Lewis L. Martinelli
Lewis passed away peacefully
on July 7, 2023.
Lewis was born on January 11, 1926 at 530 South Main Street, Ukiah. His parents were Octavio “Oscar” and Natalina Martinelli. He was also welcomed by his older sister Angelina. Five years later his brother Roy was born and then when he was 9, his youngest sister, Stella completed the family. He took his role as “Big” brother seriously, helping and remaining close to his siblings throughout their lives. Lewis, outlived all of his siblings.
When Lewis was 3, he was burned badly when he opened the door on their woodstove, catching his clothing on fire. He sustained severe burns to his face, hands and chest. Dr. Van Allen took him to his home and he and his wife (a trained nurse), tended to his burns for several months until the danger of infection had passed. As a teenager, Dr. Van Allen arranged for him to have experimental skin grafts in San Francisco. After the first trip, he took the bus alone to these procedures. There was a total of 7 operations over 2 years. These were painful and he never complained. He never regained normal function of his hands. This later kept him out of the military during WWII. Despite his disqualification, he did all he could to help his country from the Homefront.
From at an early age, Lew’s parents instilled a strong work ethic in him. As soon as he was big enough to help, he helped his father cut, stack and deliver firewood and make charcoal to sell throughout Ukiah. He also helped his mother gather eggs and plant, weed and water plants in her backyard nursery. As a teenager he delivered groceries on his bike and worked recapping tires. Lewis was very proud of the fact that his father was a mason who worked on many projects in Mendocino and Lake County: The Old Main Building Bell Tower at the old Ukiah High School, the rock walls around Todd Grove Park and around Clear Lake and many schools that were built post WWII.
He attended local schools, graduating from Ukiah High School in 1943. During
WWII, he was part of a volunteer group that took turns on weekends and summers manning a look-out station, on a hilltop, on the way to Boonville. They kept watch for enemy aircraft, 24/7. After High School he went to work for Holtz Co.
During his Junior year of High School, he met the love of his life, Dolores Brooks. They were married on September 9, 1945. The young couple went into business with Dolores’s father, Wiley Brooks and brother, Leland Brooks, running the Poke Easy Lumber Company out of Branscomb. They lived in a 2-room cabin without running water or electricity for 6 years. When they lost everything in a fire. They came back to Ukiah where Lewis went back to work for Holtz Co. and Dolores worked as bookkeeper part time for the Bell Packing Company. Lewis and Dolores had 2 children: Gary was born in 1949 and Linda followed 2 years later. In 1955, they purchased 40 acres of grapes and moved to Road M in Redwood Valley. Lewis and the family did most of the ranch work themselves except during harvest. In 1960, they purchased another 40 acres of grapes on Road J. In the early years, they sold their grapes to Italian Swiss Colony in Cloverdale.
Gary, like Lewis, was an excellent athlete and student. He was a friend to all who knew him. At 14, he was diagnosed with Leukemia. At Ukiah High School, Gary played football, basketball and was active in Student Activities. He was the Senior Class President. He died in August 1967, leaving a great void in our family.
Linda, was active in 4-H and Student Activities at UHS. After Graduating in 1969, she attended Chico State University, earning a BA in English and a CA Teaching Credential, before returning to Ukiah. She married Marvin Talso, both taught for Ukiah Unified School District. They have two children Justin (Janene) who have two children, Christopher and Lucy; Mariah, also has two children: Caleb and Brooklyn.
Lewis’ favorite past times were fishing and hunting. Lew and Gary both enjoyed hunting locally. Almost every family vacation included a day or two of fishing. Every year after the harvest was over, Lew would travel out of state to go hunting for deer, elk or moose. He was an excellent marksman. His last hunt was when he was 90…and yes, he got his elk! Lewis taught his wife, children and grandchildren firearm safety and how to hit a target using his myriad of firearms.
In his retirement, he and Dolores purchased a second home near Hat Creek in Old Station, CA. Lewis loved having family and friends visit so he could take them on daily fishing adventures. Lewis rarely left the creek without catching his limit. He was endlessly patient teaching others how to fish, tie on a hook or clean a fish.
During that same time, our immediate family traveled to the Old Station house to celebrate Thanksgiving and then go out into the woods the next day, no matter the weather to find the “perfect” Christmas trees. We often were knee deep in snow, up or down steep paths, through rain or snow, but always managing to find the perfect tree for Christmas Morning.
In 1970, Lewis, Ben Riesland and Roy Martinelli, opened Rainbow Irrigation.
Lew designed the irrigation systems; Ben built the filters and over saw the installation and Roy was a silent partner. He ran a very successful business until he retired in 1983. This year was his 40th year of retirement!
It was too difficult to run a business and 80 acres of vineyard, so Lew and Dolores sold their home in Redwood Valley and moved to Ukiah in 1971. They maintained a beautiful yard and had a wonderful vegetable garden every year.
