters of Hawai'i, and of the Ladies Oriental Court of North America, Hawaii Court No. 60.

In 1991 she endowed a merit scholarship at Punahou with a gift of a $1.6 million Waikiki property to the school.

Martin is survived by her son, Watters O. Martin Jr.; daughter, Mahealani Riley; brother, Richard Furtado; sister, Gertrude Berger; three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Kawaiaha'o Church; friends may call from 9 to 10:30 a.m.