The Federal Way Police Department is mourning the loss of one of its own this week after officer Frank Martin lost his battle to colon cancer Monday.
Martin, a 10-year veteran of the department, was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer in late November of 2017. The department announced Martin, 44, died in his sleep early Monday morning on its Facebook page.
“Officer Martin was a remarkable man,” the police department said on its Facebook page. “He was a humble man and always made sure people felt cared for — both in the community and within our police family.”
Police spokeswoman Cathy Schrock said, even before learning how dire Martin’s diagnosis was, friends and colleagues had been discussing how the department could support Martin, his wife, Jennifer, and two children, Arianna, 7, and Elijah, 6.
“We all were in such shock,” Schrock said. “This is really the first time that we’ve had an officer so young be stricken with a devastating diagnosis.”
She said similar to responding to an emergency, with an incident command team in charge of various tasks, the department organized a care team that surrounded Martin and his family throughout the past months.
Schrock said FWPD Detective Heather Castro and her husband, officer Gabe Castro, longtime friends of Martin and his wife, Jennifer, became the liaisons between the department and the family. One of Martin’s lieutenants was in charge of answering questions about benefits or time off and providing Castro with the necessary documentation to take to the family.
Separate from the department, a couple of Martin’s colleagues on patrol set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for the family, and a group of police officer wives organized an online food chain to provide the family with meals.
“They never had to think about a meal from that point forward,” Schrock said.
For Heather Castro and her husband, the past few months have been difficult. She said she and her husband have been good friends with the Martins for a number of years, regularly visiting outside of work.
“We are friends to the point of almost calling each other family,” Castro said, adding the Martins’ children call Castro and her husband “auntie and uncle.” “When we found out about his diagnosis, we just knew Jennifer and the kids were going to need a lot of support.”
Castro said when she first reached out to the department’s administrative team regarding the family, the response was swift.
“It was just an absolutely amazing response,” she said, adding the administrative team not only put up proper communication channels as part of the care team, it also provided the rest of the department with weekly status reports on Martin as well as good times to speak with or visit the family.
As news spread, not only did the local law enforcement community reach out, officers in other communities, from Yakima to Oregon, did as well.
Castro said, around Christmastime, Lakewood Police Department officers took the Martins’ children shopping for presents using funds set up for officers with illnesses or who have been killed in the line of duty.
“It was so generous and overwhelmingly supportive of the kids and the family,” Castro said.
Also in December, FWPD Lt. Ray Bunk decided to organize a fundraiser and auction to benefit Martin and his family, especially since Jennifer Martin is going to college to become a nurse.
Bunk said the goal was to originally raise $10,000 and sell 100 tickets, but with strong police department and South King Fire & Rescue support and help from community supporters, organizers sold 400 tickets.
Castro said Martin had wanted to attend, but by the time the fundraiser and auction took place at the Federal Way Performing Arts and Event Center Feb. 10, his illness had progressed to such an extent that his treatment turned to pain management and keeping him comfortable.
Castro said Martin had made his wife promise that she would attend and represent the family and thank the community for all their love and support.
“It was just an overwhelming success, just more than anything that she or I could dream of,” Castro said of the fundraiser.
Schrock said the evening’s success was due, in large part, to community supporters like Shelley Pauls and Cheryl Hurst, who helped raise awareness and spread the word. Bunk also said generous auction donations from organizations like SKFR, local businesses and other individuals, like Seahawks radio commentator Steve Raible, generated a lot of interest and helped raise a great deal of money at the fundraiser.
“I was actually very surprised by the outpouring of the community,” Bunk said, adding to have so many people with different backgrounds coming together in one room to support a police officer and his family was both gratifying and exciting.
He said, after all expenses are paid, the family will receive about $35,000.
Because both Martin and his wife are from Eastern Washington and have extensive family there, funeral and burial services will take place in Sunnyside, Martin’s hometown.
There will be a viewing from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, at Smith Funeral Home, 528 S. Eighth St., Sunnyside. A wake and vigil is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 20, at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 907 S. Sixth St., Sunnyside.
A memorial service will take place at 10 a.m. Feb. 21 at St. Joseph Catholic Church with a reception to follow at noon at a nearby facility.
Schrock said the police department is still accepting donations to help Martin’s family with expenses. People can mail donations to the Federal Way Police Department Lieutenant Association in care of Frank Martin at the Federal Way Police Department, 33325 Eighth Ave. S., Federal Way, WA 98003.
People can also drop them off at the police department in person with a note specifying it’s a donation to benefit Martin.
“All of it goes to the family,” Castro said.