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Dedicated drama, speech instructor described as 'magical' by his friends

Martin Carter, well-loved instructor and drama coach in Park Rapids, will be remembered for his selfless commitment to others.

He passed away Wednesday, Dec. 22, at age 76.

Students were a priority for Carter. Each one was important and there was no such thing as a small part, in his opinion.

"Martin was magic," said Joey Collins, who taught with Carter for five years in Park Rapids. "It was never about Martin. It was always about the other person."

Carter was a mentor for Collins, who began student teaching in Park Rapids in 1975. Although she only taught with Carter for five years, she said their lives were intertwined over the years and they stayed in touch.

He started teaching in Park Rapids in 1958. Although he initially thought he would stay in Park Rapids for just a few years, he made a career here, retiring 35 years later, in 1993.

The drama program rose to fame under his dedicated leadership.

During his career, Carter brought 19 one-act plays to state competition, with star performances at eight. He also led speech students to a high level, placing Park Rapids fourth overall in the state, including 10 years in competition with AA schools. He was also a coach for National Forensic League champions.

In March 1993 he was inducted into the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame with 10 other individuals from various disciplines. His photo is on the Hall of Fame wall in Brooklyn Center depicting all of Minnesota's great achievers.

He racked up a collection of trophies unprecedented by any other Park Rapids organization. His classroom had two walls worth of shelves filled with trophies and additional trophy cases in the hall.

He formally retired in 1993 but continued to be involved in theater and speech at Park Rapids Area High School.

Juliann Kjenaas, current drama director in Park Rapids, has fond memories of working with Carter.

"He was quite the fixture at the school here," she said. "He continued to come in and help critique students and make them better."

He also helped judge one-act competitions after he retired. Kjenaas said Carter lived for bringing out the best in kids.

"The thing about Martin was that he was always there for the kids," she said. "He was just a bigger than life character."

"He has sacrificed himself entirely. There is not anyone more dedicated to the kids in getting their full potential," according to retired teacher Bruce Burkman for a previous story for the Enterprise. He worked with Carter as an English teacher and drama director.

Carter was also involved in community theater productions, including "The Music Man," "Bye Bye Birdie," "The King and I," and the "Wizard of Oz."

He received the honor of Coach of the Year in 1988 for helping his own students as well as students from other schools. He also received the Outstanding Individual in Communication and Theatre Award by the Communication and Theater Association of Minnesota.

Carter worked with many students over the years and had a lasting impact on them. His legacy will remain at Park Rapids Area High School.

Funeral arrangements are pending with Cease Family Funeral Home. An obituary will appear in a future edition of the Enterprise.