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Cancer Claims Arachnid Owner John Martin

Posted On: 3/2/2011

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ROCKFORD, IL -- John R. Martin, owner and president of Arachnid Inc., and inventor of many technologies associated with electronic darts, music downloading and touchscreen games, died on Feb. 27 following a brief battle with thyroid cancer. He was 74.

Local media outlets said that Martin was awarded 48 U.S. patents and was a prolific inventor. In addition to acquiring Arachnid, he founded Martin Automatic, a manufacturer of web handling equipment for the printing, packaging and converting industries.

Associates described Martin as a tough competitor who prided himself on originality. He used both continual innovation and a vigorous legal offense to establish and maintain the edge in his chosen markets.

Under Martin's leadership, Arachnid was known for a series of aggressive lawsuits, charging other manufacturers of electronic dartboards, jukeboxes and videogames with patent infringement. Arachnid also sued Apple Inc. in 2008 for patent infringement involving touchscreen technology.

In 1960, Martin was an engineering student when he married Judith Lynn Morley. They raised two daughters, Julia and Caroline. They remained married for the next 19 years while he became successful in business and she in politics as a state representative and senator, then a member of Congress.

They divorced in 1979 after she was elected to the U.S. Senate. Lynn Martin went on to become Secretary of Labor under President George H.W. Bush. He remarried and had two more children, Justin and Jordon, with second wife Martha Martin, who predeceased him.

In 1987, Martin lent $6 million to the financially troubled Rockford College. In the event of the institution's financial failure, he had intended to take it over and remake it as a conservative economics school. Eventually, however, the college repaid its loan.

One month ago, Martin was diagnosed with his illness and informed it would be fatal and that he had very little time to live. He notified friends and employees and held parties at his home and factories to say goodbye. Friends said these highly unusual events were characteristic of him as celebrations of the life of a unique personality.

Arrangements are pending at Olson Funeral & Cremation Services. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Rockford Park District Foundation, a local philanthropic group.