Copeland Funeral Service

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Captain Ralph K. Martin passed away peacefully at home on July 9, 2021. He was born in Pittsburgh, PA on November 18, 1942, the first child of Drs. Albert Martin, Jr. and Phyllis C. Martin.

Captain Martin earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from The Pennsylvania State University in 1964, and a Master’s Degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1970.

Captain Martin was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Navy in June 1964. He served duty in Vietnam USS DAVIS (DD-937) and USS HERBERT J. THOMAS (DD-833). Later, he served as Commanding Officer aboard USS CHEHALIS (PG-94), as Executive Officer aboard USS LEWIS B. PULLER (FFG-23), and as Commanding Officer of the AEGIS cruiser USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN (CG-57).

From 1972 to 1975, Captain Martin was assigned in the Office of the Assistant to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, for Strategic Arms Negotiations, where he served as an advisor to the U.S. SALT Delegation in Helsinki, Finland and Geneva, Switzerland. He also served as the representative of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, negotiating procedures for the dismantlement and replacement of strategic weapons systems with Soviet representatives in the SALT Standing Consultative Commission.

Captain Martin performed duties as the Navy Aide to the Commandant of the Marine Corps from May 1979 to January 1981.

Personal U.S. decorations awarded to Captain Martin include the Legion of Merit with two Gold Stars, the Meritorious Service Medal, and the Navy Commendation Medal.

Captain Martin retired from active duty in the U.S. Navy in July 1994, after 34 years in uniform. From 1996 to 2003, in “retirement”, Captain Martin administered HUD grants in the state of New York, assisting low income households become home owners. In 2005, he moved to the South Carolina Lowcountry where he initiated “Granddad Boot Camp” for grandsons, Will, J.D., and Matthew Monts.

In 2013, Captain Martin set up RKMARTIN Enterprises, LLC, where he was “Clerk of the Works” managing the properties for 80 Lowcountry home owners.

Captain Martin is survived by his loving wife, Adele S. Martin, and two daughters, Michelle Pennell and husband, Brian, residing in Bluffton, SC, and Noelle Vail, residing in Burke, VA. He is also survived by four grandchildren, Will, J.D., and Matthew Monts and Taren Suraci and her husband, Anthony, and one great granddaughter, Dylan Suraci. He is also survived by two stepsons and their families, David Morris residing in Beaufort, SC, and James Metz residing in Anderson, SC. He is also survived by his sister, Patricia Donner, residing in Greenville, PA and his brother, Richard Martin and his wife, Joy, residing in Placerville, CA.

Captain Martin will be laid to rest at the Beaufort National Cemetery following a private ceremony. Please join the family for a reception which will be held in the upstairs Chart Room at the South Carolina Yacht Club, 10 Yacht Club Drive, Hilton Head Island, SC from noon to 2:00 pm on Sunday, July 18.

The family would like to express deep gratitude to Crescent Hospice-Beaufort office for their compassionate care. The family requests, in lieu of flowers, that memorial contributions be made to Crescent Hospice-Beaufort office, 2208 Mossy Oaks Road, Beaufort, SC 29902 or to the Military Officers Association (“MOAA”) Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 1824, Merrifield, VA 22116-9917 or on-line at

Online Condolences

  1. Jody Henson says:

    Ahoy Ralph,

    May you have fair winds and following seas.

  2. Krissy & David Onorato says:

    So many wonderful memories crabbing on the May River. Such a wonderful man. He will be deeply missed. Prayers for you and your family.
    The Onorato’s

  3. Kyle Grant Overby says:

    The sun on your face, the wind at your back. You’re clear of the breakwater now.

  4. Fred Heyse says:

    I was a classmate and commissioned at the same ceremony a “few” years ago.

    Sailor, rest your oar – we have the watch.

  5. Carol and Rusty Mather says:

    Adele… my heart aches…. We have lost a lovely friend.

