Rev. Ron Marshall – a West Seattle community ‘giant’ – has died

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The Rev. Ron Marshall has died at the age of 73.

His passing was confirmed by First Lutheran Church of West Seattle, where he had been pastor since 1979.

Rev. Marshall was much more than a minister. He was a community champion – especially for nonprofits, particularly the West Seattle Food Bank and the former West Seattle Helpline (which merged with WSFB last year). He was a longtime WSFB board member and even wrote a book about the food bank’s first 30 years.

(WSB photos)

That was not the only book Rev. Marshall authored – he also wrote books on the religious thought of Martin Luther and Søren Kierkegaard. In 2013, he led a celebration of the Kierkegaard bicentennial, commissioning a statue of the Danish theologian/philosopher:

In 2017, he led a commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, for which the church commissioned a plaque of Martin Luther:

His eclectic interests also included the Koran, on which he taught a four-session class four times a year for nearly 20 years – transitioning it to Zoom when the pandemic hit. His weekly services for FLCWS were presented as written liturgies on the church website (we linked to them weekly on Sundays along with other churches’ pandemic-format services), and you can read his most-recent ones here. In the introduction on that page, Rev. Marshall noted that an online-video service “would be inconsistent with our mission statement and the honor it pays to historical liturgies (which require a congregation present). So the liturgies I provide are short, meditative in tone, and solitary.”

He himself was by no means solitary, being well-known and -loved throughout the West Seattle community. Local historian/journalist Clay Eals calls him “a giant.” Along with the West Seattle Food Bank, Rev. Marshall was also a longtime board member for Music Northwest, whose director is his wife, Dr. Jane Harty. When we hear from his family, we will add that here; Forest Lawn is handling arrangements and tells us there is no service date yet.

23 Replies to "Rev. Ron Marshall - a West Seattle community 'giant' - has died"

  • Alki resident November 10, 2021 (5:41 pm)

    No, no , no. He was such a great community member. You saw him everywhere. What a huge loss. I’m so sorry. 

  • Pessoa November 10, 2021 (6:19 pm)

    I will always remember his “Moses-like” presence at various gatherings, including the chamber music concerts held at the church. A humble and gentle soul married to a restlessly curious and brilliant intellect 

  • David Weld November 10, 2021 (7:24 pm)

    Ron was a powerful and gracious driving force and steward of both the West Seattle Food Bank and the West Seattle Helpline.  I know that he was so pleased by the merger of these two organizations he loved so much.  His prescience in supporting the marriage into a single community-driven services organization –  coupled with the heroic financial and volunteer support of this community – allowed the food bank to rise to meet the COVID-driven demands of these challenging times. A wise friend of mine once said that when you die, all that you leave behind is your reputation.  Ron’s reputation was spotless.  We will all miss him dearly.

    David Weld
    Board President, West Seattle Food Bank

  • Connie Wicklund November 10, 2021 (8:02 pm)

     I am so sorry to hear this, but know that he is with his Lord as he wished.  Rev. Marshall did great work in the community and will be sorely missed.  He performed the ceremony in 1980 when my husband and I got married.  His work is lasting, as we will be married for almost 42 years!  West Seattle has lost a great champion, but heaven has gained a beautiful soul.

  • SuperAwesome November 10, 2021 (8:35 pm)

    If heaven exists there is surely a spot for Ron Marshall. He was the kindest and most genuine person I’ve ever known. My heart goes out to Jane and his children. What a legacy he leaves.  He will be missed by many. 

  • Bill Gehring November 10, 2021 (8:44 pm)

    Even though I wasn’t a member of his church, I always felt that Pastor Ron took a sincere interest in me. He would walk past my house on the way to go grocery shopping and would ask how my wife and I were doing. He was a very friendly guy.  We will miss him.

  • Ashley November 10, 2021 (9:17 pm)

    I was lucky to have volunteered with Ron and saw his grace and love for this community first hand. He is an amazing man and will be greatly missed. 

  • L M A November 10, 2021 (10:01 pm)

    A beautiful human being. 

  • K November 11, 2021 (6:26 am)

    I was on the West Seattle Helpline Board with Ron for many years.  To me he wasn’t the Rev. Ron Marshall he was just Ron.   A guy with a great laugh, a lot of enthusiasm and a mischievous nature.   He was someone you could grab a beer with and chat about things.   His love for this community was obvious in his actions and there is a big hole to be filled here with his passing.

  • Kristin Ladwig November 11, 2021 (8:57 am)

    The world has experienced a great loss today. Anyone that attended his services will agree that he was something else. He always left you with a full cup and was one of the most genuinely, kind people, I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. From Sunday school summer camps, to Christmas plays, luncheons, weddings, to his classic sandals and socks, I will miss him greatly and am tearful as I write this. He was so much more than a reverend. He was a friend, mentor, someone that was always approachable and always honest. I am terribly sorry to hear of his passing. Please do keep the community updated about any services that the public may be able to attend.  

