Renaissance man remembered

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

Dec. 2, 2009

Emotional eulogies delivered last Friday at the funeral of David Marshall celebrated a friend, family man and colleague who always gave his best.

Marshall touched the lives of many people as a lawyer, judge, and medical doctor. He was a pilot, author, lecturer, farmer, and served for more than 30 years with the military in a variety of capacities. However, his list of achievements was vast beyond his professional life.

Several of his longtime friends recalled an athlete who played football and hockey, a black belt in tae kwon do, an outdoorsman who loved to hunt and fish, a man who put family first and a boyish grin that was driven to succeed.

Marshall dies on Nov. 20 at the age of 70, following complication from surgery for prostate cancer.

He'd recently undertaken a three-year appointment as Colonel Commandant - the highest honorary position in the Canadian military - acting as liaison between the Medical Branch of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Family.

"What was astounding as well is that David, was able to carry out many of these distinguished successes in his life at the same time," said Justice Steven Glithero, a longtime friend and 17-year colleague.

According to Bud Bradley, a childhood friend of 65 years, Marshall was one of the highest achievers in Canadian history and a man who could have and should have been prime minister.

Marshall ran twice as a federal Liberal Party candidate for the local riding association.

Bradley, a former MP for the local riding said he'd delivered many speeches in the past, but that speaking at Marshall's funeral was one of the most difficult challenges he'd undertaken.

Marshall loved his community, country and people in general, Bradley said, but above all he loved his family.

"His values were passed down from generation to generation."

Marshall's son David Jr. recalled a time as a young boy when he found a baby bird that fell out of its nest.

He brought the bird home to care for it, but it dies a few days later. He asked his dad about what he did wrong.

"I remember him saying, 'David, you know, life is hard. Life is difficult for all of us. What is important is that you did the best you could and that you truly cared for the bird.' My father then went on to say, 'That is why it's so important to be good to others, to treat them with respect and be kind. Your job is to not make life harder for anyone, but to make it better.' This is a job that my father took very seriously."

David Jr. said his father did not stand on titles, though he had many. He didn't use his power to gain favour, though he had much. HeĀ  didn't use his knowledge to belittle or demean others, even though he was very intelligent. He never put himself above others.

One of his granddaughters read from a story he often recited that was passed down by a Cherokee Indian to his granddaughter.

It's about a terrible fight between two foes, she explained.

"One is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, green, arrogance, self-pity, guilt,, resentment, inferiority, lies, self-pride, superiority and ego... The other is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, hope, generosity, faith, compassion and truth...

"The same fight is going on inside you and in every other person too," she continued.

The granddaughter asked, which one will win?

Her grandfather responded by saying: "The one you feed."

Such metaphor was something that Marshall always tried to capture in his writing and out of his love for the rule and policy of law, according to his good friend, Justice David Crane. He always looked to expression and metaphor to aptly describe a situation, Crane said.

Most of all, David was a husband to his wife Jill. They were married 48 years.

"It was as David and Jill together," Crane noted. "That's what I think David really wanted above all, and that is to get through his life with Hill at his side and he did that, and that's a wonderful thing."

Jill remembered her husband as a man of "integrity, hard work and perseverance," who always strived to make himself better every day.

But like his father - a well-respected physician in his own right - her husband died too young, she said. He was looking forward to the birth of his twelfth grandchild.

Rev. Paul Sherwood reminded hundreds of people who attended the funeral that they were there to remember the good memories and the life of a remarkable man.

Ron Watson remembered going to the Mudcat Festival with Marshall and their wives last June.

"David and I took a ferris wheel rid and Jill said there was no way she was going to go because David was a rocker," he joked.

"So there's David and I up on the very top of that ferris wheel, chuckling, laughing and waving at the cowards below. But when we reached the top I could see the great, mighty Grand River and hundreds of memories came flooding through,: he said, referring to the swimming holes, the adventures, the hockey teams they played on in the arena below and the freedom to explore, take risks and grow.

"Sixty-four years ago when I called on David to go to school one morning, David's mother said, as she called David to the door, 'Ron is here. I wish your shoes would be as polished as Ronny's are.' I have to fees up David, I never polished my shoes. But I did today."