If you have ever read Boneyard Banter, there is a pretty good chance you know who Whitey is. He could just be another username on Boneyard that you see replying in a funny way to a topic or coming up with a clever nickname for something about the Pirates. However, Whitey’s presence on Boneyard could mean a lot more than that if you are one of the people that has been fortunate enough to be touched by his kindness and sincerity. If you don’t read Boneyard (and you should) then let me pass along an incredible story about one of the biggest East Carolina University fans that I have ever come into contact with.
Michael ‘Whitey’ Martin grew up as “a military brat” living all throughout the United States but still had roots to eastern North Carolina on his mother’s side. He began following ECU’s wrestling program while he was in high school because of their national recognition. ECU’s wrestling program was dominate throughout the state and also had a national championship under its belt.
Whitey began wrestling for the Pirates in 1972 after his family moved to Jacksonville, NC. He didn’t really know what was in store for him. He learned quickly as he was pinned quickly by wrestlers in lower weight classes. He was taught a lot from a former All-American Wrestler named Milt Sherman (pictured right) that was in his weight class. During Whitey’s junior year when he was about to become a starter in his weight class, he tore all the ligaments in his left leg which instantaneously ended his wrestling career. Since all of Whitey’s friends were Pirate athletes and he was sidelined, he turned into one of the biggest Pirate fans out there and attended as many ECU sporting events as he could and never looked back.
During his time at ECU, Whitey opened two night clubs in Greenville called Jolly Rogers, the first disco in North Carolina, and The Line, a jazz club in downtown Greenville with cocktails and waitresses. He graduated in 1977 and came to the realization that he could make more money with a screen-printing business than with the clubs or as a teacher which he received his degree for. He started creating t-shirts for various music artists around the state including The Charlie Daniels Band first concert t-shirt.
Three years ago, Whitey fell victim to the 2007 Peanut Butter/Salmonella outbreak involving Peter Pan peanut butter. He was one of the 425 people to be infected. He didn’t recover from the salmonella infection naturally so the doctors brought him in for various tests and found a malignant tumor the size of a half dollar with 32 lymph nodes. It was colon cancer. He was told that that anything past six months would be a blessing. He decided to undergo treatment. Over the next few weeks, Whitey was bedridden while the doctors worked on him to clear the infection.
While he laid in bed, Whitey opened up his laptop and connected with his fellow Pirate friends on Boneyard Banter and asked them to keep him in their prayers. He was blown away by the amount of replies that filled up the entire page of the site throughout the day. He said that the Boneyarders will never know how much it meant to him and how it helped him through his miraculous recovery. He is now in complete remission from the colon cancer.
The road for cancer survivors does not turn into Easy Street after the cancer has gone into remission. The medical bills from the treatments don’t just disappear. It is next to impossible to find health insurance that doesn’t charge exorbitant rates for recent cancer survivors because of the likelihood that the cancer may come back into play. Whitey was going through this and starting facing difficulties when his COBRA insurance ended on May 1, 2009. The medical bills began to push him into bankruptcy and he was receiving calls from collection agents saying that they were going to put a lien on his house.
Again, Boneyarders came to his rescue with advice on what to do and some of the even sent checks to his house to help out. Whitey decided that he didn’t want to except money because there are so many other people in the world that needed it more than him. He voided the checks and told them that he did so. He wanted to find a way to be able to get himself out of this hole on his own.
A few months before Whitey went into the hospital, he had been working on a t-shirt design that he thought would be a great way to make some money. His idea was to make a Jolly Roger shirt with a simple black and white color scheme. The shirt would be symbolic of the Graveyard of the Atlantic and the history of the pirates in North Carolina. It would have the word ‘Pirates’ on the front of the shirt (see above) and have the skull & crossbones (below) on the back. Whitey got the full blessings from the university and used the official skull and crossbones of ECU (minus the Purple & Gold) on the shirt. He was about to begin manufacturing them on a bigger scale when he was forced to enter the hospital for cancer treatments and the project fell by the wayside.
During his years, Whitey has been “a God fearing man though [he is] far from an angel” and has been told by people on more than one occasion that he was the wildest Christian that they have ever met. He is a man who has great values and understands what it means to be a Christian. He admits the mistakes that he has made and just asks for forgiveness in return. Whitey lives for his family, his friends, his God and his Pirates.
As Whitey began looking for ways to pay for the treatments, he felt that God told him that these t-shirts would be a way for him to pay off his bills and get out of the financial rut that the cancer had put him in. He began contacted lots of people around eastern North Carolina. Through his contacts, he was able to gain permission from Emerald Isle City Hall to sell the Jolly Rogers shirts on the beach around Bogue Inlet Pier. He is currently contacting various other places to see if they would allow him to sell the shirts there and is pushing to make this version of Jolly Roger into “the official Skull & Crossbones’ logo of eastern North Carolina.
After Whitey gets back on his feet from the financial burden that the cancer treatments have forced him into, the proceeds from each shirt will go to a cancer relief fund and the Pirate Club which are both very close to his heart. This t-shirt is an officially licensed NCAA product so East Carolina University receives a percentage of each sale.
Buy a shirt and support a fellow Pirate in need. See below information on purchasing a shirt. You can contact Whitey by e-mail if you would like to get some more information about his story or the shirts. If you have bought or will buy one, shoot me an e-mail at 200YearsTooLate@gmail.com with a picture of you in the shirt because I would love to post all the pictures of those that are supporting Whitey’s effort.
Whitey has short sleeve t-shirts in S/M/L/XL for $15.00 each.
Short sleeve XXL add $2.00
Short sleeve XXXL add $3.00