Valerie Backer Martin

October 22, 1933 ~ October 13, 2019 (age 85)


Valerie B. Martin, a wonderful daughter, sister, wife, mother, and grandmother, passed away October 13, 2019, after a long battle with Dementia, in Whitefish, Montana.
Daughter of Fredrick and Dora Backer, Valerie grew up in Los Angeles and attended Marlborough School (Class of ’51), excelling in many sports. After graduation, she spent two glorious months overseas, exploring England, France, Switzerland and Italy. Upon returning, she then moved on to UCLA and joined the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. It was while at school, she met the love of her life, James W. Martin. They were married in the summer of 1953 in Beverly Hills.
One year later, they welcomed their first child, Victoria, followed by a son, James Jr. (’57) and son Philip (‘60). Valerie always had a strong love for horses and Labrador retrievers. While living in Pacific Palisades, she enjoyed horseback riding at Will Rogers State Park, training dogs in Oxnard, and playing tennis with friends at Riviera Country Club. Much family time was spent on the beach at the Bel Air Bay Club, with summer vacations with her sister Barbara’s family in Minaki, Ontario.
In 1969, the family moved to Short Hills, New Jersey, followed by a second move to Edina Minnesota in 1972. There she enjoyed the company of her sister Barbara Heffelfinger and her family, spending time playing tennis and golf at the Minikahda Country Club. Minnesota is also where Valerie started another of her sports…skiing. Her love of dogs expanded as she began raising and training Labradors for field trials.
In 1977, the family returned to Southern California, first to Newport Beach, then settling in Coto de Caza. She, along with the entire family, enjoyed working the Modern Pentathlon event of the 1984 Summer Olympics held in Coto. As her dog training evolved, she was extremely proud of her dogs Valtor’s OC Pete and Valtor’s Hayseed Kid, as they attained national level success in AKC Retriever Field Trial competitions across the country. After her husband passed, she continued training dogs for people in Oregon, California and Montana. She had her constant companion, a black Lab named Jackie, with her all the time. In 2015, she retired from dog training and moved to Whitefish where she would be close to Tori and Phil as she battled dementia.
Valerie was the last surviving member of her siblings. She is survived by her daughter Tori and husband Craig, sons Jim Jr. and Phil, grandchildren Steven, Megan and Alexandra. A private service was held on October 28, 2019 at Riverside National Cemetery in California, where she was interred with her husband for eternity. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Valerie’s name to the charity of your choice.

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