E. Martin Chavis, who grew up in a close-knit South Philadelphia neighborhood where everybody was poor and didn't know it, a salesman of products ranging from men's clothes to deli slicing machines and industrial chemicals, and an Army Air Corps veteran of World War II who promised his sweetheart he would come back in one piece, died Feb. 18.
"What's a South Philly guy?" Debbie wrote in a tribute. "Kids from immigrant parents. They didn't know they were poor, and they didn't care. It didn't matter. No big fancy playgrounds. The streets were their playground. Stick ball, wall ball, pimple ball. This was Marty Chavez's world."
Marty and four buddies were the subjects of a 1998 book called "Best Friends," by Sharon Wohlmuth and Carol Saline. It includes photos of the five pals at their desks in the Taggart Elementary School.
"Men of their generation don't have a way - or, for that matter, a need - to express the deep feelings they share. They just know what's there - something solid, dependable and nourishing," the authors wrote.
Marty is quoted as saying, "Our friendship is a comfort zone, like a soft pillow. We just grew up liking each other. Never had to hide anything. Nothing lurked in the shadows. No secrets. We could always just be ourselves."
The five were born a few days apart in June 1922, and were known as "the boys from Third and Raspberry."
Marty went on to Furness Junior High School and South Philadelphia High.
After Pearl Harbor, in 1941, he enlisted in the Air Corps and spent the war in England with the 8th Air Force loading planes with the bombs that would be dumped on the enemy.
After the war, he returned to Philadelphia and married Leah Weintraub - "who had waited for him and worried for him during the war years" - in 1945.
Marty was known as a "super salesman," Debbie said, who could sell anybody anything.
"Marty and Leah lived a wonderful family life," Debbie wrote. Leah died in 1993 and Marty moved first to Las Vegas, then to Florida.
Debbie is his only immediate survivor.
Services: A memorial service will be held in the spring.