Edward James Martin wore the hats of a renowned sculptor, teacher, scholar and Army veteran.

A true Renaissance man, Martin enjoyed cooking, gardening and taking on new learning experiences to deepen his knowledge, his family said. But his favorite monikers were simple: father and grandfather.

"I can't put into words the love I have for my father and the love he had for his family," said his daughter Lorna DeShay of Loganville, Ga. "He was always there for us and yet he pushed us to be the best we could be."

Her father was quietly adoring to his wife, Alma, his daughter said.

Martin, a retired industrial arts teacher who taught at J.W. Dodd Junior High School in Freeport for 40 years and a visionary artist, died of colon cancer May 2 in upstate Saugerties. He was 81.

"He instilled in us a hard work ethic and the importance of education, making the right decision and to always do right, to always think of the big picture," his daughter said.

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Martin was a renowned sculptor whose works are in the collections of the United Church of Christ in Cleveland and of numerous private and corporate collectors, his family said. After spending many years working with wood, he received a grant to study stone sculpture with a group of sculptors from the United States, Canada and Italy for two summers in New Hampshire. In the 1990s Martin traveled to Pietrasanta, Italy, where he honed his skills while studying marble sculpture with sculptor Rino Giannini for four summers.

"Daddy had a passion for creating sculptures," said his daughter Sinette Martin, of Jamaica, Queens. "His imagination and creativity [were] boundless."

Martin was born Sept. 13, 1931, in Camden, Ala., to Edward Watts and Mary Frances Martin. He graduated from Camden Academy in 1949, going on to Tuskegee University, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in industrial arts and design and a concentration in furniture building in 1953. He was in ROTC, where he was a commissioned officer and served in the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division as a paratrooper from 1953 to 1958 and left active service as a first lieutenant. Later he received a master's degree from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., and did postgraduate work at New York University.

In 1960, Martin began teaching industrial arts at J.W. Dodd Junior High School, where he remained until retiring as a technology teacher in June 2000. In 1962, he married Jacqueline Sinton and the couple settled in Central Islip, where they raised their daughters, Sinette and Lorna. The marriage ended in the 1980s.

In 1993, Martin married Alma Jones Norment of Hempstead, where they lived until 2006 when they moved to Saugerties.

In addition to his wife and daughters, he is survived by four grandchildren.

A memorial will be held May 31 at 1 p.m. at Congregational Church of South Hempstead United Church of Christ, Long Beach Road and Woodland Drive, South Hempstead.