Longtime Cotati resident ‘Ronnie’ Martin dies at 64
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By Dave Williams  January 10, 2014 12:00 am

Cotati is mourning the loss of longtime resident James “Ronnie” Martin, who was born Jan. 4, 1950 in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and died on Jan. 6, 2014.

He suffered a heart attack at a home near Morro Bay and died while surrounded by friends who tried to revive him.

Ronnie, or “Woody” to a select few, moved to California at the age of 16 when one of his relatives relocated from the deep south to Los Angeles. He decided to help with the relative’s move out west and has lived in California ever since. Ronnie discovered the town of Cotati, when after moving to Eureka, he would swing through on his way for a visit to San Francisco. 

Soon, the musical vibe in Cotati proved to be a great attraction for Ronnie, who soon became immersed in Cotati’s rapidly flourishing music scene. Ronnie was a friend to musicians and music lovers alike. 

If a band touring through Cotati would have trouble with its sound equipment, Ronnie was usually there to lend the band his equipment so the show could go on.

Whenever there was a musical benefit held in Cotati to assist someone in need, Ronnie was usually at the forefront of organizing the event. Not only would he do the cooking, he’d also help book some of the bands, compile raffle prizes and would donate his sound system if necessary.

Ronnie was a fixture in Cotati, particularly in his favorite watering hole, The Tradewinds. When word of his untimely passing spread, the weekly Monday night Pro Jam at the Tradewinds was filled to capacity with people who gravitated to the bar because they knew that’s where Ronnie hung out. Some of the musicians who frequently play the local clubs broke into a cappella songs in honor of him.

“To say Ronnie had a big heart doesn’t even begin to cover it,” said longtime friend Pam Strutz-Mikowicz. “He has been there for so many people in so many ways. Of all the people we have lost over the past years, this by far is the hardest and saddest. He was always the first face I would look for when I went downtown, whether to the Tradewinds or if it was the Accordion Fest . Ronnie was Cotati; he was the Tradewinds. Cotati now feels like just a small town and the Winds just another bar. I am heartbroken.”

Some who were at the impromptu celebration of Ronnie’s life hinted they would petition the Cotati City Council to have a statue erected of Martin somewhere in the city.

He was raised by his grandparents in Mississippi and is survived by his nephew, John Boudin and his wife, Sheri, of Illinois. Sam and Meg Dakin, now divorced, considered Ronnie to be part of their family as he helped raise their four children – Hannah, Susannah, Samantha and Miles.

“He was our rock for well over 30 years,” Meg Dakin said while choking back tears. “It’s just hard to come up with the words to describe how big of a loss this is for our family.”

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