Gary Marting grew up with an abusive father, and outside school, he mixed with the wrong crowd.
Eventually, he began abusing alcohol, and one time, he came dangerously close to teaming up with a friend to commit a felony.
After a dismal record in high school, no colleges would accept him.
Knowing all that, it would seem like he’d be the last person to make something of himself, but somehow, he became an intelligence officer during the Vietnam War and then achieved his dream of becoming an FBI agent.
In What’s Life Without a Dream?, he looks back at his difficult childhood, including how he overcame childhood bullying, as well as what led him to join the Air Force and his role in the war.
Marting could have easily allowed his life to unfold in a different direction. But with determination and grit, he climbed over obstacles and never once gave up on his dream.
Join Marting as he examines how he beat the odds, met his wife by sheer chance in Las Vegas, and made his mark as an FBI agent catching federal fugitives and solving white-collar crimes.
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About the Author
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"Die Morgenstunde hat Gold im Mund" — (German for "The morning hour has gold in its mouth")
My grandmother, Hedwig Marting, whenever asked why she was an early riser.
My earliest memory is of gazing out of the front window of my boyhood home in Springfield, Illinois. I watch men park their cars and carry their black lunch pails to work at Allis Chalmers, the big, heavy equipment factory a few blocks away. It's a sunny spring morning. My mother is nearby. I see a young girl walking alone to the public school, which is located just around the corner. I ask my mother if I'll have to walk to school alone. She reassures me that she'll walk with me until I know the way and get to know my teacher and new school friends. Still, I'm terrified at the thought of leaving her protection and being on my own.
Then my mother pulls a cigarette out of the pack, strikes a match, and lights it. I'm mesmerized by the way the end of the cigarette glows as she draws on it. A plume of smoke wafts out of her mouth and nose. It's the most amazing thing I've ever witnessed. I'm four years old and I've never seen my mother smoke before.
I was born on October 24, 1943, in Lubbock, Texas. My father, Harold, was stationed there in the U.S. Army. My mother, Ruth, told me that my birth was the happiest day of my father's life.
My father disliked names that spawned nicknames, such as Robert. One of his Army buddies had just named his new son Gary, and he was fond of the name. My middle name is Arthur, after my father's youngest brother who died at seventeen of diabetes. My mother agreed to the names, probably because she had no say in the matter.
He was drafted into the Army in 1942 and went for basic training to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. Upon arrival, he was given a physical exam to prepare him for training and his transfer to the World War II front. While cleaning out his ears, an Army medic accidentally ruptured my father's eardrum, rendering him temporarily ineligible for combat.
In early March 1943, the Army transferred him to the Lubbock Army Airfield, where he was assigned to an administrative unit as a typist. He remained there until his discharge from the Army at the end of the war in 1945. My father later admitted to me that his eardrum had healed within a few weeks, but he had decided to keep that information to himself. He used to tell me that, if it weren't for his busted eardrum, I would have never "seen the light of the day."
My father was the second of eight children of Henry C. Marting and Hedwig Louise Marting. Henry's parents were Anton Ludwig Marting and Elizabeth Sonneborn Marting. My great-grandfather Anton was born on March 10, 1845, in Grossherzogtum, a state in Germany on the east bank of the Rhine that existed between 1806 and 1918.
According to the Marting family history recorded by my Aunt Erna (my father's oldest sister), Anton lost his parents early. At age fourteen, he went on ship duty for eight years, where he survived many storms. In 1869, he left the sea, traveled to America, and settled in Cook County, Illinois, near Chicago.
My great-grandmother, Elizabeth Sonneborn, crossed the Atlantic from Frankfort, Germany with her parents in 1870. They stayed for a short time in Ulna, Illinois, before moving to Chicago in 1871.
Anton and Elizabeth were married in Chicago on February 24, 1872. In 1874, they moved to Iowa, where they settled a family farm five miles northeast of the small town of Carroll. They became U.S. citizens in September 1876. Anton and Elizabeth lived on or near the farm until their deaths, at ages sixty-five and seventy-one, respectively.
