Martin Thiele, the subject of a feature story in the Ledger-Enquirer earlier this month ("Martin Thiele uses the fight of his life to inspire others"), died on Thursday after a four-year battle with rhabdomyosarcoma.
Survived by his mom and stepfather Christy and Travis Armentrout, his dad and stepmother Chris and Christie Thiele, his twin brother Mason and his stepsister Christa Armentrout, he left an impact that extended well beyond his immediate family.
Scott Ressmeyer said that he knew the day would come eventually. The founder of Scott’s Ride for Miracles, a cross-country motorcycle ride benefiting the Children’s Miracle Network at Midtown Medical Center, Ressmeyer had befriended Martin when the latter joined his group on a ride through Washington, Idaho and Montana in 2014.
Ressmeyer said he had spoken recently with Martin about the end of his fight.
“The last thing we spoke about was that no matter what the outcome is, to continue on with the Ride,” Ressmeyer said. “He never stood back from anything, and that’s how we honor him — by going forward.”
Ressmeyer and his group of 21 riders will set out on their final journey on Friday with heavy hearts, but determined to continue Martin’s fight in his absence.
“Even though things didn’t turn out the way we wanted, we’ve all learned so much,” Ressmeyer said. “We sit around and talk about how much we learned from Martin. To be so young and have so much wisdom about how you live your life. Bad things happen to good people, but you can carry his story on. It can help someone else.”
That was how Martin lived his life, according to Ressmeyer and a number of others. Jenn Woods, a nurse practitioner at the Oncology and Hematology Center of Columbus, spent a lot of time over the years with Martin during his treatments.
“And we all got a little treatment ourselves,” she said.
There were the jokes he played, the games he shared and, most of all, his contagious smile, she explained. She described moments where they played the card game Uno at the treatment center, and he would send everyone flying out of their seats when he would shout the game’s catchword.
Despite his illness, he was an inspiration to the younger kids who were struggling with their own challenges.
“People who don’t even know him. There were so many kids he was able to touch. Every day, he was a miracle in the flesh,” said Woods, her voice catching in her throat. “He was just a blessing in everyone’s life. He was a hero among ordinary people.”
He was one of the many who helped inspire the creation of the Ace Out Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders volleyball tournament, which will be held at Northside High on Saturday. The tournament’s proceeds will go toward buying games and books, things to entertain children during grueling hours of treatment.
The tournament’s organizer, Lindsay Johnson, said it will now be played in memory of Martin for the impact that he had on the people involved.
“We want to make sure that children like Martin do find a way to smile in the clinic when they are receiving treatment,” she said. “He will always be an inspiration to myself and my team.”
“Martin was someone no one could ever forget,” Northside High volleyball player Morganne Harper added.
One team consisting of Hardaway High coaches and administrators had already planned to play for Martin under the nickname “Martin’s Maniacs.” The event will be even more important to them now, Hardaway principal Matt Bell, who is a part of the team, said.
“He was excited about the name,” Bell said. “He wanted to come out, so we’re going to go out and give it our all. We’ll all be playing in his honor.”
Bell said he would remember Martin also for his drive. Despite being in and out of school due to his treatment, Martin was able to earn his Graduate Equivalency Diploma and walk across the stage in January.
“Life threw this kid a bunch of curveballs,” Bell said. “He would always adjust, adapt and overcome. Walking across that stage was a big deal for him and for a lot of people.”
Like Martin, Ressmeyer said that circumstances would not interrupt their plans for the ride. They’ll leave Friday and share their own private memorial service for Martin on the road.
“We know that he’ll be there riding with us,” he said.
Visitation for Martin will be held from 3-5 p.m. Sunday at McMullen Funeral Home, and the funeral service will be at 2 p.m. Monday at Solid Rock Church.