In their retirement, they took cruises: in the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal and to Alaska. They traveled with their trailer throughout all the states west of the Mississippi. The Old Station Home provided them with a cooler place during the summer and with endless hours of fishing.
Lewis was a very community minded individual. In 1956, Lew joined the Redwood Valley Fire Department Volunteers. He remained an active member until 1971 when they moved to Ukiah. From then until COVID, he was an Honorary member of the Department, helping at all of the BBQs. Lew, also served on the first Redwood Valley Water Board, the Russian River Flood Control District Water Board, the Redwood Valley Union School District and the Ukiah Unified School District Boards. Around 2014, he became a volunteer for the Historical Society of Mendocino County. He loved sharing his knowledge and memories of his long life in Mendocino County.
He and Dolores were married for 67 years, until her passing in 2012. He visited her grave every day until he gave up his driver’s license at 94. Afterwards, his daughter took him on a regular basis. Lewis was very proud of his Family. His face would light up whenever his grandchildren and great grandchildren came to visit.
Lewis passed away peacefully in his sleep on July 7, 2023. His family and friends will miss him deeply, but are comforted knowing he has rejoined his beloved wife, Dolores and his son, Gary.
There will be a Celebration of his Life on August 1, 2023 at 10 AM at Eversole Mortuary.
In Lieu of flowers please consider a donation to one of the following in his name.
Historical Society of Mendocino
County, 100 South Dora Street, Ukiah, CA 95482
Redwood Valley Calpella Fire District Volunteers, P O Box 499, Redwood Valley, CA 95470
Tributes from his Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren Grandson – Justin Talso
My Grandfather, Lewis Martinelli traveled through time with vigor and kindness. His non-stop work ethic helped him achieve the American Dream. While living a life of simply being nice surrounded him with friends. He experienced the tragedy of being preceded in death by his son Gary and the love of his life, Dolores, but kept them close by sharing their stories. Lew was at his happiest when his hands were busy: fishing, hunting, grilling, pruning or gardening. He taught his daughter, Linda and grandchildren, Justin and Mariah to keep their hands busy too. In a full life, what brought him the most joy was watching what his daughter, Linda achieved as a mother and a teacher. He will be missed but not forgotten as we continue to share his story.
Great Grandson – Christopher Talso
I always loved hearing his stories about his life. Exploring his house and finding interesting things from some of his hunts or other parts of his life; like the little marble run! I was always so impressed with how long he kept the house and garden beautiful.
Great Granddaughter -Lucy Talso
I always loved going to Great Grandpa’s house. Right when I opened the door, I would get a handful of Peanut M&Ms from his dispenser, which was always full for us. The lizard puzzle game I always played on the floor of his living room. There was a fake cat always napping by the fireplace, but in my mind, it was watching me play. The Marble Planet Game, my brother and I would compete over. But it wouldn’t be visiting without getting fudge covered cookies that Great Grandpa always had in his cookie jar. And of course, another handful of Peanut M&Ms on the way out.
Granddaughter – Mariah Talso
My grandpa was one of the calmest, kindness, gentlest humans I have ever met. Yet, he was also a hard-worker and he never gave up. Due to a burn, he sustained as a small child, he had to work harder than most to be successful in physical endeavors and yet, he did it with a smile, and an “I can” attitude. He taught me to work hard, to appreciate history, to never see my own scars as shortcomings or as anything other than beautiful. He taught me how to catch a fish and the simple pleasure of sitting waiting peacefully along the shore for a fish to bite. He taught me how to be patient and how he kept his marriage happy (even if it meant turning off his hearing aids for a time!) by never going to bed mad and without saying “I love you.” He showed me how family is so very important and that you always support your family even when life is truly difficult. He showed me that despite the hardships and frustrations life throws at you, it is always – ALWAYS – worth the living of it. He showed me a love that went beyond all other, a love that in its purest form showed through the smile on his face, the crinkles around his eyes, and the joy in his voice every single time he saw me or spoke to me. I have never felt that sort of joy from anyone over my own existence more so than with him. Seeing that a love that pure exists in this world, makes my heart so happy, and yet so sad, as I won’t see his eyes light up with that love any longer. My grandfather has been with me through every single important moment in my life, sometimes vocal, sometimes observing, but always with a smile, a hug and an “I love you” and it is that smile and that love, which I will carry in my heart always.
Great Grand Son Caleb
He was always a kind generous guy. Second, he always loved to read and he loved cats and he loved the forty-niners. Lastly, he always had candy (usually M&Ms) for us when we visited.
Great Granddaughter Brooklyn
The three things I remember about Great Grandpa are: 1. He was a kind and gentle man, 2. He was always sweet and always cared for others, and 3. He always loved his family and never gave up with things got tough.