GHS legend Billy Martin turns 80


Sofia Orlando

Mr. Billy Martin poses with his newly restored 1956 Ford pick up Truck


Picture this. It’s an exciting day in the auto shop. Everyone gathered around the engine you’ve all been working so hard to get running and with one final tweak, it’s on. Everyone is cheering and now has a newfound sense of pride, but the proudest of all would be the man behind it all: Mr. Billy Martin.

Martin, who turned 80 last month, began at GHS as the electrical shop teacher in 1986,  and also helped with extra jobs around the school. After his retirement in 2009, Martin found himself back at the school working on his true passion- 1956 Ford pickup trucks. He has now purchased three of them over the years and finds joy restoring them on campus with the help of the auto shop students. 

“I love the automotive shop,” Martin said.  “I used to teach in electrical shop for 23 years, and I retired in 2009, then I started volunteering over here in the automotive department. Now I am a permanent substitute for the program and I’m in full teaching mode.” 

When asked why Martin keeps returning to GHS, he said it “gives him something to do.” 

“I love working with old cars and engines like this, and I love working with the kids,”  Martin said. 

Currently, Martin is substituting for Mr. Porter, and he has been a frequent volunteer for the shop programs. Martin expressed  joy for his and the auto shop students’ accomplishment of getting a 30 year old donated engine up and running. 

“He sounded like a kid on Christmas day,” said his daughter Kellie Verga. “When he spoke of this, his excitement was not that the engine was working. His excitement was that the students were engaged and proud.”

Former student and electrical shop alumnus Joe Sanfilippo also reminisced on his relationship with Martin. 

“Four years of his class got me to where I am today,”  Sanfilippo said. “Twenty-five years of doing electrical work from being an apprentice, licensed electrician, owner of an electrical company, and currently a city electrician for the city of Beverly. I still remember the daily chin up competitions and Mr. Martin crushing everyone’s numbers!” 

Verga said of her father “My Dad has more patience than anyone I’ve ever known. He takes the time to help kids that are struggling in any way,” she said. “Anyone who knows him will tell you how awesome he is. I am so proud of him.” 

Visit Mr. Martin in the auto shop to wish him a happy 80th birthday, and spend some time getting to know this GHS legend!