Bob Marshall – A Remembrance

Bob Marshall – A Remembrance

Posted on March 2, 2021

We lost another hero in February of 2021, when Bob Marshall passed away surrounded by family in Visalia, California, his adopted home since 1965.

In the winter of 1989, the task fell to me to write a tribute to Bob Marshall for our newsletter on the event of his retirement from SHE. As the Executive Director since 1966, Bob was the leader I came to know during my first 8 years working for Self-Help Enterprises, and as such was the blueprint for leadership of the organization in its formative years as well as the years to come.

The tribute to Bob upon his retirement consisted of a series of quotes from friends and colleagues around the country. Contributors included the early pillars of the self-help housing movement in Tulare County such as Everett Krackov and Ralph Rosedale, early staff like Bill French and Nate Unikel, national advocates and leaders like Bill Powers and Cliff Herron, and emerging leaders like Stan Keasling and Peter Carey. The descriptions are remarkably consistent, speaking of Bob’s perseverance, tenacity, humility, humanity, patience, kindness, his commitment to action.

One section of my retirement piece came from personal experience:

“In a way, to know Bob’s tennis game is to know Bob. There is nothing flashy about it. He simply hits the ball back, time and time again, placing the ball delicately, not powerfully, exactly where he wants it. Playing tennis with Bob is a frustrating experience because he is relentless. One who watches Bob play against a stronger opponent will have the initial feeling that he is being overpowered – that he is losing the match. However, if that person has the interest and the energy to stay and watch, Bob will usually prevail in the end. This is Bob’s style of activism as well.”

Bob enjoyed an abundant life after retiring from Self-Help Enterprises, a “third chapter” that spanned over thirty years. His commitment to causes near and dear to his heart continued unabated, including demilitarization, world peace, and a variety of antipoverty efforts. For me, an abiding image of Bob is holding a “Build Homes, Not Bombs” placard at weekly demonstrations along Mooney Boulevard in Visalia. His connection to SHE continued, and his affection for staff was always apparent, attending every holiday staff gathering and grand opening that he could. We all loved Bob for that.

Most importantly, Bob established a culture at SHE and approach to the work that we preach to this day. First, treat all people with dignity and respect. Second, be tireless in the pursuit of the mission. Third, today’s challenges should never drive our relationships with politicians, public agencies, community leaders, or other organizations – so don’t burn bridges. And lastly, never provoke a fight intentionally, but always stand up for what is right.

These tenets will survive Bob’s passing because he entrusted them to all of us at SHE, priceless gifts from a generous man.

– Tom Collishaw, CEO of Self-Help Enterprises

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