My middle name, and the first name of my father's brother, Arthur, came from the name of their youngest child, Immanuel Arthur Marting, who died at age twenty — suddenly and in great pain — of a ruptured appendix.
Anton and Elizabeth shared a strong religious faith. Though short of funds and needing assistance on the farm, they sacrificed much to allow their son Henry to prepare for the Lutheran ministry and always supported their church with generous gifts. When Anton's health failed due to heart disease and death was imminent, his last words, while surrounded by his tearful family, were in German: "Weint nicht, wie schon wird es im paradies sein," which in English means: "Weep not, how nice it will be in paradise."
Known as "Pop" to his children and "Papa" to his grandchildren, my grandfather — Henry Conrad Marting — was born in Carroll, Iowa, on November 17, 1882. He graduated from Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Springfield, Illinois, in 1904 and worked as a Lutheran minister for more than fifty years. He pastored churches — all rural — at Downs and Herkimer, Kansas, and in Nebraska at Gladstone, Seward, and Davenport. His longest stint — 1911 to 1931 — was at Zion Lutheran Church in Herkimer where he and Hedwig, called "Nannie" by her grandchildren, raised their eight children.
Papa also taught all eight grades of the Lutheran elementary school in Herkimer, a town that boasted — in its heyday — fewer than three hundred people. The nearest high school was fifteen miles away at Marysville, Kansas, where my father graduated. At Downs and Herkimer, Henry conducted all church services in German. At the later parishes in Nebraska, he preached one service in German and another one in English.
Shortly after I was born, Papa baptized me in the living room of our home in Lubbock, Texas. Other than posing for photographs, that was probably the last time he laid hands on me. He had little interaction with his grandchildren.
Papa was a self-righteous man, full of himself and in complete charge of all his family's affairs. I thought it strange that a man of faith, after services on Sunday morning, would sit on the front porch of the parsonage surrounded by family, smoke Crook cigars, drink Budweiser beer, and swear some (although he never took the Lord's name in vain).
He would pontificate about the ills of society — especially the Catholic Church. Other than in church, I never heard him discuss his faith.
On Saturday afternoons, his parishioners were required to "announce" — in person, to Papa — their intention to take communion on Sunday morning. This was no small feat, as most lived on farms a good ways down dirt roads. Individually, or as man and wife, they met Papa alone in his study where he "held court," as my mother used to say. Often, his loud voice could be heard coming from the room. "Old Mr. and Mrs. [so-and-so] are catching hell for something," Nannie would say.
One afternoon when I was eight, Papa was holding court with my dad, who had promised to hit fly balls to me when they finished. All the while they were in the study, I anxiously waited outside the door. When I couldn't wait any longer, I peeked into the room and asked my dad when he was going to come outside. He fell silent. Suddenly, with a very loud, bellowing voice, Papa hollered, "WE'RE TALKING!" Stunned, I stumbled backward and ran away. Papa and I never spoke directly to one another again.
Papa retired from the ministry in 1952. He and Nannie moved into the home in Fairbury, Nebraska, that they had saved for a lifetime to afford.
Papa died of a stroke on August 6, 1962, at age seventy-nine, still heartbroken over the death of his wife the year before. He was home alone, tending to his garden.
My grandmother, Hedwig Louise Droste, was born on August 14, 1886, in Mt. Olive, Illinois, the second of nine children born to Fred and Johanna Droste.
Fred had been born in Hanover, Germany, in 1859. In 1880, he, along with his brother Hermann, came to America and settled in St. Louis, Missouri. After completing a two-year course in commercial bookkeeping, they moved to Mt. Olive, Illinois, and went into the mercantile, lumber, and flour mill business.
In 1885, Fred married Johanna Elizabeth Arkebaur, the eldest daughter of Meint Arkebaur, who, at the time, was the wealthiest farmer in Mt. Olive. The Arkebaurs had emigrated from Germany in the early 1850s. Fred and Johanna settled on the family farm, where they raised their five girls and four boys. Their youngest son, Fred, was my father's favorite uncle. Their fourth child, Otto, would become owner and operator of Jagamon-Bode — a wholesale grocery warehouse in Springfield — and would be my father's boss.
