Justin Thieme Marshall
October 31, 1983 – July 22, 2017
Justin’s Eulogy (8/5/17) A father is not supposed to give a eulogy for his son. A mother is not supposed to mourn the unimaginable loss of her son. It’s supposed to be the other way around. A young wife and mother should not be left alone, devastated and heartbroken, as her loving husband and father of their beautiful children is taken from her. But amidst all this tragedy and grief, the incredible power of love, community, prayer, hope, and encouragement has been unleashed through all of you to surround Sarah, the children, and all of us Marshalls and Jacobys as we struggle to comprehend the unthinkable and to manage life without the one who brightened it for all of us. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts! As I look out at all of you so kind enough to come today, I must say that, if one measure of a man is how much he is loved, then we can take comfort knowing that Justin ranked right up there with the best of them.
Justin Thieme Marshall entered our lives on October 31, 1983, in Pasadena, California, but left us all far too soon on July 22, 2017 on a bike trail near Deception Pass, at the age of 33, due to a massive heart attack caused by a blood clot in one of his coronary arteries. The underlying disease is known as atherosclerotic coronary artery disease, the single largest cause of death for men and women in this country. Justin had been diagnosed a couple of years ago with hypertension, or high blood pressure (a hereditary trait), and suffered a minor heart attack one year ago from blockage due to plaque buildup in one of his other arteries – a condition rectified at the time with a stent that opened that artery for sufficient blood flow. Two other arteries were noted at the time to have between 50% and 70% blockage, and it was one of those arteries that developed much greater plaque buildup leading to the fatal blood clot.
This scenario is especially difficult to imagine for someone of Justin’s background: a lifelong competitive athlete at 6’3”, 210 lbs, with excellent speed, who became a collegiate and semipro baseball all-star outfielder and competed from youth through adulthood in recreational soccer; a college graduate in exercise science; a certified personal trainer; and a licensed nursing home administrator who created a proprietary employee wellness program and website with diet and exercise tips, including over 220 videos in which he personally demonstrated proper exercise and weight-training techniques. He knew how to take care of himself!
From the time of Justin’s original diagnosis of hypertension, he and Sarah monitored his diet and exercise and carefully followed the treatment instructions of the cardiologists monitoring his heart health, as we sincerely hope any of you would do if diagnosed with this disease. Within the past two months Justin was cleared by his cardiologist of all physical restrictions based on his passing with flying colors two separate stress tests at the office of his cardiologist, who pronounced to Justin that he was then fit enough to even play professional soccer if he desired.
Justin and Sarah eagerly awaited the Marshall NW family reunion campout to be held on the three-day weekend beginning this past July 21st at Deception Pass. Justin rented an RV for the family and bought a new mountain bike to return to an activity he previously enjoyed so much. Late Saturday afternoon, July 22nd, Justin joined two of his cousins for a nonstrenuous bike ride on a trail near the campground. During that ride, shortly after a rest break in which Justin commented to his cousins how much fun he was having and how he felt like he was 14 again riding a bike, he suffered the heart attack that took him from us. The coroner mentioned that he could have suffered the same fate at any time while simply sitting or standing, or, just imagine, driving that RV with his young family. Despite the immediate and heroic life-saving efforts of his wilderness-survival-trained cousin Hans-Peter Marshall, two park rangers, paramedics, and Island Hospital emergency room medical personnel, Justin could not be saved here on earth. But make no mistake, through the compassion of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who also died on earth at 33, Justin has ascended to Heaven to enjoy an eternal peace to which all of us aspire.
For his loved ones here on earth, we will forever remember Justin through the vivid memories of his time with us. Though it would be impossible to capture the essence of all such memories, I will now share with you just a few of them, as we celebrate Justin’s life both through these words and the video remembrance that follows. In that vein, I strongly encourage any of you who wish to share memories or anecdotal stories of Justin to use the inserts in your programs for that purpose. As Justin and Sarah’s children grow older and seek to understand their lost father, I can’t imagine a better supplement to Sarah’s stories than those of yours that would go a long way toward painting a portrait of his life’s experiences, his character, his passions, his strengths, his adversities, his faith, and his love of family. Thank you in advance to those of you willing to share.
Justin entered this world in the midnight hour of Halloween 1983 and, perhaps not surprisingly, carried some reddish hair throughout his life! Proud parents Jeff and Wendy lived with Justin in Arcadia, CA at the time and were subsequently blessed with the birth of Justin’s brother Blake in 1985. As you will see in the video, these two boys engaged in so many activities together from their early youth through high school that Dad and Mom needed no other entertainment! Yet each of the boys developed and celebrated his own unique character traits and passions.
