My friend Dr. Marshall Darnell, who helped educate a generation of Clark County students, died last Thursday. His abbreviate obituary appeared in today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Like everyone who has their “obit” in a newspaper, its just the tip of the iceberg of that person’s life. Here’s a fuller account of Marshall’s life that has been circulating among his friends. It’s worth sharing with the whole community. So long, Marshall. As the last line says, he will, indeed, be remembered with a smile.
“To Dr. Marshall C. Darnell, the entire world was a stage. An expressive, optimistic, and uninhibited individual, he was a performer in the theater of life. To everyone around him, he seemed to be eternally happy, and he willingly shared that joy with anyone whose life he touched. For Marshall, bringing out the best in any situation was as easy as offering a smile, a witty remark or the twinkle of an eye. And with just those simple gestures, he could evoke the most pleasant of emotions. Marshall really mastered the art of living and had great fun in doing so.
“Marshall was born on November 15, 1937 in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. His parents were James Milton and Elizabeth Robinson Darnell. Even as a child, Marshall had the ability to lift the spirits of all those around him. He was raised to be warm, caring and friendly. He couldn’t help but capture everyone’s attention. He was definitely a little bit of a show off, but in doing so, he succeeded in entertaining his entire family.
“Always a good playmate, Marshall was easygoing and fun loving. He managed to lighten the mood wherever he was, even during family squabbles. He seemed to have a knack for bringing compromise and erasing tense situations around the house. Due to a generous dose of common sense, Marshall managed to find a satisfying solution to basic problems. Marshall was raised with two siblings. He had an older brother J.C. and an older sister Theora.
“All of Marshall’s playful good humor carried over into his childhood. He was possessed with an outgoing personality, a lively imagination and a mellowed enthusiasm for life that allowed him to be constantly on the go. As a result, Marshall experienced a rather active childhood, and this suited him very well. He took part in football and ran track. He was a Boy Scout and participated in church activities. In his spare time he liked riding his bike and hunting. Marshall’s memorable achievements included being an extra in two movies including “Raintree County” and briefly held the state record for the 100 yard dash. During high school and college Marshall also worked in a restaurant and served as an assistant manager.
“Ask anyone who knew him from school and they would tell you that Marshall was a class “cut-up.” He didn’t do it to be unkind or to garner all the attention. Rather, Marshall simply enjoyed others’ laughter and the sounds of his friends and acquaintances having a good time. It could be said that for Marshall, grades were the most important thing to him, and he really did enjoy his school experience. Since experience was Marshall’s best teacher. He enjoyed hands-on learning and applying the “practical” approach to knowledge, rather than getting caught up in “theory.” Marshall graduated from Harrodsburg High School in 1956. He enjoyed some courses more than others, having favorite classes and teachers. His favorite class in high school was English. The teacher he enjoyed learning from the most was Miss Aimee Alexander.
“Marshall reveled in his college years, where his imagination could run free. He was viewed by many of his classmates as being a creative, artistic person. Marshall was usually found at the center of things, whether it was during class or in extracurricular activities. He was a jovial person who loved to share his passion for fun with others. But for Marshall, life was not a case of all play and no work. Marshall relished the task of putting his imagination to work in class. He was able to discover new and different ways of answering problems and creating unusual and different solutions. Marshall earned his A. A. from Campbellsville College in 1958. He earned his B.A. from Eastern Kentucky State College in 1960 and his M.A. from there in 1964. Marshall then earned his Ed.D from University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1977. Marshall served as the President of an Honor Society at Campbellsville College and at Eastern, he was a member of World Affairs Club and OAKS ( an honorary organization whose membership is chosen on scholastic standing, leadership and character.
“Marshall never actually encountered a stranger in his dealings with people. He was drawn to individuals and crowds, using his gregarious, adaptable and outgoing personality to captivate his audience. This quality allowed Marshall to continually develop new relationships, ever widening his circle of friends. Marshall delighted in his role among all his acquaintances, because he viewed them all as potential spectators for his performance. Whether it was a story, a joke, a song or just plain fooling around, Marshall was always right at home putting on a show among his friends. Marshall utilized his interest in others as a great way to connect with them. While growing up, some of his best friends who have remained close friends until today are Jim Allison, Don Bishop and Joe McClellan. “After moving to Las Vegas in December 1960, he has had many close friends including those he met in his thirty years with the Clark County School District, Southwest Rotary, church and the Spanish Oaks Homeowners Association. One of his closest friends was Bruce Castleberry whom he met in the sixties at church and they remained fishing buddies and the best of friends until this day. Marshall loved sharing life and having his home filled with people he knew.
“The gift of being emotionally expressive and outwardly affectionate made Marshall very easy to approach. On August 1, 1964 Marshall exchanged wedding vows with Patsy Lucile Pace at First Baptist Church of Richmond, Kentucky. He was always sensitive to other people’s feelings, and that was especially true in marriage.
“Perhaps the reason Marshall related so well to children was the fact that he never really completely grew up himself. The ability to be just a “kid at heart” helped him in raising his own children. Marshall was blessed with two children Theresa Michele and James Marshall. He was also blessed with two grandchildren Elizabeth Lucile Paul and Evan Darnell. Marshall had the ability to focus his attention on the present moment. If he was spending time with the kids, that’s where all of his attention was directed. Marshall’s compassionate side prevented him from being a strict disciplinarian, and he could turn just about any situation into a playful, learning experience. He could spend hours entertaining them with fun and creative play. In fact, Marshall had a knack for turning some of those nasty old chores into games.
