"He had an unusual combination of skills and talents," Library Company director John C. Van Horne said of Mr. Marshall's work at the Locust Street athenaeum - though it could apply to his endeavors generally.
"He was very good with his hands and able to build what needed to be built," Van Horne said. "At the same time, he was involved in the intellectual aspects, in curating, selecting materials, reading dealer catalogs, keeping an eye out for acquisitions. There aren't many people who can have a foot in both camps."
Born in Paterson, N.J., and raised in Chicago and Riverside, Calif., Mr. Marshall graduated from Riverside's Polytechnic High School in 1960 and Whittier College in California in 1964. After earning a master's in early American history from Clark University in Massachusetts, he taught history at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1969 and 1970.
An unexpected offer from the Library Company's then-director, Edwin Wolf 2d, drew him onto a path that he would follow, in one capacity or another, for the rest of his life.
The title "assistant librarian" barely hinted at his duties. He not only designed, installed, curated, and co-curated exhibits, wrote scholarly articles, and scoured the market for books, artifacts, and ephemera, but also oversaw the physical plant.
In the early 1990s, he headed a $1 million renovation that rid the library of its mausoleum ambience and modernized it as a research center.
In 2002, nearly a decade after his retirement, Mr. Marshall joined the trustee board, a rare invitation for a former staffer. "But he had a more intimate knowledge of our operation than most trustees," Van Horne said. Given the ongoing space planning, "Gordon was someone we wanted back in the fold."
Last spring, having to cycle off the board after three three-year terms, he became emeritus trustee.
Soon after retiring, Mr. Marshall immersed himself in renovating his church, the Unitarian Universalist in Cherry Hill. When fire destroyed it in 1997, rebuilding it became "all-consuming," his wife, Louise, said. As project manager, "he devoted himself, mind and body, to it. He oversaw it all, organized the volunteers, beat the bushes for money." It was completed in 2002.
The Marshalls spent the first decade of their 47-year marriage in Cherry Hill, then moved to Moorestown and a 1870s Victorian on the brink of condemnation. Its restoration "tormented" him for years, his wife said. "Always, he insisted in authenticity, respecting the intent of the period."
Although illness overtook him in his last four years, he pursued a taxing pastime: stone carving. His marble and granite pieces, many created at the couple's Vermont summer home, were abstract and big, topping 100 pounds.
"He loved stone, chipping at it, polishing it," Louise Marshall said. "It was nice to see him doing something that was for himself."
Also surviving are a son, Peter; a daughter, Jenna Korff; three granddaughters; a sister; two half-sisters; and two half-brothers.
A life celebration will be at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, March 9, at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill.
Donations may be made to the church at 401 N. Kings Highway, Cherry Hill, N.J. 08034, or the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center, P.O. Box 495, West Rutland, Vt. 05777.
Contact Kathleen Tinney