In Justin’s first five years, the family’s summer vacations were predominantly spent enjoying nature at Yosemite National Park with maternal grandma Carol. No doubt these experiences fostered Justin’s love of the outdoors throughout his life, including the countless hiking, camping, kayaking, snowboarding, and other experiences he would share with Sarah, Blake, and other family members and friends. During those same early formative years, Justin could often be spotted in either his cool, battery-operated Model-A or Jeep roadsters, tooling around the Arcadia or subsequent Sierra Madre, CA neighborhoods, either on his own or developing his competitive mindset by racing brother Blake – an experience he would repeat with Blake and Dad at a Kent motor sports park for Blake’s birthday last year and for this past Father’s Day.
The move to Washington in the summer of 1989 came at the same time as another opportunity for Justin to enjoy the outdoors – a large Marshall family reunion at Dad’s favorite childhood summer vacation spot, Lake Tahoe, during which the entire Marshall contingent of nearly 30 people stayed in one lodge. A favorite memory you’ll see in the video is of Justin and Blake wearing the specially made T-shirts inscribed, “I survived the Marshall Family reunion.” Over the years, other family vacations and a few cruises to places like Europe and Alaska provided the four of us with the opportunity to learn about other cultures and historical sites and more importantly to enhance our family bond.
Justin’s willingness at a young age to try anything with a great attitude – including tolerating some of Mom and Dad’s crazy roles and costume ideas – was well documented in his temporary ventures as a clown, a shepherd, and – God forbid – a baseball catcher! Watch for some of these funny moments in the video that follows.
Our family home of 26 years in the Arrowhead community of Kenmore became the foundation for a broad range of Justin’s experiences, friendships, and growth from elementary school through high school and college. From cruising around Lake Washington to tubing or wakeboarding in his teen years, and occasionally bodysurfing or snorkeling in Hawaii, Justin loved the water. During the winter, snowboarding with Blake and friends became a passion of the season. However, his love of team sports began to blossom as he joined the ranks of neighborhood kids playing youth baseball and soccer, with brief forays into basketball, track, and golf.
Oh, yeah, that golf experience: When Blake as an early teen had developed a love for the game, tagging behind golfers at the local Wayne Public Golf Course, he invited Justin to try it out one day. As the story goes, Justin just couldn’t connect with the ball that well, losing his grip on his last attempted drive and letting the club fly to a distance far exceeding that of the ball! I guess that must have been the point at which Justin decided to stick to a sport with a bigger ball!
Justin’s enjoyment of recreational team soccer began at the age of seven and extended through high school – with Blake as a teammate all the way – the first six years playing with neighborhood boys for the Mighty Eagles, coached by dear old dad, and the last six years playing with teens from a broader area for the highly competitive Meatbees team, coached by the late Tim Moe, a phenomenal motivator who emphasized sportsmanship, teamwork, and consistent effort. Justin would return to this sport as an adult following graduation from college.
As rewarding as soccer became for Justin, competitive baseball quickly became his first love as he competed through Kenmore Little League on dear old Dad’s Dodgers (including his selection to the league all-star team), followed by Kenmore Senior Little League (also an all-star), then crossing over to select baseball circles as a 15- and 16-year-old, the latter for the Wilkinson Academy, where Justin first dedicated himself to offseason baseball training under professional tutelage. As both a 17- and 18-year-old, Justin played varsity baseball as a corner outfielder for the Inglemoor High School Vikings under successful head coach Craig Bishop and assistant coach John Jackson, proudly manning the outfield as a senior alongside his junior brother. Continuing his passion, Justin played for Mark Potoshnik’s Seattle Bombers during summers after his junior and senior high school seasons, traveling the Northwest with this very competitive group under another successful coach and program. Moving into his college years, Justin’s academic and baseball pursuits ratcheted up another level at Everett Community College with the beginning of his focus on an exercise science curriculum and his recruitment to play baseball for the Everett CC Trojans under head coach Levi Lacey and assistant coach Dan Keller. In his second season with Coach Lacey’s playoff-caliber team, Justin was named as a First Team NWAACC Northern Division All-Star outfielder, reflecting his dedicated offseason work to improve his baseball skill set. Justin and an all-star teammate became the first teammates in the conference in over a decade to each steal 30 or more bases in the same season. Justin also finished the season in the top ten in batting average in the Northern Division.
Continuing his academic and baseball pathways at Central Washington University, Justin completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science in his two years at Central and played both years for the Wildcats under long-time head coach Desi Storey, earning Second Team All-Conference honors in both seasons. During summers following his successful college seasons, Justin played one season with the Everett Merchants and two seasons with the Skagit Eagles in the semipro Pacific International League, earning First Team All-Star outfielder recognition in one of his seasons with the Skagit Eagles, a team coached by Dan Keller, who also worked extensively honing Justin’s skills during several collegiate offseason periods. A teammate on both the Central and Skagit teams, Nate Rylaarsdam, would later serve as Justin’s best man at Justin and Sarah’s wedding.
