Thurmond Marshall remembered for compassion for community
April 9, 2014 at 11 p.m.
Updated April 9, 2014 at 11:10 p.m.
Watching her from across the softball field, Thurmond Marshall knew what he wanted: Julie Rivera.
As coach of the 1981 YMCA women's softball team, he had seen Rivera, who was on another team, play hard as an outfielder.
He not only wanted Rivera on his team but also in his heart.
After some ample coaxing, Rivera agreed to stand by his side, joining his team and taking him up on his first date offer.
Thirty-two years passed, and Rivera never left his side - she stayed on his team to the very end.
Marshall, 61, died Monday after a lengthy battle with an illness.
"He started asking to go out with me," she said, laughing at the memory. "I said, 'I'll see.'"
At the time, Marshall was heavily involved in coaching youth sports for the YMCA and women's softball. Eventually, he also began coaching coed softball.
And that was just in his spare time. In 2012, Marshall retired as a sergeant investigator after a 33-year career with the Victoria County Sheriff's Office.
But the story before his more recent accomplishments is one that his wife loves to recall.
Born and raised in Victoria, Marshall was an all-around athlete.
After playing football for Stroman High School and Texas A&I University, Marshall traveled to Detroit and trained to join the Denver Broncos. However, an injury kept him from getting on the roster. Instead, his career in law enforcement was paved as he began working with Detroit's highway patrol.
He eventually moved back to Victoria, where he joined the sheriff's office and took an interest in the YMCA.
"He just loved being around people," Rivera said. "He wanted people to get involved."
Carol Willis-Wiese, 52, a former YMCA sports director, remembers working with Marshall a lot in the '80s and '90s.
"He just worked really well with the kids," Willis-Wiese said. "He could get down to their level."
He was always ready to volunteer, and if he could not, he would find someone to take his place.
"He would always step up to the plate," she said.
Marshall was a great coach, said Marise Dudley, Rivera's cousin.
Dudley was only a kid when she met Marshall, but she remembers the days when she and her friends would bury their faces into the hurricane fence around the dugout and watch the adults play ball.
Dudley's mother played softball and was coached by Marshall. Her biggest memories are of his determination and popularity.
"He was a big part of that whole (softball) complex and running tournaments," she said. "He really opened a lot of doors for women in softball."
Off the field, that determination shined through his work, said Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor.
Marshall was resourceful and great at solving active and cold cases.
"There was something about Thurmond," O'Connor said. "The word empathy comes to mind. He did not want to be the focal point or receive any recognition."
Working with the sheriff's office, Marshall's love for youth continued. He was instrumental in starting Scared Straight, a program that discourages at-risk students from bad behaviors, in the area.
"Thurmond was one of those unique individuals. What I thought was so great was his demeanor to get along with everybody," O'Connor said.
Everyone knew that demeanor, his wife said.
It's his loving attitude that she'll embrace most in her heart now that he's gone.
"He was such a big bear. He would always give me a big hug and tell me it's going to be OK," she said. "It's going to be OK."