Martin Richter, “Marty,” as everyone called him, was one of the associate pastors at Godspeak Church in Dos Vientos, and he went to be with the Lord on October 18, 2021. He left a lasting legacy in the Conejo Valley that friends say recalls Ecclesiastes 7:1, which states, “A good name is better than fine perfume.”
“The secret Marty had was love, which he used abundantly to win over everyone he encountered,” says friend Robert Lee.
Marty ministered frequently in local hospitals and nursing homes, offering prayers, hope and tender affection.
“Nothing was more comforting to me and so many others while rolling on a gurney down a hospital corridor, counting the ceiling tiles, when all of a sudden someone would grab your hand and look down at you with a smile and an encouragement that everything would be okay,” says Lee.
Marty was born in Romania in 1929 to Jewish parents. As one of four children, he was brought to the United States by his family when he was a baby and processed for immigration through Ellis Island in New York. Illness and the death of his father — plus the Great Depression — forced his mother to pass Marty to an uncle in Brooklyn to be raised. Subsequent health issues in that family forced Marty into an orphanage, and Marty called the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum home for his school years. They tried to train Marty to be an engineer, but Marty was drawn to the people side of business and fell in love with marketing and sales.
This skill was recognized by a donor to the orphanage who owned a women’s garment factory in New York. The man took Marty on as an apprentice. Marty thrived in this arena and was given progressively better job positions. The owner of the clothing factory described him as a son. Marty then accepted a senior position at Brooks Brothers Men’s Clothiers where he learned the proper attire for a gentleman. He married and relocated to the Midwest, and lean economic times led Marty, then between jobs, to sell vacuum cleaners door-to-door. He became the top salesman in his entire region.
During the Korean conflict, Marty joined the Army and was stationed in Panama to help guard the Panama Canal. Field duties assigned to him meant serving in the oppressive heat, so Marty saw an opportunity, taught himself to type and was hired to work in the same air-conditioned office as the base commander.
Returning to the U.S. after completing his military duty, Marty was divorced. But his business acumen and management skills shone at a major Midwestern department store chain, where he became a buyer, then headed his local store and subsequently became a divisional vice president of merchandising for the entire chain. There he met his second wife, Gwen, who was a manager at the same company. Using his golden touch, Marty became the vice president for purchasing and later the vice president for credit sales for this $500-million retail department store chain.
Marty’s life journey was far from over when he retired. He moved to Florida and sold real estate to keep busy. Predictably, Marty became the top sales leader for his real estate office several years in a row.
While helping his nephew set up financial books for his new motorcycle shop, Marty’s life took a major change. He converted to Christianity and became a self-taught expert in the Bible. His family, mainly located in California, convinced him to come to California to live, and here he chose to join the congregation of a church called Calvary Chapel Thousand Oaks (now known as Godspeak), with its then-new senior pastor, Rob McCoy.
Marty immediately volunteered to do church finances and run the pastoral care ministry, helping the sick, elderly and shut-ins. Innumerable people were touched by his visits, prayers and love.
“One of my daughters was t-boned in a car accident, and she called me from the hospital in a panic about what happened,” says Lee. “Who should walk in but Marty. Marty made her feel so much better, both physically and mentally. She felt calm and safe as he held her hand and prayed and anointed her forehead with oil.”
Marty also cared for Gwen who has for many years suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. He was faithful to his friends in the Christian community and in community service groups such the Lions Club International, for whom Marty served as treasurer of the local club. He also maintained deep roots in the Jewish community and the local medical community. Each time he visited a person in the hospital, Marty exited through the waiting room of the emergency admissions so he could pray with families of any religion that needed comforting.“Marty was the epitome of love,” Lee says. “He devoted his final twenty-plus years to ministering to the elderly, sick and shut-ins, which was his personal passion. I am sure that Marty, with his life of loving his neighbor as himself, has now heard the famous words from Mathew 25:23, ‘Well done, you good and faithful servant!’”