Dr. Mike Martini, 97, a treasured pediatrician in Pacific Palisades for decades and an active, always smiling member of the community, passed away peacefully in his sleep on October 12.
Longtime residents were quick to mourn one of its beloved individuals. Fellow Optimist Club member Rich Wilken said, “There are few words to express the deep pain and sorrow of losing this exceptional friend and community leader. Mike was the light in this world and touched so many hearts during his life.”
Dr. Nasreen Babu-Khan, a retired dermatologist, said, “I will miss him dearly. He was my pediatrician from the year I was born, 1959, and then became my patient. He inspired me to become a doctor.”
“Mario,” an only child, was born on March 25, 1925, to parents Grace Ricciardi Martini and Michele (Michael) Martini. He graduated from Loyola High in 1942 and earned a pre-med degree from UCLA.
He attended St. Louis University Medical School, where he met Elaine Krueger. The two married on June 11, 1949, and enjoyed 68 years together before her passing in 2018.
During World War II, Martini joined the Navy Reserve and worked in the Long Beach Hospital until the war’s end. During the Korean War, he was called back into duty, and he became the doctor for a mine-sweeping squadron in North Korean waters.
One day, shells landed in front and behind the ship.
“The captain yelled, ‘Go for cover. They’ve got us bracketed!’” Martini recalled. “The next shell hit us right in the middle of the ship.”
For the ship’s crew, the location of the blast was fortuitous. The gangway was damaged, shrapnel hit the smokestacks, and a shell whizzed past someone’s head as he worked in his office, but only one crewman was injured.
Upon returning home and finishing his residency, Martini learned about the opening at Dr. Edwin Russell’s pediatric practice on Via de la Paz. In 1954, the family moved to the Palisades.
Martini not only treated children throughout the community for more than 40 years but became ingrained in the town with his dedicated volunteer efforts.
He was a member of the Palisades-Malibu YMCA board from its inception, a past commander of American Legion Post 283, a former honorary fire chief, and the 1967 Citizen of the Year.
In addition, Martini was active at Corpus Christi Church, and his long volunteerism inspired Monsignor Liam Kidney to recommend him for a papal blessing (Benemerenti Award), which he received in 2010. He was also the last surviving charter member of the Palisades Optimist Club, which was formed in 1956.
He was a regular part of the Fourth of July parade, riding in the Station 69 fire truck on several occasions and marching for many years with the Optimist Club troupe. He was also a parade marshal in 1990, 2015 and 2021. In 2015, he and five other local WWII vets were honored because of “their military service and their long years as active community members and dedicated volunteers.”
For many years, Martini singlehandedly led the town’s Red Cross blood drive, which he just turned over in August to Corpus Christi.
In a 2021 interview, Martini said, “I look back on a wonderful life.”
Dr. Martini is predeceased by his wife Eileen and daughter Kathleen. He is survived by daughters Barbara Martini Laubacher (husband Tom) of Oxnard and Eileen Martini McCranie of Newbury Park; sons Msgr. Richard Martini of Carpinteria; James Martini (Michele) of Reseda and Joseph Martini (Jennie) of Mill Valley. He is survived by 16 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.
Services planned for Mario “Mike“ Martini are:
Rosary: Sunday, October 23, 7 p.m. at Corpus Christi Church
Funeral Mass with reception following: Monday, October 24, 10 a.m. at Corpus
(Editor’s note: if you’d like to read more about the Martini’s, go to elainemartini.blog—it contains memories and stories written by Elaine about the family, and was compiled by daughter Barbara.)