Neil B. Martin ’65 died on October 30, 2020 in Freeport, Maine.
(The following was published by Maine Sunday Telegram on November 8, 2020)
Neil B. Martin, 77, of Freeport, passed away peacefully in his home on October 30, 2020.
Widely known for his Goldenrod Garage in Freeport, Neil lived life to the fullest. A race car driver, car collector and teller of tales, he transformed a former chicken farm into a showplace for “interesting older autos – talked about enthusiastically, bought, sold, and traded.”
Born in Bangor on January 26, 1943, Neil was the older of Bill and Blanche Martin’s two children. He attended Bangor public schools and was chosen a National Merit Scholar. Neil was also selected his senior high school year as one of 10 students nationally to participate in a leadership program that included international travel. He boasted of swimming the Bosporus during a program stop in Istanbul.
He went on to graduate from Bowdoin College, majoring in history and establishing enduring relationships. Neil held his Bowdoin and Kappa Sigma fraternity dear. He recently established a scholarship at Bowdoin.
Following a brief “flirtation with Corporate America” while also tending bar nights and weekends in Boston, Neil left to purchase the Alpine Inn in North Conway, NH. He made lifelong friends running this vibrant restaurant, hotel and nightclub. One such friendship led to his selling the “Fun Spot of the North Country” and moving to Portland where he acquired and managed rental properties in historic buildings.
Forever interested in cars, Neil finally turned his lifelong passion into establishing Goldenrod in 1978. Neil liked to say that from his earliest conscious though he was captivated by wheels and things that made them go ’round. When he was just 14 years old, Neil purchased his first car for $25 and sold it three months later for $65. The thrill of that sale steered him down a path from which there was no going back.
As its sole proprietor, Neil grew Goldenrod into an internationally acclaimed classic car dealership. He converted a farm into a storage facility for cars and other vintage items, including coke machines, tabletop radios, signage and more. Neil sought out items that evoke memories, pieces of metal that transport people through time and space. He enjoyed digging up old cars, locating beautiful junkers and rescuing them from obscurity. Goldenrod sold hundreds of cars annually, many shipped to locations around the world. Even to those not interested in cars, there was something electrifying about speaking with a true fanatic. Neil’s energy generated from his love of “interesting older autos” was contagious.
Car racing was also a particular passion. Neil could be found in his spare time on speedway tracks all across New England driving his cars as fast as he dared to go. He truly appreciated the time spent with fellow race drivers and enthusiasts, most recently as a member of the Wicked Good Vintage Racing Association.
Neil was a colorful character in every sense of the word. He was a showman with fascinating life experiences to share. His go-to wardrobe included wide arrays of mismatched Converse All Star sneakers, suspenders and long bill caps for any occasion. He was sought out to appear in television commercials and shows. The Goldenrod answering machine provided an ever changing glimpse into his daily life, alerting callers that he was out “delivering a car,” “doing the exercise thing,” “making a trip to Hollis” or, most often, “moving inventory around.” No matter what the content of the message, it always ended with Neil exhorting the caller to “Enjoy a great day!” Neil was fortunate to have found his passions and make those into such successful lifelong pursuits that he could truthfully state he never worked a day in his life.
Above all, Neil was a loyal friend, loving uncle and devoted godfather.
He is survived by his sister, Paula McAuley, her husband Kenneth McAuley; nieces, Kristen Holdgate and Sarah McAuley; and godchildren, Spencer and Lily Hoffman.