  • Suzan Rood Wilson November 11, 2021 (9:01 am)

    I am speechless. This hits me like a bulldozer. I have known Ron for almost 20 years, not as his congregant or even as a participant with him in his community activities. But he has been a huge part of my life. My deepest condolences to his wife, Jane, and their family. I will miss him terribly. He was a man with a huge life and an even greater passion. I relied on him for his deep knowledge of philosophy, psychology, history and religion, of course, though as a Jew myself, we did not run on the same path. Though we did very much. He had a “giant” influence on my professional life and work as well as with my family, friends and several people who were and are close to me.

  • Amanda Lufkin November 11, 2021 (9:20 am)

    Pastor Marshall was an amazing man!  A true theologian and person who truly embodied what it was to live your faith!  Like so many in the community he was there right when I needed him most.  He had no judgment just kindness and compassion! I am a member of FLCWS though I don’t go as often as I should, but every time I saw Ron in church or out in the community he had a big smile, warm hug and words of understanding and genuine interest!  His was a light in the darkness.  Let us thank thank our Lord for the great  gift that was Ron Marshall!  And Thank you Jane and daughters for sharing him with us!!

  • Jeanne November 11, 2021 (10:20 am)

    Ron was a delightful Nextdoor neighbor- welcoming us into our home 12 years ago, always looking out for us, always had a friendly hello, and such a huge volunteer presence in our community. We took his Koran class and I learned so much- not only about Islam’s holy book but how to lead and love everyone with an open and curious heart by witnessing how he built bridges. He will be missed. 

  • Plf November 11, 2021 (11:10 am)

    I got to know him years ago as he walked past my house at least once a day in his traditional shorts no matter the weather kind generous man who clearly understand the concept of servant leadership Heavens gain is our loss

  • Suzan Rood Wilson November 11, 2021 (11:26 am)

    I was going through the website to find an article Ron had written after the death of his father (I have not found it yet, and hope it is still on the site)and came across this quote from Ron:Through my writings I hope to… leave behind me so accurate a characterization of Christianity and its relationships in the world that an enthusiastic, noble-minded young person will be able to find in it a map of relationships as accurate as any topographical map from the most famous institute.

    • Leah November 13, 2021 (6:53 pm)

      The article Ron wrote about his father as well as some others he wrote are here if you need the link.

    • Bob November 13, 2021 (7:44 pm)

      I think you will find what you are looking for (and more) by going to, scrolling way down to and clicking on Staff-Government, then clicking on The Reverend Ronald F Marshall. Then scroll down until you find what you are remembering.Thank you for your interest and your appreciation of a person many of us so dearly loved.

  • Gregg November 11, 2021 (1:16 pm)

    This is a devastating loss for our community.  Ron was a leader in so many ways through his example.  He helped create and grow the West Seattle Helpline that has rescued thousands of our neighbors over the years as they experienced emergencies in their families.  He leaves a legacy of kindness and caring that should be an example for all of us.  I will miss him greatly.

  • Shannon Braddock November 11, 2021 (2:41 pm)

    I’m so sad to hear this news. I was one of the fortunate humans who crossed his path in his community work with the West Seattle Food Bank. Ron was a beautiful and interesting man. Sending peace and love to his family and friends. 

  • Russ B November 12, 2021 (12:48 pm)

    My only knowledge of and interaction with Ron came in late October this year when I was located in a hospital room next to Ron’s.  In the most gentle and unassuming way he inquired after my condition and welfare.  During the few conversation we had through our open doorways  he encouraged me in my life and Christian walk.  Even in the hospital with his own serious concerns he was often thanking and complementing the hospital staff who served him and offering kind words to those he spoke with.  I feel blessed to have met, if only briefly, such a nice man.

  • Corey November 12, 2021 (2:15 pm)

    What a gem of a human being. I live in the condos behind Ron and met him several years ago. He was kind, gentle, humble, and unassuming. Always a friendly wave and a smile whenever we saw him.

    I will forever remember Ron for his concern and efforts to save a cat who climbed up a telephone pole 4 stories high between our condo and his home. He brought out his 40-foot ladder and was prepared to scale the telephone pole to save the cat that was perched between high voltage lines. Fortunately, through multiple calls from the neighbors to the public utility, Seattle City Light was able to send out a truck with a lift to rescue the cat (WS Blog story on 5/12/2021 ).

    I am not a religious person but told myself when the Pandemic improved that I would attend one of Ron’s sermons, as I really looked forward to hearing him speak and listening to his message. I regret not doing that. We will miss his friendly smile and neighborhood kindness.

  • Julia C November 14, 2021 (7:23 pm)

    Truly a West Seattle Hero!   He is missed by so many for all he has done to help others.  Hugs and love to his wife and family during your time of grieving.  You are in our prayers.

  • Eric November 18, 2021 (9:21 pm)

    Pastor Marshall baptized my boys, visited my grandparents at the Columbia Home and was always there Sunday to deliver a thoughtful sermon.  God bless him and his family in his passing.  

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