Catherine Marshall Remembered

By Schneider, Dick | The Saturday Evening Post, April 1987 | Go to article overview

Catherine Marshall Remembered


Schneider, Dick, The Saturday Evening Post


CATHERINE MARSHALL REMEMBERED

As Diane Sawyer fondlyremembers Catherine Marshall, so the inspirational author remembered her. After their brief encounter in 1963, they became friends over the years.

"The moment we met thatpoised, talented 18-year-old, we sensed that she was someone very special," says Leonard LeSourd, who, along with his wife, Catherine, was one of the judges at the 1963 America's Junior Miss Contest. "Because of her unusual charisma, she was, in a way, a problem for us judges in that she was in a class by herself. There was something mystical about her, an inner glow that both Catherine and I found came from an unusually sensitive spirit and a deep humility.

"Catherine was never more of aprophet than when she said to me after the contest, 'That lovely girl has unlimited potential.'

"We have stayed in contact witheach other," LeSourd says, "and when Diane's father was killed in an auto accident in 1969, she was on the phone with us within hours. Catherine ministered to her, and the two prayed together."

Diane Sawyer is just one of themillions of people whose lives have been touched by the internationally beloved author. Catherine Marshall's 20 books and countless articles continue to inspire readers today.

Catherine had a remarkable facilityfor reaching a wide range of people, from housewives to business executives, from teen-agers to celebrities. Dean Smith, the coach of one of the nation's top basketball teams, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, has said reading Catherine Marshall's book Beyond Ourselves helped him at a crucial point in his life. Max Cleland, Georgia's secretary of state and the former V.A. administrator under President Carter, has told how much her works helped him deal with losing both legs and an arm in Vietnam.

Why does her writing have such awide following? Probably because Catherine Marshall experienced life so deeply through marriage, motherhood, everyday struggles, illness, tragedy, and death. And drawing from this bittersweet well, she touched chords common to us all.

Catherine grew up during the Depression. Hermother, Leonora Wood, remembers when she found her high-school daughter sobbing on her bed as she faced the impossibility of attending college because of the poverty that blighted the hills around Keyser, West Virginia, where they then lived.

"See here," her mother said, "youand I are going to pray about this." Leonora talked about the confidence faith gives and how when one turns problems over to God, He listens. Later, a federal project paid Catherine's mother to write the history of their West Virginia county, and this money helped meet tuition expenses.

Catherine graduated PhiBeta kappa from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, in 1936. (She later served as a trustee.) While there, she met the Reverend Peter Marshall, the popular young Scottish pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. After their marriage in the fall of 1936, he pastored the hitoric New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., where the informal sincerity of his sermons made him one of the nation's most highly regarded preachers.

In 1947 Peter Marshall was namedchaplain of the U.S. Senate. He became known particularly for his illuminating prayers on the Senate floor. Two years later, however, he died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving Catherine as a 34-year-old widow with a 9-year-old son, Peter John Marshall.

It was a gloomy scene in the parsonagesome weeks later when four well-meaning businessmen, officers of the church and good friends, came to advise Catherine on her future.

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