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Former Los Angeles Times columnist Al Martinez passes away at 85

Martinez wrote for the Los Angeles Times for 25 years. (Thinkstock)
Martinez wrote for the Los Angeles Times for 25 years. (Thinkstock)

Former Los Angeles Times columnist Al Martinez died Monday at West Hills Hospital of congestive heart failure, the newspaper reported. He was 85.

Martinez was a Times columnist from 1984 to 2009. He wrote columns for the Daily News from 2009 to 2013 and for the website LA Observed in 2013 and 2014, according to The Times.

Martinez had “an extraordinary ability to take something very personal and spin it out beautifully to make you laugh or weep,” Sue Hodson, curator of the 2012 Huntington Library exhibit “Al Martinez: Bard of L.A.” told The Times.

Martinez was “the voice, not just of Angelenos, but of Everyman and Everywoman,” Hodson told The Times. “He captured bits of humanity in his writing, writing eloquently, gracefully and movingly of the human situation. He told universal stories and wrote about what unites us.”

According to The Times, Martinez joined the paper in 1972 as a reporter and contributed to three Pulitzer Prize-winning efforts — a 1983 series on the growth of the Latino population in Southern California,1992 coverage of the Los Angeles riots and 1994 reporting on the Northridge earthquake.

Martinez was born on July 21, 1929, to Oakland, married fellow San Francisco State student Joanne Cinelli when he was 20 and soon joined the Marine Corps. He served in the Korean War from 1950-52 as a rifleman and combat correspondent.

Upon returning from the war, Martinez briefly attended UC Berkeley but left to join the Richmond Independent as a reporter. He moved to the Oakland Tribune in 1955 and stayed until 1971.

In addition to his wife, Martinez is survived by a daughter, Linda; a son, Allen; and six grandchildren. Another daughter, Cinthia, died in 2011.

Services are pending.

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