  6. Bill Rebarick says:

    I was also a classmate at penn State and commissioned at the same time.


    Many condolences to the family.

  7. EWCM Eric Thomas USN (Ret) says:

    So sorry to hear this loss. I had the honor of serving with Captain Martin in the Navy, and thought very highly of him. So much so, that I served with him twice. On USS LEIWS B PULLER (FFG-23), his first Command at sea, where he helped me make Chief Petty Officer, andd again, at his request, served with him on USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN (CG-57) where he helped me make Senior Chief.
    R.I.P. Captain Martin, you will be missed.

  8. ETCS Dale E. Hower USN Ret says:

    I had the pleasure of serving under Captain Martin on the USS Lewis B. Puller FFG-23. I remember him as a CO who had the utmost concern for the well being of both his crew and their families. My wife also served as the ship’s ombudsman and has first hand knowledge of his concerns for the crew member’s wives, many of whom were experiencing their first exposure to life as a Navy wife. Rest In Peace Skipper.

  9. Bm2 Mueller Robert says:

    Sincerest condolences to the family.
    Had not known our roots to of been so close.
    Served aboard FFG-23 under Cmdr Nitzel, XO LtCmdr Kirk as well.
    If only the chance to have known how close, what a blessing it may have been to capture some of his Blessed wisdom once again!
    Rest in Peace Skipper

    Know darn well, I’ll be piping reveille when we meet again!
    May the sound of Taps give all family the comfort & Peace needed.
    That your grace, wisdom & actions here, have you sitting in highest with upon your Lord! Amen!!

  10. STGCM (SW/IUSS) Paul V Abney says:

    I had the pleasure of serving with Captain Ralph K. Martin onboard PCU/USS Lake Champlain CG-57. These were great memories with a great man who was ahead of his time in many leadership capacities as witnessed by the ships numerous accolades. Captain Martin will be sorely missed, my heart goes out to his family and friends. Prayers for all in this time of grieving. May God bless you and keep you well. Blessings, Amen! Rest in peace sir!

  11. TM3 Carl Plucker says:

    Capt. Martin was a great leader who I had the honor of serving under on the USS Lake Champlain. Your professionalism and seamanship continue to inspire me today.

    My prayers are with the Martin family. I would like them to understand what an impact he had on so many sailors!

    I am very sorry for your loss!

  12. Robert Corrigan says:

    A great memory: shortly after I qualified as an OOD he sat in his chair in the dark during an anchor watch in Singapore. I asked him how he knew I wouldn’t mess up and hit another ship. He laughed and said “Bob it’s my job to know who to trust and when you are in my position you’ll know too.” It was a great moment for me.
    CAPT: thank you for trusting and being patient with me. I will always remember it.

  13. RM2 MICHAEL ROSS says:

    I’m a plankowner of USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN CG-57

    August 13th 2021, 1820

    I took great pride in serving under Captain Martin , I remember Mrs. Martin helping to provide a healthy menu for the ship, and that was the first time I had ever tried Tofu.

  14. OS3 John Mackey says:

    I am so sorry that hear about Capt Martin’s passing. I had the honor of serving under Capt Martin on CG-57 USS Lake Champlain.

    He opened his home to a small group of shipmates, both enlisted and commissioned to his home for Christmas in 1988, then followed with invites to sponsor family homes while we were on WestPac for Thanksgiving and Christmas 1989. He treated his Lake Champlain crew as members of his extended family. He was a great leader who strongly influenced my life’s journey.

    My family and I send our condolences.

  15. David Loe says:

    Fair winds and following seas

  16. SM2 Michael Thibodeaux says:

    Captain Martin was the most personable and encouraging Commanding Officer that I’ve ever seen. He cared about his sailors beyond our military obligations, he would also ask us about our families and future interests. He believed in me, an enlisted sailor, enough to let me perform Conning operations during an underway replenishment aboard the USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN (CG-57). He told me before his Change of Command, that if I ever needed a reference in the future, don’t hesitate to put his name on the list. My thanks to you for your example of professionalism, encouragement and empathy towards everyone that you encountered. The world is a poorer place without you. My condolences and prayers for his loving wife and family.

