Trailblazing former MP Ralph Marshall dies at 85
Politicians from across the divide have paid tribute to Ralph Marshall, one of the United Bermuda Party’s first parliamentarians, who died yesterday morning at the age of 85.
Professionally, Mr Marshall blazed a trail for the Portuguese community when he formed architectural and civil engineering firm Marshall Bernardo Partnership shortly after returning home from a stint of studying and work abroad, making him the first Bermudian of Portuguese descent to establish a profession on the Island.
He was also Bermuda’s first Portuguese-Bermudian legislator, and the first Bermudian to serve on the Executive of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
Premier Paula Cox described Mr Marshall as a “veteran politician and long serving Cabinet Minister” who had given much of his life to public service.
Besides serving in various Cabinet positions, Mr Marshall “gave many years of service on Government boards and committees, plus in his private practice he was a well-known architect and civil engineer”, said the Premier.
“I understand that Mr Marshall was considered as the workhorse of his party. He applied himself to the legislative agenda and is said to have made thoughtful contributions in House debates. Mr Ralph Marshall made a contribution.
“The Marshall family has our sincerest condolences and prayers at this difficult time.”
“Bermuda has lost a highly accomplished politician-statesman and businessman who was, for many decades, an anchor of strength to the Portuguese community,” said One Bermuda Alliance Leader Craig Cannonier.
“The Hon. Ralph Marshall was a key builder of Bermuda as we know it today.
“In his private life, Mr Marshall was a successful engineer and architect. In his public life, he was a founding member of the United Bermuda Party under the legendary Sir Henry Tucker.
“He was an outstanding member of the Portuguese community, breaking down many barriers as Bermuda matured as a community in which diversity was welcomed and respected.
“He was the first Portuguese-Bermudian Member of Parliament (for Southampton) in 1963, the first Portuguese-Bermudian Cabinet Minister in 1972 and the first Portuguese-Bermudian to be made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1992.”
Mr Cannonier added that Mr Marshall had “left his mark on virtually every corner of Bermuda” through his public service.
“He was truly one of modern Bermuda’s most important and influential sons, and as those who benefited from his long life of unstinting public service, we give thanks for the life of Ralph Marshall.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family in their time of bereavement.”
Former Premier Sir John Swan remembered Mr Marshall as having served as Works Minister in his first Cabinet presiding over several public works projects.
“Most of the Bermuda College was built under my administration and he was very effective in getting that started,” said Sir John.
“He believed that budgets should be balanced and that objectives should be met. In so many ways he was a no nonsense individual.”
Kim Swan, interim Leader of the UBP, said Mr Marshall had been one of his political mentors, and a “father figure” who would play a role in ensuring he continued his education. He and his wife were “deeply saddened” to learn the news, he said.
“Whilst he was my area Member of Parliament in Southampton West from 1963 to 1993, our association was personal and came through the game of golf as he was an avid golfer and directly involved in the development of both Port Royal Golf Course serving as its Deputy Chairman (1970 — 1972); and ironically the development of St George's Golf Course by establishing the St George's Golf Course Advisory Committee in 1980 during his tenure as Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries from 1978 to 1981.
“I met him through my friendship with his son Blake, and Ralph would later guarantee that I could continue my education. He later became one of my political mentors, a close friend and a father figure.”
Former Tourism Minister CV (Jim) Woolridge said: “ I just want to say what a great contribution he made towards the economic, social and commercial life of this island of ours. I had the pleasure of serving with him for 30 years in Parliament and he was a dedicated MP and hard worker.”
Mr Marshall first entered parliament in 1963 as an independent Member, something he was proud of, said Mr Swan, taking his place alongside other trailblazers such as Lois Browne, Walter Roberts and Sir John Sharpe.
“I always admired that he was unafraid to speak his mind,” Mr Swan continued.
“I say thank you to the Hon. Ralph Owen Marshall and pray to God that he rest in peace.”
Former Progressive Labour Party Mr Roberts, who started his parliamentary career with Mr Marshall, said that although they were political adversaries, Mr Marshall always had time to talk.
“I knew Ralph as a youngster all his life but I only got to know him better as a politician,” he said.
“As a politician he was a conservative. He more or less supported the right wing of the UBP. I could never call him a friend because of his political persuasion but there was never a problem we couldn’t discuss.
“He was against progressive ideas which were very forthcoming from the PLP in those days. And he took very strong positions in parliament, you always knew where he stood.”
Former Premier David Saul joined others in extending his condolences to Mr Marshall’s family and said that he had enjoyed working with Mr Marshall in Cabinet.
“He was a first class architect and he was a first class parliamentarian,” Dr Saul added.
Former Premier Dame Jennifer Smith said: “I offer my condolences to the Marshall family.
“I believe that one of his lasting legacies to Bermuda is his work with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. He was the first Bermudian to serve on the CPA Regional Executive and on the International Executive; paving the way for me to serve as Vice President of the CPA some 20 years later.
“Although he served as a Minister, he clearly enjoyed the ‘to and fro’ of parliamentary debate and often (during late night meetings) offered Members soup made by his wife.
“I never drive east past St Paul's Church, Paget without thinking about him and the cottage he knocked down as Minister of Public Works.”
UBP MP Charlie Swan said that Mr Marshall and his running mate Harry Viera were “consistently strong advocates and voices” in the representation of the then dual seat constituency of Southampton West.
“As the current Member representing Constituency number 31, I am proud to carry on the legacy both these men bequeathed Bermuda.
“Their humble beginnings allowed them to relate to, and appreciate, the needs of their constituents. I consider it an honour to follow in both their footsteps, while today respecting especially those of the Hon Ralph Marshall.
He said Mr Marshall had helped “a very broad range of individuals, many in very significant ways.
“All the while, his hand of help transcended socio and economic divides that existed at the time.”
“While the Hon Ralph Owen Marshall JP MP has gone, he will be remembered for his service spanning 30 years as an elected member, through buildings such as Mayflower Court, the Grotto Bay Beach Resort and numerous others, and through his children and grandchildren.
“My sincerest condolences and thoughts are with all the family at this time.”
OBA MP Trevor Moniz noted that Mr Marshall’s pioneering achievements made him “an important role model”.
“Ralph made a major contribution to public service and public life in Bermuda over many years.
“Our sincere condolences go out to the members of his family.”
The Progressive Labour Party in a statement noted that Mr Marshall had served in a number of Cabinet roles.
“One can only imagine the sacrifices that he must have made personally while serving his country in these many capacities for this period of time.
“We thank Mr Marshall for his service to Bermuda, and the Progressive Labour Party extends our sympathies and condolences to his family members and friends.”
Doug Backeberg, Mr Marshall’s business partner for 35 years said: “We just had the most wonderful 35 years together in the practice.”
Besides designing and building the Bermuda College and Grotto Bay, the firm was also responsible for the Washington Mall, Belco and other landmarks around the Island.
“We said not only should we be honest and fair but we should appear to be honest and fair,” said Mr Backeberg of Mr Marshall’s work ethic.
Former UBP Minister Clarence Terceira, praised Mr Marshall for having made a “considerable contribution to Bermuda. Dr Terceira and Mr Marshall were cousins and friends from childhood, and also went to college together.
“He also made a considerable contribution to our Alma Mater having served as an outstanding Regent. He continued to give financial support to the University.
“I had a nice chat with Ralph just about nine or ten days ago and it came as a shock to find he was in hospital four or five days later and of course to hear of his passing this morning.”
Mr Marshall, who has had Parkinson’s disease for about 12 years, died at the King Edward Memorial Hospital after a short bout with pneumonia.
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