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Obituary of Thomas G. 'Jerry' Marshall: Former Globe-Democrat reporter, novelist

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 15, 2009 - During the 1970s, the St. Louis Football Cardinals were known far and wide as the “Cardiac Cards” for the team’s penchant for winning in the waning moments of the game. Thomas G. “Jerry” Marshall may have been the first to call the team by the well-deserved moniker.

Mr. Marshall was a sports writer for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat from the late 1960s to the mid ‘70s, covering such football greats as Jim Hart, Dan Dierdorf, Terry Metcalf and Conrad Dobler.

Mr. Marshall, who was also a novelist, died at his home in Clayton last week (Wednesday, Feb. 11) from complications of a colonoscopy. He was 67. A memorial service celebrating Mr. Marshall’s life was at 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15, at Bopp Chapel in Kirkwood.

Mr. Marshall’s coverage of the football team was one of the first things his former Globe colleague and friend Myron Holtzman recalled upon hearing of Mr. Marshall’s death. He also remembered what it was like to work with Mr. Marshall.

“Jerry chatted all the time,” Holtzman said with a smile in his voice. “He was a delight to work with, a good guy to work with. He was always helpful. Unique. “We had typewriters … really old-fashioned typewriters at the Globe, and Jerry had a way of pounding on the keys. You could hear him pounding as soon as you walked in the newsroom.”

Mr. Marshall, the son of a writer mother and a banker father, grew up in Brentwood and graduated from Brentwood High School. He earned a degree from Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo. He subsequently joined the U.S. Navy, where he served as a journalist and spent two years running the radio and television stations in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Upon completing his Navy service in 1969, he joined the Globe-Democrat, where he covered the “Cardiac Cards,” golf, the football off-season and, eventually, sports at the University of Missouri Columbia.

During his time at the Globe-Democrat, he met his wife, Karen Klink, another Globe reporter. “Ours was an office romance,” Karen Marshall said. “Jerry always said he saw my picture while he was still in Guantanamo and said he was going to ‘date that girl’ when he got home. He got more than a date, as it turned out. By the third date, I decided I was marrying him; he didn’t have a chance."

The two were married in 1970 and almost every morning for the next 38 years, Marshall said, she and her husband got up early to play gin rummy.

“Jerry kept the score all these years; I owed him thousands of dollars,” Marshall laughed. “I think he won so much because we played by his rules. I’m going to miss our mornings.”

Karen Marshall remained at the Globe long after her husband left to try other endeavors, including a stint at Maritz and writing life insurance. He later went into business with his wife. “I got into antiques first and Jerry found that he liked it, too,” said Marshall, who recently retired after a 15-year career with Monsanto. “We sold antiques under the name Marshall Antiques, mostly selling through Warson Woods Antiques Gallery, with a show here and there.”

His restoration business was under the same name. Of course, Mr. Marshall tended to prefer a particular area.

“He liked to sell sports items, from old baseball gloves and bats to fishing lures,” Marshall said. “But he also sold furniture, especially late 19th and early 20th century walnut, cherry and mahogany, with a little curly maple thrown in. He also liked vintage advertising tins and things that were somewhat unusual.”

Mr. Marshall was also a novelist.

Like most print journalists, Mr. Marshall was sure he had a book in him. He was right. In 2000, his novel Mr. Irrelevant was published.

As American Library Association Booklist reviewer Wes Lukowsky described it, “The sense of dread permeating this riveting novel is excruciating, like a recurring nightmare in which the dreamer can never exactly remember what's coming but knows it's bad. This is one of the very best sports-related thrillers in many a season. Don't miss it.”

As most pro football fans know, "Mr. Irrelevant" is the tongue-in-cheek award given to the last pick of the National Football League draft. Karen Marshall said her husband spent years working on the book.

“Jerry had had the idea for Mr. Irrelevant for years, had met Paul Salata who started the award (and still stayed in touch with his family) and then spent more years writing and polishing it,” Marshall said. “He spent 10 years thinking about it and another five or six years writing it. It became kind of this quest.”

With its opening line, Mr. Irrelevant pays homage to Mr. Marshall’s hometown: “When the woman driving that white Cadillac Fleetwood ignored the stoplight and romped through the intersection at Brentwood Boulevard and Maryland Avenue, many lives were changed.”

With Mr. Marshall’s passing, many lives have, indeed, been changed, just as many lives were changed by his life.

“We had a whole year of travel planned,” said Karen Marshall, who retired a year ago.“But I’m grateful we were able to spend the last year together doing so many things.”

Mr. Marshall was preceded in death by his parents, Willis and Virginia (Stone) Marshall. In addition to his wife, Karen (Klink) Marshall, he is survived by his brother, Scott O. Marshall, nieces and nephews and his friend Bill Miller.

Family and friends are invited to gather, share good stories and good memories from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 15, at Bopp Chapel, 10610 Manchester Road, in Kirkwood.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments, Capital Campaign, 5030 McRee Ave., St. Louis, Mo. 63110.

>Gloria Ross is the head of Okara Communications and the storywriter for AfterWords, an obituary-writing and production service.

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