Longtime civic leader Eldon Marshall, who was once called “Mr. Olympia City Hall” for his accomplishments, died on Christmas Day. He was 91.
Marshall was at the center of multiple city projects for nearly 30 years. He started as Olympia’s clerk-treasurer in 1954 and later became the city supervisor/manager, a position he held until retiring in July 1982.
During that time, Marshall helped steer key developments such as Capitol Lake Park, Percival Landing, the Olympia City Hall on Plum Street, the Olympia Timberland Library and Henderson Boulevard.
Ron Rants, founder of The Rants Group real estate firm, was a longtime friend and colleague who described Marshall as “the glue that held things together.” For example, he said Marshall’s even-tempered leadership was instrumental in helping the second and third phases of Percival Landing come to fruition.
“He just had a huge imprint on Olympia,” said Rants, who worked with Marshall while serving as the city’s commissioner of finance. “He was a knowledgeable guy and a good guy to be around.”
At the same time Marshall served as city supervisor, his brother Bob Marshall was superintendent of the Olympia School District. Bob Marshall said Wednesday he was proud of a partnership between the district and city that led to creation of a park at Lincoln Elementary School. To dedicate the park’s tennis courts, the brothers played each other in a match.
Bob Marshall said another key accomplishment was the creation of Henderson Boulevard, which passes through Watershed Park. It was one of Eldon Marshall’s favorite projects, and the park has a trail named after him.
“It was a great relationship between the two of us,” Bob Marshall said of their civic collaborations. “To me and to many people in Olympia, he was an outstanding leader. He was always out front and working through problems.”
In addition to serving with the group that founded Capital Lakefair, Marshall also belonged to the Providence St. Peter Hospital Community Board, Olympia Kiwanis Club, YMCA board, Washington State City/County Management Association, International City Managers Association and the Olympia Federal Savings board of directors.
George Eldon Marshall was born May 1, 1924, in Pullman and served as a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. He flew C-47 airplanes during combat in Europe, including a reinforcement mission for troops in the Battle of the Bulge on Christmas Eve in 1944. He earned an Air Medal and two battle stars.
According to his brother, Marshall had never flown a plane until the war, and never flew one after.
“I guess he decided he wouldn’t push his luck,” Bob Marshall said, laughing. “I just can’t believe how lucky I am to have had him for a brother.”
Eldon Marshall earned a business administration degree from Washington State University before moving to Olympia.
He was preceded in death by his high school sweetheart and wife of 67 years, Gerry, who passed away in 2011. The couple had four children, 10 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. Jan. 5 at First United Methodist Church, 1224 Legion Way SE, Olympia. In lieu of flowers, Marshall’s family is asking for donations to the church or the Hands On Children’s Museum.