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An unexpected accident that occurred in October 2018 changed the Martin family forever when a tree fell onto the family’s SUV, while they were driving in Caledonia, Wis.

The incident tragically took the life of Michelle Martin and severely injured William “Bill” Martin, a former Horlick High School educator.

It is believed that strong wind gusts are to blame for the accident, which took place on 4 Mile Road, near Nicholson Road, and consequently forced Bill to take a leave from his career as an educator.

The accident, however, hasn’t completely taken him out of the game. With the help of generous donors, he hopes to purchase a van that will be adapted to meet the needs of his disabilities. By having transportation, he will be able to get back into the classroom to do what he loves.

“When I got in front of students, I loved it,” said the math teacher.

Bill Martin
The aftermath of the accident. – Credit: CPD
Bill Martin
The family SUV, crushed by the falling tree. – Credit: CPD

Life-threatening injuries change Martin’s mobility

Teaching came to a halt when he sustained life-threatening injuries due to the impact of the falling tree.

Bill Martin
Bill, in the hospital after the crash. – Photo courtesy of Bill Martin

“I remember the day before, but I really don’t remember the day of. And some people say that it’s good that I don’t remember,” said Martin.

Originally he was transported from the scene to Ascension All Saints Hospital in Racine.

Given the extent of his injuries, Bill was taken via ambulance to Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

“They wanted to take me (by) flight for life, but couldn’t because the winds were so strong,” he said. “There were 50 to 60 mile-an-hour winds.”

Martin was in surgery for 14 hours after the crash. He had surgery on both of his wrists, as well as on his neck due to a break in his C6 vertebrae.

“There were three different surgeons, with different surgeries going at the same time. One (surgeon) came out and said to my daughter, ‘we don’t think he’s gonna make it,'” he recalled.

Along with a broken neck, Martin sustained many other broken bones including his radius and eight of his fingers.

He was in a coma at the time. Still, years after the accident, Martin continues to deal with the everlasting impact of restricted mobility and the loss of his wife. Through the years, he’s had complications and additional surgeries as a result of the accident.

Three of the four tendons in his rotator cuff were torn, which wasn’t discovered until about six months after the accident took place. On top of that, Martin sustained a broken leg during his recovery process while attempting to get into a vehicle.

The accident forced Martin to use a wheelchair. The Marquette University Neuro Recovery Clinic has been influential in assisting Martin in his journey to regain his strength and relearn how to walk.

Striving to surpass transportation problems

Amongst the challenges that Martin has endured, he is striving to get back into the classroom once again.

“After the accident – before the pandemic – I actually was going back, once a week, and I was tutoring,” he said.

However, at this time, he is dependent on a private company for the use of their accessible van for transportation. To meet the needs of the school schedule and his physical therapy, his own vehicle is needed.

“There are so many good teachers out there that never will know how much their students appreciated them.”

Bill Martin, educator

Martin knows how appreciated he is because of his accident. People have outpoured their love for him.

Whether it’s through donations, or sending him cards and well wishes, people have supported him since the accident.

Bill’s first “cane walk” of 2023 – Video courtesy of Bill Martin

“It’s so much fun to know that I helped them (students) get to where they wanted to be. Now they’re paying me back,” said Martin. “I am a very, very lucky teacher.”

For his students

While the accessible van is for Martin to drive, it’s really for his students too; not to drive, but to help get their educator back into their classroom.

Bill Martin
Bill Martin takes a roll outside. – Photo courtesy of Bill Martin

“When you see the light bulb go on in the student’s eyes…When they finally get what you are trying to convey, or the concepts you are trying to teach them, it’s so cool,” said Martin.

Those interested in helping Mr. Martin can donate to his “Wheels to a teacher” GoFundMe page.

As of Wednseday (Jan. 18), he’s raised $14,211 of the $75,000 goal.

With the money, he will continue to help students learn by being present in their classrooms.

If there are any additional funds from the fundraiser, the money will be put towards his continued therapy or home adaptations.

In addition to the ongoing online fundraiser, a fundraiser was recently held at Georgie Porgie’s, 5502 Washington Ave, on Jan. 16 to raise the much-needed funds for the teacher.

Culver’s fundraiser is March 1

An additional fundraiser will take place at Culver’s, 4542 Douglas Ave, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on March 1. People can visit the establishment and mention they are there to support Martin and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the local teacher.

This story was originally published by the Racine County Eye on Jan. 11, 2023. We have since updated it to include new fundraiser opportunities as well as updated the donations received through the online fundraiser.


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