Marti squeezed every last drop out of her 74 years. Her motto, according to mutual friend Patty Chaplin: “What fun is it to have money if you can’t share it?”
And share it she did. She had a close circle of friends who sailed the world with her on her yacht and circled it on her plane. As Patty puts it, “She fulfilled all of our bucket lists.”
I met Marti 3 years ago when Patty and I attended a luncheon/fashion show benefit for Tampa’s Moffitt Cancer Hospital. The event was held in a tent erected on a tarmac of the Sarasota Airport. Patty and I were seated at Marti’s table before she arrived. Suddenly we heard the sound of an airplane engine. We watched a jet taxi to within several yards of the tent. Marti and a small group of friends and family descended the steps and walked to the tent. She was friendly and unassuming, dressed no more nicely, nor more bejeweled, than the rest of us. If I hadn’t known who she was or seen her disembark, I’d never have guessed she was one of the country’s wealthiest women. Nor would I have known she was suffering from what would be terminal cancer.
Hearing about Marti’s recent funeral, which she planned, I had to share her burial with Godsigns readers. But first, a little more about Marti…
Marti’s husband of 45 years, Wayne Huizenga launched 3 Fortune 500 companies: Waste Management, Blockbuster Entertainment and AutoNation. He also owned the Miami Dolphins (football), the Miami Marlins (baseball) and the Florida Panthers (hockey). The Huizengas had one box for family and one for friends in each stadium.
Marti loved watching their teams play. In 1996, the Year of the Rat, the Panthers competed for the Stanley Cup Finals. (They lost to the Colorado Avalanche.) During the game, fans celebrated goals by throwing plastic rats onto the ice. Marti brought bags full of rats and heaved them with glee. She hosted luncheons at her home for players and staff and cooked and baked herself. Once a friend’s son wore a Jets t-shirt to a Dolphins game. “Marti had a fit,” Patty says.
Marti was as generous to organizations as she was to friends. Her philanthropic passions were “kids, critters and cancer.” The Huizengas gave millions to the Humane Society, the Boys & Girls Club, Moffitt Hospital and many other causes. Marti put in countless hours of personal time as well.
Marti loved adventure. For one birthday, she flew in an F-18 fighter jet and landed on an aircraft carrier. After watching a TV special on the migration of polar bears, she arranged for 25 friends and family members to fly to Churchill, Canada, to witness it.
Marti often took a small circle of friends on travel excursions aboard their yacht (the 229 ft. Floridian formerly belonged to Greg Norman) or 737 jet plane.
At one point, she asked Patty, “Where else would you like to go?”
Patty said “Venice.”
Marti said, “Let’s go.”
2 years ago, when she still felt well enough, Marti took her girlfriends on a mystery trip. It would be their last. Screens on the plane were covered; window shades drawn. They landed at Teeterboro and rode to New York City where they enjoyed front row seats to “Book of Morman” and “Warhorse.” Designers welcomed them to their showrooms for private fashion shows. As always, the best wines flowed.
Several years back, Patty’s husband Lee’s family was badly injured in a car crash while on vacation. They were immobilized with multiple casts, braces and rods. Unasked, the Huizengas flew them all home from the hospital.
Marti loved giving gifts. Patty, who graduated from the U. of Florida, is a devoted Gators fan. Marti sent her gators in every form, including an enormous gator-shaped table and chairs. A devout Catholic, Marti sent a last gift to Patty a few weeks before she died. It was a leather-bound daily devotional, Jesus Calling, signed “to my true and dear friend.”
It was quite a life for a small town girl from Florida who once swam for tourists as a mermaid in Weeki Wachee Springs.
And now for Marti’s unexpected burial…
Her funeral was followed by a larger celebration of life. Her small funeral was by invitation only. It was attended by family, close friends, staff and several EMT firemen Marti had hired to take care of Wayne, who’s also been ill. Marti, who traveled the world in such style, chose a simpler way to travel to her final resting place–a plain pine casket. Mourners were given colorful Magic Marker pens with which to sign the casket with their names and a message. And so to accompany her to eternity.
Patty signed with the nickname Marti gave her. “Always in my heart. Pattycakes.”
(Thanks, Patty, for sharing your remarkable friend with Godsigns readers. What a finale.)