My great-uncle Fred and his wife Deana lived in Litchfield, Illinois, nine miles north of Mt. Olive, and forty-five miles south of Springfield. They were gracious, wonderful people and we visited them often. They had two children, a boy and a girl. Their son was killed in action in World War II, after single-handedly holding off and killing more than thirty German soldiers during an ambush. His heroic actions allowed members of his platoon to escape to safety before he was killed by enemy fire. Uncle Fred became president of Milnot Corporation — a national brand that produced evaporated, sweetened, and condensed milk in cans.
Nannie was a baptized, confirmed, and faithful member of Mt. Olive Lutheran Church. As a young woman, she cared for her mother, Johanna, who was ill for many years. After her mother's death in 1908, she was in charge of the home and responsible for the young children in the household.
On or about February 1, 1907, my grandfather Henry conducted the funeral of Nannie's grandfather, Meint Arkebaur, at Downs, Kansas, where he had died on January 31. Henry accompanied his body to Mt. Olive for burial and met Hedwig on the trip. They were married two years later at Mt. Olive Church on October 17, 1909.
Throughout my childhood, I observed the deep and abiding love Henry and Hedwig had for each other, even as they shared their continuing grief over the death of their fourth child, Arthur.
In the midst of all of the loud voices, spirited infighting, and much Marting family drama over the years, Nannie remained a sweet and loving grandmother and was adored by her fourteen grandchildren.
My father and my Uncle Bill Marting would tear up when they spoke of her as a remarkable mother, excellent seamstress, cook, and homemaker, accomplished at the piano, of a quiet and loveable disposition, and a perfect pastor's wife. Her homemade ice cream, created from scratch with the cream of a freshly milked cow, was legendary.
Nannie died on June 26, 1961, from complications of heart disease after suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) for several years.
My mother's side of the family completed my pure German pedigree. My maternal grandmother was Margaret Richter Boehner, born in Springfield, Illinois, on December 12, 1899. According to census records, her parents emigrated from Germany and settled in Springfield in 1895.
My maternal grandfather, Thomas August Boehner, was born in Springfield on August 27, 1898. His father, John Thomas Boehner, and mother, Emma Fetzer Boehner, were born in 1861 and 1865 respectively, also in Springfield. John's father, Leonard, and mother, Emma, had been born in Germany. They emigrated and settled in Springfield in 1858.
Tom and Margaret had two children: their daughter was my mother, Ruth Evelyn, who was born in 1918. Their son, Thomas Edward, was born in 1922.
As the oldest of their five grandchildren, I had the honor of "naming" my grandparents. When I was asked, at less than one year of age, to say "Grandma and Grandpa," the first sounds out of my mouth were "Bom Mom and Kar Kow."
Kar Kow was about five feet, seven inches tall, slightly overweight, nd full of "piss and vinegar" as my mother used to say.
When I was a child, he would wrap his thumb and index finger around his wrist to point out to me where I got my small bone structure. Having "skinny bones" was nothing to worry about, he would say, and then point to his head and declare, "It's what's up here that counts."
Kar Kow was a proud butcher by trade. He learned his craft from his father, John, who founded Boehner's Meats in the mid-1880s. The Shop, as the family called it, was located in downtown Springfield, two blocks from the train station. He and Bom Mom left Springfield in 1917 and moved to Detroit for two years, during which time Kar Kow attended a business school. My mother, Ruth, was born there in 1918. Kar Kow took ownership of Boehner's Meats in 1938 when his father died. Over the years, he expanded the business to include groceries and home delivery.
My grandfather loved everything about the meat business, especially his days at the slaughterhouse, where he would watch the cows and pigs he'd purchased as they were slain. Back at The Shop, he skillfully butchered the sides of beef and pork, either to deliver as ordered or to put on display in coolers in the front of the store. Kar Kow had a bone-deep belief in quality, and he was proud of the German-made butcher knives he'd inherited from his father. I marveled as he swiped both edges back and forth over leather straps at lightning speed and then showed off how easily each knife slipped through flesh. He wrapped the meat orders with white butcher paper and tied white string into a bowknot so quickly, his fingers were a blur. Always joyful, he whistled while he worked.
