Senior Profile: Ron Marshall helps outings through senior center run smoothly

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 19, 2014 

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Ron Marshall, 72, of Bellingham, volunteers as an escort on senior trips, including Seattle Mariners games, with the Whatcom Council on Aging, Friday, March 13, 2014.

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Name: Ron Marshall.

Age: 72.

Hometown: Bellingham.

Family: Wife, Marlene; three grown children; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Travel leader: Marshall, who taught at Nooksack Elementary School for three decades, loved escorting fifth-graders to a Seattle Mariners game every spring after the baseball team was formed in 1977. In recent years, he has discovered the rewards of serving as a volunteer escort on trips conducted through Bellingham Senior Activity Center.

Wife's idea: "Several years ago, Marlene saw a call in The Bellingham Herald for people willing to serve as trip escorts for the Bellingham Senior Center," Marshall says. "She told me, 'That's what you should do.' And so it was."

Recommends travel: Marshall, who says he's still making up for lost travel opportunities as a youth, recommends travel for all seniors, no matter their background or experience.

"We were poor," says Marshall, a fifth-generation Whatcom County resident and a 1960 graduate of Bellingham High. "I never got to travel outside the state (except for British Columbia). I always wanted to travel, and eventually I did travel a lot. Now, I love serving as an escort on our trips."

Logistics, logistics, logistics: Marshall provides geographical and historical background on bus trips when he can, but most of his duties involve doing all of the little things to make trips go smoothly.

"I'm just one of several people enthusiastically involved in working with the travel programs out of the Bellingham Senior Center, coordinated by Cheryl Willis," he says. "I would definitely love to go on pretty much every tour if I could. ... The camaraderie is especially great to see, when people develop friendships."

Longer trip: Marshall is looking forward to his longest venture, a nine-day trip in late June to Colorado, where local seniors will take trips aboard the famed Colorado steam trains to tour parts of Pikes Peak, Mesa Verde National Park, and the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.

Baseball his favorite: A lifelong sports fan, Marshall keeps up with every Mariners game. He used to umpire baseball, and now has called softball games long enough to earn a 40-year pin for the two sports combined, along with 17 years of officiating volleyball.

"I want to serve as an umpire as long as I can," he says.

Trips to Safeco Field: Marshall especially enjoys escorting seniors to three Mariners games each season. "Up to 40 people attend each of the games on these trips," says Marshall, who can probably name most of the team's lineups for every season in their history.

More Mariners memories: There was only one fifth-grade class when Marshall began teaching at Nooksack Elementary. Students remember Marshall as "Mr. Mariner," because they always knew he would take them to a game every year.

"The kids really looked forward to that," says Marshall, who wound up taking four classes of fifth-graders to a game by the time he retired. "For a lot of them, this was their first Mariners game. Those days were always a lot of fun for everyone."

Marshall travel plan: Marshall finally got out of the state when he served in the Army Reserve at Fort Ord in California and Fort Gordon in Georgia. While at Fort Gordon, he got to see his first big city when a fellow reservist took him to Chicago.

Some favorite trips: Marshall loves history -- from local to international. He has visited Civil War battlefields and many historic sites in the original 13 colonies, along with trips to several European countries and the Holy Land.

He also enjoyed serving as an escort on trips to Seattle's Pacific Science Center and Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, to Paine Field in Everett, to Lake Chelan, and to Hell's Canyon on the Snake River.

"As much as I love to travel, it always makes me realize how much I love our corner of the Northwest," Marshall says. "There's nowhere else I would rather live than in Whatcom County."

Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.

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