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Marty Houk, 80, dedicated sports copy desk editor at Newsday

Marty Houk of Plainview, who died Aug. 13,

Marty Houk of Plainview, who died Aug. 13, was an editor in the news and sports departments at Newsday from 1965 to 1995. Credit: Pat Houk

Marty Houk was never a postal worker, but when it came to his work as a night editor on the Newsday sports copy desk, the longtime Plainview resident operated under much the same creed — neither rain nor snow would keep him from making sure the sports section was published without a hitch.

Such was the case one snowy afternoon in the 1980s when Houk, seeing that driving was not an option, walked approximately 6½ miles from his Plainview home to Newsday’s office at the time on Pinelawn Road in Melville. Once the work was done for the night, Houk hitched a ride on a paper delivery truck, hopped off at Old Country Road in Plainview, and walked another few miles back home in the snow.

All in the name of "getting the paper out."

“That was the kind of dedication he had,” said Pat Houk, his wife of 58 years, who worked for 23 years as Newsday’s Educational Services Manager. “He knew that it was his responsibility to get that sports section out and he did it.”

Houk, a father of three daughters who worked primarily as an editor in both the news and sports departments at Newsday from 1965 to 1995, died Aug. 13 of late-stage dementia at Woodland Pond in New Paltz, a continuing care retirement community where he had lived since 2015, his family said. He was 80.

“I can’t imagine another man being a better dad to three girls,” said daughter Lisa Houk Makohon, 54, of Huntington.

Born Charles Martin Houk on Oct. 15, 1939, in Nashville, Tenn., he was the son of a Presbyterian minister and moved to Montana as a young boy. It was there that his lifelong love of sports, particularly the Yankees, blossomed. With no professional Montana baseball team, Houk heard tales of Yankee greatness and fell in love with the franchise. When the Houk family moved to Chicago in the early 1950s, Marty began to root for the Cubs as well, but nothing ever topped the joy of a Yankee win.

“For me, he was always the smartest guy in the room,” said daughter Rachel Houk Seeger, 52, of Massachusetts. “He would always know every player on that field. He would know their stats and would be able to almost call the game because of all the information he was able to keep in his brain. Baseball was definitely his passion.”

Marty Houk graduated Thornton High School in the Chicago suburb of Harvey in 1957 and went on to Northwestern’s School of Journalism, where he earned a bachelor's and master’s degrees.

After three years working as a copy editor at the now-defunct Chicago Daily News, Houk joined Newsday in 1965. Although a copy editor by trade and desire, Houk was given reporting assignments for six months to "know what it’s like to be edited," according to his wife. One of these assignments, writing under the name C. Martin Houk, included staking out the house of mob boss Joe Bonanno, Pat Houk said.

When Marty Houk was put back on the copy desk, Newsday bosses were so impressed with his work that they gave him a special assignment to copy edit stories for a Newsday investigative report probing improper investment activity between President Richard Nixon and his longtime friend Bebe Rebozo and Florida Sen. George A. Smathers, Pat Houk said.

Marty Houk was both an athlete and an adventurer. An avid tennis player, he held himself to a high standard on the court, Pat Houk said. As an avid biker, he would travel to Montauk and other far away places with the Massapequa and Huntington bike clubs. For Houk Makohon’s 16th birthday, the father and daughter trekked all the way from Plainview to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on their bicycles.

Marty Houk, who also lived in Kings Park from 2004 to 2015, was an active member and elder of the Smithtown Presbyterian Church and worked at the Smithtown Food Pantry.

“Marty was a perfect gentleman,” said former neighbor Gene Perri, 90, of Kings Park. “He was a highly intellectual man. He was a man of words who spoke brilliantly. He was a great guy to be around.” 

In addition to his wife and two daughters, Marty Houk is survived by another daughter, Adrienne Houk Maley of New Paltz; brother, Kendall Newcomb Houk of Los Angeles; and three grandchildren.

The family had a small memorial at Mills Norrie State Park in Staatsburg and will hold a larger gathering at a later date at Smithtown Presbyterian Church. Marty Houk was cremated, Pat Houk said.

In lieu of gifts, the family is asking for donations to the Alzheimer’s Association in Marty Houk’s name.

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