Over the years, when business was good, he purchased shares of Illinois Bell Telephone Company stock. According to my mother, he made a small fortune doing so. He was financially able to sell the shop and retire at age fifty-nine — a very early retirement in those days.
Kar Kow was never one to seek out a bargain. When he built his retirement home on a tranquil, two-acre lot on Lake Springfield, he used only the highest quality materials. He took great pleasure in showing off his copper wiring and three-quarter-inch copper water pipes. "Always buy the best. It'll save you money in the long run," he would say.
Kar Kow loved to take my brothers and me to Capitol Airport in Springfield. Standing on the observation deck, we watched the twin-engine DC-3s and four-engine DC-4s take off with a loud roar. He would point out that the radial piston engines of these aircraft were built by Rolls-Royce and were the best in the world.
Years later, during bumpy rides through Southeast Asia in a DC3 — C-47 in the military — I took comfort knowing these solidly built aircraft were powered by what my grandfather believed to be the best engines ever made.
When he died in 1979 at age eighty-one, I asked for and received only one thing from his estate: his prized possession. It was a black, upright, Underwood typewriter, circa 1900. It sits proudly in my office at home now, a reminder of the many life lessons I learned from this fine man.
Bom Mom, my grandmother, was a quiet and loving person. A short lady, her salt-and-pepper hair was always rolled into a bun in public.
When I was about seven years old, I asked her to show me how long her hair was. I was shocked to see it cascade down past her waist.
I found Bom Mom's letters remarkable. Although she was forced to quit school after eighth grade to care for her family, she crafted wonderfully well-written letters, in perfect English, the words set down in her beautiful, Palmer Method handwriting.
Her heart was as beautiful as her penmanship. After disciplinary episodes with my father, she would wait until we were alone and then give me a hug and tell me that everything was going to be okay.
She suffered from hip pain as far back as I can remember. Even so, she wanted no part of a hip operation that, in those days, was considered almost barbaric. Kar Kow insisted she have the surgery, and she did. But afterwards, Bom Mom's quality of life — especially her spirit — was never the same. She walked hunched over with the aid of a cane for the rest of her life.
During the summer of 1976, while Bom Mom was having increasing difficulty getting around, she and Kar Kow managed to drive from Springfield to Montgomery, Alabama, to see their two great-grandchildren, Dana and Darren, for the last time. They swelled with pride as they sat in lawn chairs and watched the kids romp around in our backyard. Kar Kow admired Darren's "straight as a board" back, and said over and over again that Dana was the cutest and smartest little girl he had ever seen.
Kar Kow was devoted to Bom Mom and took loving care of her until he died. He had a stroke while sitting in his easy chair taking an afternoon nap on May 19, 1979. Contacted by a neighbor, their son Tom found Bom Mom late at night, still in bed, moaning, "Tom, Tom ..." while Kar Kow lay dead in the living room. She was taken by ambulance to a hospital and, within a few days, to a nursing home.
Except on the very rare occasions when she was unable to do so, my mother visited Bom Mom for several hours every day for the rest of her life. I've never known another person so dedicated to her mother's care and well-being.
Excerpted from "What's Life Without A Dream"
Copyright © 2017 Gary Marting.
Excerpted by permission of Archway Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part One Beginnings,
1 Heritage, 1,
2 Family, 13,
3 A Man with Two Sides, 25,
4 Dreamer, 37,
5 Best Buddy, 47,
6 Growing Up, 55,
7 Difficult Years, 69,
Part Two New Life,
8 Big Break, 83,
9 Saluki, 95,
10 Pilot Training, 123,
11 War, 141,
12 Vegas, Saigon, Diana, 157,
Part Three Living the Dream,
13 Absolution, 183,
14 Dream Realized, 195,
15 Cops and Robbers, 211,
16 White-Collar Crime and More, 239,
17 NFL, Motorcycles, Retirement, 279,