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The Rev. Robert Wilson Marsh, 82, of California, a lifelong Presbyterian minister, chaplain and musician, died Dec. 4, 2012, at the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home.
Born March 13, 1930, in Holiday's Cove, W.Va., he was the son of the late George Harlan and Martha Wilson Marsh.
Graduating from Weir High School in 1948, he was the first in his family to attend college, working many hours at the Weirton Steel Corp. to fund his education. He graduated cum laude from Grove City College in Grove City, Pa., in 1953 with a bachelor's degree in both history and politics. Raised a Presbyterian, he then began to prepare for his life's work, realizing his calling to the ministry driven by his strong faith, keen interest in theology, and innate desire to do good for humanity. He subsequently earned three advanced degree. First, he earned a master's of divinity degree from Western Theological Seminary (now called Pittsburgh Theological Seminary) in Pittsburgh in 1956. Then, while serving as an ordained minister, he attended Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va., where he received a master's of theology degree in 1963 and doctorate in ministry in 1973. From 1966 to 1967, he studied French and The Reformation at the Université de Neuchatel, Switzerland. During this special year, he met his future wife, Sigrun Marlis, in West Berlin while traveling throughout Europe.
The Rev. Marsh proudly and passionately served as a pastor for more than 50 years. Ordained in 1956, he began his career in Pea Ridge, Ark., before also serving congregations in Texas, Maryland, Louisiana, Ohio and West Virginia. While at his second pastorate in Fort Worth, Texas, he attended a prayer breakfast with local clergy at the Hotel Texas with President John and first lady Jackie Kennedy, just a few hours before his assassination in Dallas. His longest pastorate was at the First Presbyterian Church of St. Mary's County (now called Patuxent Presbyterian), where he served from 1977 until his retirement in 1995. During his time in Maryland, the Rev. Marsh, an avid musican, pianist, and hymn-writer, who loved to lead the congregation in song, launched an annual community music series at the church, bringing prominent musicians and choral groups to St. Mary's County, including the U.S. Army Chorus and U.S. Navy Sea Chanters.
Most notably, he was the visionary, inspiration, and force behind the relocation of the church from its original site in Town Creek to a much more visible and accessible location between Three Notch Road and the Solomons bridge.
Following retirement, he continued to work as an interim minister, guiding a number of churches, including St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Leesville, La., Longs Run Church in Calcutta, Ohio, First Presbyterian Church in St. Clairsville, Ohio, First Westminster Presbyterian Church in Steubenville, Ohio, Hill Top Presbyterian Church in Toronto, Ohio, as well as his home church, Cove Presbyterian, in Weirton.
He was a chaplain in the Army Reserve and the Texas and Maryland Army National Guards for 30 years, retiring in 1990 at the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was called up to active duty by President Kennedy in 1961, during the Berlin crisis and served as a chaplain for the 49th Armored Division at Fort Polk, La.
He was a longtime Rotarian, active in a number of clubs where he resided, including Lexington Park, where he was named a Paul Harris Fellow. He served on the boards of Hospice of St. Mary's and the Pastoral Counseling Center. As a hymn-writer, he authored more than 20, with a number of them published in religious periodicals. He also enjoyed poetry and Civil War history. He was an amateur genealogist and traced the earliest Marsh settler to colonial America, his great- great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Marsh.
He is survived by his wife; children, Kirsten E. Marsh of New York City and Bruce R. Marsh (Paola Piscioneri) of Alexandria, Va; and a grandson, Rowan W. Marsh.
The family will hold visitation Sunday, Dec. 9, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Brinsfield Funeral Home in Leonardtown. A funeral service will be held Monday, Dec. 10, at 2 p.m. at the Patuxent Presbyterian Church, conducted by the Rev. Mike Jones. An interment service with military honors will be held at the New Cumberland Cemetery in New Cumberland, W.Va., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 2 p.m.
Memorial contributions be made either to the music ministry of the Patuxent Presbyterian Church, Attn: Dr. Robert W. Marsh Memorial Music Fund, 23421 Kingston Creek Road, California, MD 20619, or the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, “In Memory of Robert Wilson Marsh,” 1359 Broadway, Suite 1509, New York, NY 10018.