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Theater boss Marshall always thought of others

November 27, 2005|By MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

When he worked as an usher and later a doorman at the Maryland and Colonial theaters, Ron Powell said, he couldn't have asked for a better boss than Mary Marshall.

"She was firm but nice to me and the other high school students who worked at the theaters," Powell said, noting that sometimes, those young employees could make Mary's life challenging.

Mary L. Marshall died Nov. 16, just a week after celebrating her 99th birthday.

The assistant manager of those two historic downtown Hagerstown theaters from 1954 until they closed in 1972, Mary was remembered by her family members and friends as someone who always was thinking of others.

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"Sometimes, Mary would call me on my day off and she'd have baked me a chocolate cake," Ron said. She once organized a bus trip for all her young employees to go to the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., to see "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" in 1963.

Mary's son, Terry Marshall, said his mother could still remember the names of those young people who had worked for her over the years.

"Her memory was really sharp, quite remarkable for a woman her age," said daughter-in-law Janet Marshall, who went to high school with Ron Powell.

Ron recalled that many times Mary would be in charge of both theaters and would spend a fair amount of time running back and forth across Potomac Street between the two.

"Mary was on her feet all the time," he said.

Ron and Mary often walked together to the bank with the box office money, both in the secure company of a Hagerstown police officer. In the early 1960s, Ron was a 50-cents-an-hour usher at The Maryland Theatre (which has since been restored), and later a 65-cents-an-hour doorman at The Colonial.

After the theaters closed in 1972, Mary went to work for a dental laboratory, where she remained until she retired in 1982.

Widowed in 1973, Mary continued to live on her own until April, when, because of diminishing mobility, she moved in with her son and his wife. Her overall health remained good until just days before her death.

"Over the years, mom spent a lot of time with her grandchildren," Terry said. Later, she made it clear that she wanted to be around her great-grandchildren as much as possible.

Teri Marshall Baker, one of Mary's two grandchildren, has six boys, ranging in age from 13 years to seven weeks.

"Nanny's watched them all," Teri said. "Each of my sons took his turn being Nan's boy."

Mary was "Nanny" to her grandchildren and "Nan" to her great-grandchildren.

In the corner of Terry and Nancy's family room is a child-sized table where Mary often sat with her great-grandchildren.

"They'd practice their letters and numbers together or she would draw with them," Nancy said.

A week before her death, Mary was approached at her birthday party by her great-grandson, Nicholas. Teri's 5-year-old wanted to color a picture with his "Nan." And so, with just a pink and a blue crayon to work with, she proceeded to color Thomas the Tank Engine for little Nicholas - her last drawing for one of her babies.

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