[ formerly titled: Philip Charles Marshall. ]
He was the quietest, and most handsome, man in the whole family – next to his father, my Uncle Frank.
Phil grew up in the house across the street and around the corner, on East 29th, with his four siblings: Alan, the eldest; Lydia, after him; then, Lois and, finally, Frannie. They were the Marshalls – and, the whole neighborhood knew the Marshalls.
Phil and I had one thing in common. We lived in the shadow of our older brothers. Alan, his; and, mine, Nathan — these were big shadows. Major extroverts, each of them, and outstanding in both intellect and talent, we would become their keen observers, he far earlier than I and definitely much more wisely.
Phil minced his words. He spoke only when necessary, and always with careful placement. And, like his father before him, he walked. Fast, head down, with that purposeful gait. He walked wherever he didn’t have to drive. And, when he did drive, he selected the avocado green Ford Galaxie 500. The whole family marveled. It was a winner, at $500.
Instead of the wild world of commercial art and marketing chosen by his elder, Phil went to Behrend College to study to become a draftsman and, ultimately, an engineer. Clean; precise; well planned. Like his father.
I don’t know why or how it happens, but beautiful people find each other. Phil was a natural stunner; he looked like Bill Bixby, only with dark brown hair. And, he’d smile only when you’d earned his grin. So, inevitably, he fell in love with Sue. Susan Johnson, RN, the most beautiful woman in the world. That is, according to me, the gangly skinny gawky clumsy cousin, the one who always spoke before thinking, never shaved a single syllable, and clamored like a warped dinner bell for all the attention she could muster. Remember. I said we only had one thing in common.
The day he married Sue, I stood out on the sidewalk of Holiday Inn South, waiting with a pouch of rice like everyone else for the two of them to re-emerge from the hotel room on the second level overlooking the pool. Mum had made Sue’s entire trousseau, aqua was the color that season and, when she finally appeared, bursting with silken floral boat necked Barbie doll sheath beneath that radiant, luminous aqua coat……..Sue was drop dead gorgeous, a star among us.
Phil already knew it. He said not a word. He didn’t have to.
He was taking the prize, on a honeymoon no less.
But, unlike any other man more than willing to objectify a woman, Phil was steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Humility was his middle name, and he wore it proudly. And, the commandment to love his wife even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it? Phil was already there.
Together, he and Sue would vow to raise a family putting their savior, Jesus Christ, first in everything. Jennifer came soon, a brownie like her father; then, Amy, blonde like her mother; and, lastly, Nat whom, Sue said, she dreamed vividly of before his birth.
After a year or two in Oswego, NY where Phil had found first employ, Sue teaching herself the art of the gourmet from scratch, they would become the first in the family to find a house in Frontier Park; typically, they chose a humble bungalow, on Shenley. Phil was at Hammermill Paper Company, now, getting promoted to site foreman and traveling to Selma, Alabama to supervise a huge mill build. Soon after, they’d move to Wager Road, their green thumbs converging to create a flower garden like no other for miles. And, when big, franchising business wanted to spoil their idyl with some noisy corner truck stop, Phil and Sue spear headed a public protest to protect their way of life – and, won.
Years later, after the kids were grown, Phil would find their ultimate dream: a big old farmhouse, on Rte 5 in Northeast, PA. Sue pretty much died and went to heaven, in that place – wallpapering complete with border print and hand painting from bird houses to decorative chairs until the whole place was as pretty as a B&B in upper Michigan. In fact, when Hammermill was sold to International Paper, they who wanted to move Phil to the midwest, he took early retirement from the paper industry – and, a job at Better Baked Foods* – just so they could stay in the house they’d made into their heaven on the lake.
Though Sue was the “creative”, Phil was not without imagination. The job at Better Baked was a good one but, upon official retirement, he felt a hankering to generate supplemental income and “keep busy”, as our grandmother Mammy always advised. Phil’s neighbor operated a limousine service, so Phil became a driver – chauffeuring all manner of prom dates, wedding parties, and the occasional celebrity to and from the whole county. An excellent listener, along the way among his most memorable cargo would be none other than actor/comedian, Danny DeVito, in town to make an appearance at the annual Tall Ships Festival on the Bay. Methinks Danny found him, equally worth remembering, an elegant conversationalist.
Most of all, Phil wanted to please God, with his every breath.
He was careful, thoughtful, faithful, and resolute to the end.
And, the end came far more quickly than any of us born of longevity would have imagined. His own mother had succumbed to a cerebral hemmorhage, at age 65 and, while both he and most of his sibs had experienced migraines throughout their lives, his had ceased decades ago. I, for one, would never have guessed that Phil had inherited his mother’s genetic predisposition. He wasn’t like her, in any other way.
But, today, after the very same deep brain event last evening which took his mother, away to attend a wedding in Baltimore she was that year, his spirit escaped a body which could not recover and crossed the bar to greet eternity.
We are all stunned, like every human at sudden death. One day, here; the next day, gone. But, Phil Marshall left this plane just like he lived — quietly; swiftly; efficiently; and, to the point.
We live; we die. Whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. That’s what Sue would say.
Phil would have said it, first.
* Given that there is significant factual information about Phil that should be included in this mini bio warranting yet another edit, please allow this addendum:
Phil graduated from the esteemed LeSuer Conservatory of Music in Erie, PA on TRUMPET – performing, according to those in attendance, “Flight of the Bumblebee” to PERFECTION! As a professional musician throughout my own life, never having HEARD him play trumpet is my singular regret! Here is an excerpt, from his obituary; clearly, his life was highly productive, nearly continuously – and, way past retirement age. Read:
“Phil graduated from the Erie Conservatory of Music in 1957 with a certificate in Trumpet and Harmony and Theory. In 1960, he was in the first senior class to graduate from the new Tech Memorial High School (now Erie High). After high school he enrolled at Penn State and then was employed at Hammermill Paper Company / International Paper where he enjoyed a rewarding engineering career for 30 years, and the opportunity to travel throughout the U.S. and Western Europe. Following that, he was engineering manager for eight years at Better Baked Foods in North East. Upon retirement he worked part-time, first as a chauffeur for a limousine service and then for several years as a part-time engineer for Quantum Consulting Inc. where in recent years his work was mainly at BASF in Erie, where he continued into his 78th year of age.”
Philip Charles Marshall 1942 – 2023. God bless Sue, Jen, Amy, and Nat; Alan & Bev, Cheryl & Mark, David & Michelle; Lydia & Richard, Richard & Connie, Charles & Holly, Philip & Rebecca; Lois & Bill, RuthAnna & Micah, Daniel, Andrew, Joel, Ian, Willie, Jamie; Frannie & John, Jacob, Stephen, and Jesse.