Sharon Foster and her husband introduced me to Marshall twenty years ago. They brought him spring cleanup a local school, together we planted a mound of strawberries. He was funny, energized and a creative person and we were neighbours, living in studios on the opposite side of Portland Street in Toronto.
Marshal was living art, handsome in baggy blue jeans, singlet, worn Birkenstock and floppy brimmed hat. He effortlessly played music instruments, cooked, constructed, sculpted and painted.
For me he built shelves and an outside staircase to my studio.
We dated for a few weeks. Together, in his studio, for first date supper, we were both nervous. His flat was swept, maybe even mopped and the stuff piled away so there was space. It smelled like tuna and the sardines he fed the cat. The supper was planned and prepped but didn’t get cooked, the meal derailed due to drink. We bickered. He said he didn’t want a girlfriend.
I collected castoff architectural things. One day I found a pair of enormous two-handled, tree saws I knew he would love. I asked Marshall to wait in my garden as I brought them down from inside; he was so touched by the antiques or maybe the endurance of friendship after relationship shortfall, I think he cried.
At my new house he hung several old doors, perfectly. He used reclaimed molding to make a door lintel.
He was a constant friend. He called me every couple of weeks until recently. Saturday mornings he’d tell me if the cat seemed sick or was missing. How he got fired from an employer, only to have the same person figure later in the story as a supportive friend, who maybe lent him a phone or bought phone card. It often sounded like Marshall was living at the edge industrial park the building a parking attendant might work from. He asked if he could move into my garden shed. If I had said yes, the shed would certainly be in better state than it is now. But I said no. The calls slowed.
He sacrificed everything, comfort, companionship, art supplies, to be who he was. Alcohol was a constant.
He placed one of his sculptures in my garden. It is carved from a concrete parking bumper, an almost impossible medium to shape. There is a vertical wave and rising swirls. It is covered with moss: Marshall’s sculpture.