With the passing of local businessowner Paul Martin on Dec. 17, Cottage Grove lost a small but important piece of its community.
Though an owner of three businesses in town, Martin was perhaps best well-known for his CG Classic Taxi service and many who relied on the service have been left wondering about its future since his passing.
Fifteen years ago, Martin won a fight against cancer, explained Martin’s daughter Christina Seeto.
“But with the chemo and radiation, they caused organ damage specifically to his kidneys and liver. … And pretty much finally what got him was organ failure due to cancer treatments,” she said. “Unfortunately, with his passing, there will not be any more local taxi.”
The loss of the taxi service means some residents will have to find other methods of transportation.
Besides the loss of this service, however, Cottage Grove also lost a member committed to his community.
Born in Cottage Grove on Sept. 8, 1948, Martin was raised and lived his life here until his passing.
Out of high school, Paul began his career at Bohemia Mill.
He then enlisted in the Army and served in Vietnam, receiving commendations.
“With diligence, determination, loyalty, initiative, and perseverance, he led others to accomplish maximum achievements with distinct credit,” read his obituary.
Following Vietnam, Martin returned to the mill until retirement, after which he brought three new businesses to the community: PM Tax Service, CG Classic Taxi, and CG Historical Guns.
In 2002, he worked as a driver at South Lane Wheels and worked just over six years at the nonprofit, where he also served as a dispatcher and bookkeeper.
During this time, he realized that there was a transportation niche needing to be filled in the Cottage Grove and Creswell areas and, in 2008, he started up CG Classic Taxi.
The business pushed the limits of the what might be called “humble” beginnings. His first taxi was a station wagon — with some flair.
“We actually painted that taxi the brightest candy green,” recalled Seeto. “So, it was this 1976 bright candy green station wagon. And he even put a subsystem in it with neon lights. His whole idea was to draw attention and have that whole shock effect.”
Having just completed his bout with cancer, Martin was taking advantage of his new lease on life, even sporting a mohawk hairstyle.
“[Surviving cancer] is what led him to just live life and just go for it,” said Seeto. “And so he started the mohawk and he started the taxi service; he would color coordinate his mohawk to go with the holidays — green and red or red, white and blue. Or sometimes it would be bright pink or bright green just for that shock effect.”
Martin’s taxi company carved out its own place in the community, expanding its service to provide medical transport with RideSource.
Though popular and relied upon by many, it was not a cash cow for Martin.
“It never made him money, but he felt like it was a service to the community,” said Seeto. “So, he basically did it for free for people. And it always that just came out of his personal pocket, because he wanted to provide a service to the community.”
Last month, Martin succumbed to his long battle with organ failure.
With his passing, CG Classic Taxi no longer has its iconic owner to maintain the operation and the business is in the process of being sold to Lane Medical Transport Company. The Eugene-based company will operate out of the same CG Classic Taxi building and continue medical transportation services in the area.
Martin also owned the business CG Historical Guns, which his daughter described as more of an expression of a collector’s hobby than a business venture.
“My dad was a huge, avid Star Trek fan and collector,” said Seeto. “He had the largest Star Trek collection in the State of Oregon, but then he sold that and he wanted to start collecting guns. And while he was collecting guns, his collection just kept expanding.”
Seeto described her father as an outdoorsy type, in love with dancing and Country Western music.
“[He was] always fun-loving,” she said. “He didn’t want to let anything get him down. He didn’t want to deal with any problems. He’d rather give you the shirt off his back versus charge you a dollar for it. He was interested in whatever makes everybody’s life easier. Helping people was way more important than making a dollar.”
His commitment to others was recognized, too. Martin received the Hometown Hero award from the Portland Trail Blazers for his years of playing Santa Claus in the community.
Martin’s son, Shawn, was born with muscular dystrophy (MD), which came with a life expectancy of around the age of 15.
Following Shawn’s passing, Martin gave back to the muscular dystrophy community by visiting the homes of families who had children with the genetic disease, dressing as Santa Claus to bring joy into their lives.
“That was very important for him, to honor kids with MD,” said Seeto.
Per his own request, there is no funeral planned for Martin. However, the family is instead holding a Celebration of Life this summer, with details to be released at a later date.
For those who would like to join or share anything with his family, contact 541-285-3236. Arrangements are in the care of Smith Lund Mills Funeral Chapel and Crematorium.
Martin’s departure also leaves somewhat of a hole in the community in terms of transportation. His old workplace South Lane Wheels remains the only local option and some portion of the population may have to adapt to a different system.
While rideshare giants Uber and Lyft have a presence in town, South Lane Wheels in the past two years has tried to adapt to appease a demand for more spontaneous rides.
The nonprofit provides door-to-door services through reservation by calling in advance and scheduling a ride, which can extend as far as the Eugene-Springfield area.
There is also its on-demand LTD Connector service, which can be accessed through an app or by a call to a dispatcher. Also door-to-door, the LTD Connector books riders into an automated queue and takes them anywhere within Cottage Grove city limits.
Additionally, a Metro Shuttle service is designed for South Lane residents who have destinations outside the local service area and tends to accommodate those with medical appointments north of Cottage Grove.
Last year, South Lane Wheels also partnered with Umpqua Public Transportation District (UPTD) to start a pilot program called the Lane-Douglas Connector (LDC), which provides free rides between Eugene and Roseburg Veterans Affairs offices.
The LDC makes two round trips on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a single bus operating from 7:38 a.m. to 3:18 p.m.
Between the Eugene VA Clinic and Roseburg VA Medical Center, the connector stops at Peace-Health Community Medical Center and Walmart in Cottage Grove and at Ray’s Food in Drain.
The route has no direct connections with the Lane Transit District or UPTD bus routes.
For advanced ride scheduling with LDS, passengers can call UPTD at 888-232-8121.
For South Lane Wheels services, riders can book by calling 541-942-0456.
Because it is a reservation-based service, those who have become accustomed to using a taxi may have to prepare more than usual.
“They just have to be ready to ride,” said South Lane Wheels Executive Director Ruth Linoz. “For a future pickup, it has to be ready to go and ready to be picked up.”
Linoz said the nonprofit is expecting a bump in demand with the loss of CG Classic Taxi and is aiming to fill needs as they arise.
“We would love for people to know they’re not stranded,” she said.