Through all his baseball and soccer seasons, we were most grateful for the contribution that these coaches, players, and team experiences made to Justin’s character development as a young adult. Justin’s character traits of a strong work ethic, good interpersonal communication, integrity, patience, leadership, and teamwork – all traits that Justin translated later into his personal and professional worlds – can be traced in large part to his experiences in team sports, the value of which cannot be measured by mere wins, losses, or statistics. Justin began sharing these values with the younger generation this past high school baseball season, as a volunteer assistant baseball coach of the Inglemoor High School JV team, alongside his good friend and former Inglemoor and Everett teammate Josh Shore.
Far beyond sports, though, the greatest experiences of Justin’s life were captured in the 15 years he spent with the love of his life, Sarah, who fortunately turned out to be a big baseball fan, too! High school sweethearts who built a loving and faith-based relationship over their college years, Justin and Sarah were married at this church on May 31, 2008, commencing a beautiful and nurturing marriage that produced three precious children – five-year-old Lydia, three-year-old Calvin, and two-year-old Walter, as well as their unborn baby boy expected to arrive near Thanksgiving. Sarah’s parents, Patrick and Paula; sister, Rebecca; and brothers, Jim and Robert – as well as all the Jacoby relatives – welcomed Justin openly into their family and shared many great experiences with Justin over the years.
The most rewarding of all Justin’s life experiences, though, were the times spent with Sarah and the children – loving, guiding, growing together. One particularly fond memory Sarah shared with me of Justin’s character as a father involves a time, following diagnosis of Calvin’s autism, when that precious boy struggled to enjoy a T-ball toy and his occupational therapist suggested to Sarah that she avoid involving Calvin in sports like baseball that require strong hand/eye coordination. Sarah marveled at Justin’s comforting and reassuring response that whatever could be done to enhance Calvin’s quality of life, they would do. No baseball – no problem.
Justin and Sarah built their shared lives the old-fashioned way – through love, faith, understanding, hard work, and dedication to family. Sarah followed up her Central Washington psychology degree with a teaching credential from the University of Washington and an elementary school teaching position, while Justin, after hanging up his cleats, pursued a career initially as a personal trainer and shortly thereafter as a nursing home administrator, following Dad into the rewarding but often difficult professional endeavor of improving the lives of the dependent elderly and disabled, under strict regulatory guidelines, while providing a desirable workplace environment for dedicated facility employees under an administrator’s leadership.
Following several years working at my former company, Eagle Healthcare, in a variety of middle management capacities, including operation of the company’s employee wellness program mentioned previously, Justin completed his nursing home administrator training and certification, followed by several facility interim administrator assignments at Eagle. After his efforts with Eagle, Justin worked as an administrator for one of the nation’s largest nursing home chains, followed by a similar role with a local, startup nursing home company. His newest role, however, seemed to fit him best – as a nursing home administrator in North Bend for Regency Pacific, one of the legacy nursing home operators in Washington state, who appreciated Justin’s passion, energy, and knowledge and looked forward to his continued leadership at the facility with an eye toward enhanced roles in the company downstream. Walking into his office with Wendy last week and talking with leaders and staff at Regency, as well as recalling our one-on-one conversations about his role there, I knew Justin was very much engaged and happy in this endeavor.
As to faith, Justin and Sarah cherished their congregation here at Lake Forest Park Presbyterian, the nurturing spiritual experiences provided for their children, and most importantly their growing love of Christ and His foundation for their life together. This congregation will stand with Sarah and the children, as I know all of you will in one way or another, to help them through this horrific adversity and guide them on their journey ahead.
Losing Justin is just so hard to comprehend. But in the face of tragedy, hope and encouragement can still prevail. An elderly woman in my brother and sister-in-law’s church, in response to a prayer request for Justin’s family, relayed this story: Her son died tragically at 42, leaving behind a wife and two children aged seven and ten. But, as she penned her response, she marveled at how well those two grandchildren of hers had done in the over twenty years since their father’s passing. She expressed her sincere hope that Sarah and the children will similarly continue to thrive and be a real tribute to their father. Justin’s life on earth may have been tragically cut short; he may not participate in the further nurturing of his children with Sarah nor continue to enjoy the precious moments the two of them shared together; he and I may no longer talk daily as we did throughout his life; he may not see the fruits of his labor in leading the care of the needy; but, as hard as this seems to acknowledge now, he is beginning to live the dream in Heaven, his shining spirit watching over us – especially Sarah and the children – assuring us that he is in the arms of angels awaiting the time that is only a blip on the scope of eternity when we will see him again.
- Memorial Service Saturday, August 5, 2017