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Friends, drivers remember Marty Ulrich Sr.
There was laughter, there were tears. There was fond recollection of "famous" wood-fire oven pizzas, baseball, youthful mischief and family. And there was a bit of the University of Notre Dame tossed in. As his family would attest, Marty Ulrich Sr. wouldn't have had it any other way.
Donning blue and gold lapel ribbons, family and friends gathered Friday at St. Monica's Church to share stories and say goodbye to Ulrich, whom many Mercer Island residents came to know as a friend and a godsend at the gas station on Sunset Highway.
Ulrich died Oct. 19 at his beach home on Whidbey Island. He was 75.
Ulrich made a lasting impression on the people he served, as Ulrich's grandson, Chris, was well aware. He told a story of taking a week-long trip on a rented houseboat with his grandfather when, after getting lost and in trouble, they had to dock on a beach that was private property.
The owner of the property wasn't too thrilled until the elder Ulrich identified himself. "It turned out her mother lived on Mercer Island, and he had fixed her car," Chris Ulrich said, almost shaking his head. "Two hundred miles away, she knew who he was."
Lifelong friend Gary Maletta, six days older than Ulrich, knew Marty Ulrich since he was 7 years old. "He was my oldest friend," Maletta said. As a child, Maletta lived on Flora Ave. in Georgetown, while Ulrich lived on Carlton Ave. Together they went to St. George's Catholic School, where they would get into youthful mischief. They played baseball together at St. George's, winning a championship with Ulrich the successful pitcher and Maletta his catcher.
They remained friends as adults, with Maletta going on to work at Rainier Brewery and Ulrich operating his gas station. Maletta remembered Ulrich as a hard worker who worked 12 to 14-hour days. He praised Ulrich's penchant for fishing, claiming with a laugh that Ulrich "got steelhead every time he fished." When Maletta lost his teenage son, it was Ulrich who made sure to be at the hospital with his friend.
"He came in all dressed up," recalled Maletta with teary eyes. "I said to him, 'What are you doing here?' He said, 'I'm going to spend the day with you.'"
Family and friends remembered the pride Ulrich took in managing his gas station, whether it was staying stocked on popular items or keeping the garden blooming on the corner. They remembered gathering at his beach house on Whidbey Island, where Ulrich was equally proud of his "famous" pizza and the house that he built.
And after all the laughing and crying and recollecting began to subside, Chris Ulrich played the Notre Dame fight song, just as Marty Ulrich Sr. would want it.