“At work, as in life, Marshall was a real “people person.” He had a very successful way of dealing effectively with others, and his enthusiasm and energy was often contagious. Marshall liked to see himself as something of a virtuoso. When dealing with various projects and problems, Marshall was an adaptable realist, using his common sense and trusting his experiences and impulses to uncover the correct answer. Marshall’s talent for being a down to earth thinker, allowed many around him to see Marshall as an excellent problem solver. His primary occupation was as an educator. Marshall became a substitute teacher in 1961 and remained with the Clark County School District until his retirement. During this time he was a teacher, counselor, Assistant Principal, Principal, and Central District Adminstrator. He also held postions as Assistant Director of Secondary Education, Director of Curriculum, Director of Vocational Education and various positions.
“Marshall enjoyed his leisure time by taking part in various hobbies. His favorite pursuits were hunting deer, doves and pheasant; fishing, traveling to Hawaii, Alaska, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Kentucky and Oklahoma. Marshall was content to enjoy his hobbies alone but was also willing to share his interests with others.
“Marshall felt excited and challenged by sports. Even if he wasn’t the best, Marshall loved to participate and thoroughly enjoyed the competition and the pleasure of being around other people. Marshall relished the opportunities where he could make an impact, and he would often push himself to play above his abilities. A quick thinker who understood the basics, Marshall never seemed to get caught off guard, even when confronted with unexpected conflict. In high school, Marshall played football and track. Marshall was also something of a sports fan and enjoyed watching his favorite events whenever he got the opportunity. Tops on his list were basketball and football but he enjoyed watching all sports.
“Marshall had an endless appetite for new and different activities. He was always ready to join in the fun and add his flair and energy to an organization. Because of his personality, his humor, and his ability to get along with everyone, Marshall’s service was greatly valued by the organizations to which he belonged. Throughout his later years, Marshall was an active member of the Phi Delta Kappa, Clark County Association of School Administrators, National Association Secondary School Principals, Association Supervision Curriculum Development, American Vocational Association, Nevada Vocational Association, Clark County Vocational Association and National Parent Teacher Association.
“A generous person who often wore his heart on his sleeve, Marshall often found himself involved in activities he deemed important. He was charitable, kind and giving, qualities that made him a natural volunteer. Outspoken in his beliefs, yet tactful in his dealings with others, Marshall was a member of several community groups, serving on committees for the Las Vegas Southwest Rotary Club Member and Past- President, Group Leader Rotary International GSE Team- Philippines, Executive Board, Boy Scouts of America, Member, Executive Board March of Dimes, Scholarship Chairman, I. B. E. W. District Sponsored Executive United Way Campaign and the Heart Association.
“Vested with a deep concern for spiritual development, Marshall recognized that his faith was important to him throughout his life. He was a member of the Baptist Church since he was a teenager. During that time, he served in many positions such as Sunday School teacher for college age people. Most recently Marshall served as an usher at Shadow Hills Baptist Church.
“Naturally outgoing and generous, Marshall was regularly doing things for others. For him, the gift of giving to others was second nature. Though he never set out to gain individual recognition, Marshall was given accolades for his many and varied accomplishments throughout his life. Some of his most prestigious awards included Excellence in Education Hall of Fame CCSD, Honorary Life Membership National Parent -Teacher Association, Special White House Invitation for Vocational Education Legislation, Honorary Membership, National FBLA, DECA, FHA, and FFA, Graduated with Distinction, 1960, 1964, 1977, United Way Sponsored Executive Award, Service Award, NAASP, Service Award, BSA Service Award, Clark County School District, Who’s Who in the West and Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Distinguished Alumni.
“Living life in the fast lane suited Marshall just fine. It is no surprise that he loved to travel and to visit new and different places. He was naturally curious about other parts of the world and loved the real life adventure that came from visiting them. He was impulsive and willing to try anything once. Favorite vacations included Alaska, Hawaii and Yellowstone.
“Marshall was a lover of animals and cherished his pets, enjoying them almost as much as he enjoyed being around other people. Marshall had several dogs and cats throughout his life.
“Marshall believed that you had to experience life, and his life in retirement was no different. When that day finally arrived in 1990, Marshall took it in stride as one more way to have fun. With his boundless energy and a desire to get the most out of life, Marshall remained busy with people and projects. In retirement, he found new pleasure in the Las Vegas Southwest Rotary where he held several offices. Marshall was the head of Group Study an exchange program to the Philippines and served as President. Marshall was active in the Spanish Oaks Homeowners Association where he was a board member and served as President for several years.. Even in retirement, Marshall continued to stay in touch with his old friends and, since he’d never met a stranger, he made plenty of new acquaintances as well.
“Marshall is survived by his wife of 50 years Patsy Darnell; children Theresa Michele and James Marshall ( Shannon); grandchildren Elizabeth Paul and Evan Darnell and many nieces and nephews.
“Marshall brought joy to all of those around him. He never had a mean bone in his body. He loved to have a good time and was an eternal optimist, always looking on the bright side of things. He loved to share his energy, wit, and his zest for all of his activities with his friends and family. Dr. Marshall C. Darnell lived life to its fullest and made everyone around him happier just for knowing him. He will be remembered with a smile.”