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Florida Classics Library founder and environmental advocate Val Martin dies at 89

The St. Lucie News-Tribune logo The St. Lucie News-Tribune 7/30/2021 Catie Wegman, Treasure Coast Newspapers
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MARTIN COUNTY — Longtime resident Valentine R. Martin, who opened Stuart's first bookstore and saved historic publications, died Wednesday morning. He was 89.

"Val" Martin helped preserve literary pieces related to Florida and the Treasure Coast's history and environment, including "Jonathan Dickinson's Journal," "Everglades River of Grass," by the late Marjory Stoneman Douglas and "My Florida" collection by the late Stuart News Editor Ernest Lyons.

a man and a woman posing for a photo: Val Martin (left), longtime Martin County resident and publisher, died July 28, 2021. He was 89. Martin owned Florida Classics Library in Hobe Sound, where he helped preserve literary pieces on Florida's history and environment. His niece Julie Alexander, pictured, now runs the bookstore. © CONTRIBUTED BY JULIE ALEXANDER Val Martin (left), longtime Martin County resident and publisher, died July 28, 2021. He was 89. Martin owned Florida Classics Library in Hobe Sound, where he helped preserve literary pieces on Florida's history and environment. His niece Julie Alexander, pictured, now runs the bookstore.

Martin did not want a memorial service, but wished for all his friends to continue to fight to protect the Everglades, the ocean and Martin County, said niece Julie Alexander. 

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Martin died unexpectedly after emergency surgery to remove a mass on his colon that doctors believed was cancerous, his niece said.

"So many people loved that man," she said. "So many people in town remember going to his store when they were little kids."

Martin was a Florida native, born and raised in Hollywood. He moved to Martin County in 1958 and lived in Rocky Point until his death. 

He opened Valentine's Bookstore on East Ocean Boulevard, across from Memorial Park, that same year, Alexander said. The storefront, now named Florida Classics Library, moved to Hobe Sound, where it remains at 11300 S.E. Dixie Highway. 

In 1971, Martin started his publishing venture upon discovering Yale University Press was going to stop printing one of his favorite books, "Jonathan Dickinson’s Journal," Alexander said. He bought hundreds of copies and later acquired the rights to reprint the book himself. 

Florida Classics Library Publishing now prints about 23 books, said Alexander, who moved here in 2019 to help run the business with her uncle. She now runs it full-time.

"He did so much for me, and I learned so much from him in the last few years," she said. 

By continuing publication, Alexander said Martin was instrumental in broadening peoples' appreciation for the early days of Florida through these books, which have been distributed to museums and state park gift shops. 

Martin had no children, Alexander said, but is survived by his nieces and nephews. 

Alexander described her uncle as a calm, quiet and proud man who was "as smart as can be," she said. His love and passion for the environment won't soon be forgotten. 

Catie Wegman is TCPalm's community reporter. You can keep up with Catie on Twitter @Catie_Wegman, on Facebook @catiewegman1 and email her catie.wegman@tcpalm.com. 

Read more of Catie's stories, and support her work with a TCPalm subscription.

This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Florida Classics Library founder and environmental advocate Val Martin dies at 89

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