  17. OS2 Wayne Wing says:

    Very sorry to hear about the passing of Captain Martin.
    Like many others that posted before me, I had the honor of serving with him.

    I remember when he introduced me to Rear Admiral Reason, he remembered my first name, and also told the Admiral my wife’s name (Captain Martin had only met her once, months before.)

    He made a profound impact on my life.
    He was the model of what a good and courageous leader should be.

  18. BM3 Elbert Thornton says:

    MY CAPTAIN! USS Lake Champlain CG-57. The greatest commanding officer the navy had. I am one of many who owe you so much. Fair Winds and Following Seas, Sir!

  19. Alan Grooms says:

    I did not have the pleasure of serving under Capt. Martin on Lake Champlain but certainly many I served with did, and I can say he was respected and loved for the leader he was. I never heard anything but positive things about him and I know from what I heard as well as comments on here that he has left a positive impact on all whose lives he touched. My condolences to the family.

  20. BM2 Manuel Diaz says:

    from the Diaz Family our respects and condolences to the family, Serving aboard USS Lake Champlain, it was a privilege serving with him as my CO, May Fair Winds and Following Seas, on your voyage to the almighty.

  21. CT02 Mark Bond says:

    Serving with Capt Martin on Lake Champlain is one of the highlights of mymy life. I got to “mess crank” for him in the Wardroom during commissioning. He was such an honest and personable man. He was always interested in you as a sailor and a person. I remember him sitting in his chair on the bridge wing in his coveralls, feet up on the rail, and his cup of tea. More than my Captain he was my friend. He let me stay at his bed and breakfast on Lake Champlain. My kids remember fishing off the dock just across from their house. Fair winds and Following seas.

  22. QMCM/CMC William Herbert says:

    So very sorry to hear of Captain Martins passing. I had the distinct honor of serving as his Command Master Chief aboard the USS Lake Champlain CG57.
    He was a leader ahead of his time introducing many policies and procedures that have since become standard protocol. He had a profound impact on both my personal and professional life. He is deeply respected and sorely missed. Fair winds Captain Ralph.

  23. QMC (SW) BW "Jazz" Nash, USN Ret says:

    Capt Martin was more than just my Commanding Officer aboard the USS Lake Champlain when I was still a young Third Class Petty Officer. He was more like a Father figure who knew all of his 300 plus sons first names and personal information by hard.

    During a booze cruise on the Hudson River in New York City on the occasion occasion of a party after the Lake Champlain’s commissioning ceremony, I remember the crew literally jumping up and down around him chanting CAPT MARTIN, CAPT MARTIN in unison. He sincerely had rock star status which extended way beyond respect for his rank.

    He truely was a good hearted, fair and impartial man who I was honored to serve with and for.

    Rest in peace Skipper and one day I will see you on the other side.

  24. CAPT Ros Poplar, USN Ret says:

    I had the distinct pleasure of serving with CAPT Martin in Lewis B Puller (FFG). By far one of the finest leaders i have ever had the pleasure of serving. A true gentleman and leader who touched the lives of many Sailors in his selfless service. a practice I learned from CAPT Ralph K Martin an expert mentor in USS Lewis B Puller (FFG 23), was having the ships in port duty section get the ship underway while the rest of the crew was mustered on the fantail. This built their confidence, and they knew that in an emergency sortie, they could steam the ship out of harm’s way without the CO or XO embarked. This same CO one day when we set the special sea and anchor detail had the 1JV sound powered phone talker (a PN1) get the ship underway pier-side in San Diego without coaching – talk about a confidence building measure for both him and the crew ! In our minds we were invincible. RIP Sir.

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