In Memory of

Martha (Lawson) Marshall

Oct. 16, 1913   -   Feb. 02, 2007
Polson, Montana


The day Martha saved my life.

      Dave and I were just kids ... grade schoolers ... youngsters.   One fine morning at Dave's house we got into a disagreement, a bad one at that.   It escalated into pushing, shoving, and finally, to get the upper hand, I picked up a brick and hurled it at Dave. He, being quick, stepped back but not quite fast enough as the brick hit him squarely on the foot.   Well the fight was on.   His disposition changed from angry to ... well in two words " a raging bull ".   I thought that I had had it as I went down hard from a tackle that would be the envy of any NFL defensive giant today.

      But at that moment Martha came zooming out of the house to break it up.   I don't quite remember just how she got Dave up.   I suspect that it was the twisted ear tactic.   But it worked and I was thankful.  

      Dave was whisked inside and I readily complied with Martha's instruction to ' go home '. I don't think that I ever did thank her for saving my life that day.   Thank you, Martha.

Duane Roberts


Martha's biography.

      Martha Marshall, a Polson resident since, 1977, died on 2/2/07 at St. Luke's Extended Care in Ronan.   Born on 10/16/13 in East Butte, Montana to John and Matilda Lawson, she was the only daughter and the youngest of six children.   Her father was a Danish sailor, and her mother a Norwegian midwife.   They emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1880's, and lived in East Butte, along with Matilda's mother and two brothers.   As a young girl she spent a lot of time during the summer with her father at his Nez Perce Gulch mining claim in the Elk Park Valley, and visiting her Uncle Carl and Grandma Guri who lived in a small nearby ranch.   In 1927, she won the Butte city-wide jacks championship, her only athletic achievement.   She never did learn to ride a bicycle or work a yoyo, much to her son’s amusement.

      Their East Butte home was the remodeled Black Station, a stage coach stop from the Elk Park Valley, which her father purchased, dismantled, and reassembled.   She inherited it (and the mortgage) when her father died, and helped her husband with a huge remodeling project, which included indoor plumbing, cedar shingles and siding, and an elegant vestibule with a curved roof and hand-crafted heavy front door.   They lived in that house until about 1950, when they moved next door into the house started by her brother Wolfe, who lived with them his whole adult life.   He worked at the Original Mine, and was a second father to her son Dave.

      She graduated from Harrison Grade School, attended Butte High School, earned a secretarial certificate at Butte Business College, and worked at Christie Transfer before marrying Ed Marshall in 1935.   They got married in Helena on Dec. 28, 1935, after driving with the best man and maid of honor from Butte in her cousin’s 1928 Chevrolet sedan during sub-zero temperatures.   They had to stop in Basin for a car repair, and to thaw out.

      The Lawson Family was very musical.   Matilda sang; Wolf played an accordion; Jim the banjo, Martha, George, and John, played piano, and father John, escaping the din of loud instruments, plinked the mandolin on the back porch.   An excellent pianist, she supplemented the family income during her early married years, by playing solo at the D&M and Jimmy Lawrence’s Saloon, or in a trio with Stormy Weathers and Harold Garcia, at the 45 Club, and the Rocky Mountain Café.   They mostly played dance music, but at home she liked to play honkytonk and ragtime.   Tiring of the bar routine, she turned to playing organ at Gold Hill Lutheran Church, and also served as church secretary.

      After moving to Polson, she played organ at The Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.   Here she took an adult-ed course in writing, and produced a dozen or so amusing and well written pieces, and regretted that she hadn’t started writing earlier in life.   Verbally gifted, even towards the end she was a funny and engaging conversationalist.   In spite of her dementia, her social skills were still sharp, and she enjoyed making people laugh.   Care givers at Home Sweet Home, and St. Luke’s thought she was a crack-up.   And she still did her best to keep her son Dave in line.   One Saturday, while singing along with the Seventh Day Adventists at St. Lukes, she rebuked him for whistling to the music.   With a sharp jab in the ribs, she whispered fiercely, “Don’t whistle in public”.

      Martha, a name that means “keeper of the home”, kept a clean, orderly, and tastefully decorated home.   Crafts didn’t interest her nearly as much as crossword puzzles, but she enjoyed needlepoint, caned a chair or two, and sewed.   She filled a handsome hutch with bone china, crystal, milk glass, and pewter, mostly gifts from friends and family.

      An energetic and excellent cook, she always provided the family with a passel of Scandinavian baked goods at Christmas.   From her mother- in-law she learned to make saffron “nubbies” and Cornish pasties, Ed’s favorites, and Kay Spolar taught her to make povitica, which she called “povateetsa”.

      After Ed retired from 39 years with the Anaconda Company, they moved to Plains to work with son Dave at Lawyer’s Nursery.   Unfortunately Dave got fired the day before they arrived, but they stayed a couple of years and Ed worked as a handyman.   Then they moved to into a new house in Polson on 13th Ave., built by Andy Galley.   Ed had always loved Flathead Lake, and they drove there several times to pick a flat or two of cherries.   For two years in a row, the family spent a week vacationing at Table Bay, just sitting around, fishing a bit, and enjoying the scenery.   For East Butte people, Flathead Lake was pretty close to heaven.   Ed never regretted the move, but Martha missed the Irish brogue and the outgoing social atmosphere of Butte.

      Upon arriving in Polson, she joined the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, and was one of the regular quilters for several years, along with her cousin Hazel Hamry, and several church friends.   She and Ed were active in the Polson Senior Center and also enjoyed eating at the Indian Senior Center

      Martha loved and accepted everyone no matter their race religion, or social status.   She fed the scissor sharpener, the honey man, and a variety of homeless men during the depression.   While in Plains she opened her home to the migrant nursery employees.   Her grandchildren loved visiting her because she took time to play and dance with them (plus her sweet treats).

      She was preceded in death by her parents, brothers, cousin Hazel, and favorite Aunt Selma Hamry, who lived next door to her until the whole neighborhood was displaced by Berkeley Pit operations in the late 1960's, when the Columbia Gardens was dismantled.

      Martha is survived by her son Dave and his wife Suzy of Polson, grandchildren Peggy and her husband Brad Prigge of Butte, Lisa Marshall of Helena, Zach Marshall and his wife Candace of Helena, Adam and his wife Lisa, of Torrance, CA., and six grandchildren Sage and Teal Prigge of Butte, Lisa Marshall’s sons Eric and Teagen Grosh, little Wesley David of Torrance, and little Quinn, son of Zach and Candace.

      Family and friends will gather at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Saturday, Feb.24, at 2 pm, to celebrate Martha’s life.   Memorials to Habitat for Humanity, The World Wildlife Fund, Nature Conservancy, Foot and Mouth Painters, or Lutheran World Relief would honor the memory of her generous spirit.

son Dave

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