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Family, Friends Remember Bob Marshall for 'Paying It Forward'

The former San Bruno mayor, whose funeral was Saturday, was often described as "one in a million."

More than 600 people attended the funeral Mass Saturday for former Mayor Bob Marshall at  to celebrate his life and remember his big heart, strong family values and clever sense of humor.

Family and friends all shared heartfelt memories of the Bob Marshall they knew—the man who lived his whole life with generosity, even when he became a politician, and always tried to look on the bright side of things. at the age of 77.

Those who knew Marshall said his character was driven by his faith. He was a longtime parishioner at St. Robert’s.

"Bob was first a Catholic. I think they did a pretty good job at that," said Maureen Gilmartin, a family friend and the first speaker at the mass. "What he did for his community was create the idea of everyone helping everybody else." 

Marshall was often described as a "one in a million" character, someone who put others before himself and made sure everyone enjoyed his company—whether it was with his noble nature, his sense of humor or his generosity.

"There hasn't been a time that I met him where he didn't greet you with a handshake, a hug and a kiss on the cheek," said Jeff Steele, a family friend.

Anne Oliva, Marshall’s daughter, said her father, who served as the city's mayor from 1980-91, was “the master of communication." She recalled how her father had never sent a single email. Rather, he would always pick up the telephone or go out to lunch with someone to talk about things.

"He had such an old-school style,” Oliva said. “My dad was a hand-shaker and a heart-toucher."

Besides his success as a mayor, Realtor and community leader in San Mateo County, Marshall was described as a family man who provided for his wife, children and grandchildren.

"Dad was on top of everything. He'd know who was driving, what he was driving and at what time,” said his son Johnny Marshall, recalling his younger years when Bob Marshall was mayor. “He'd have more accurate information than I'd have inaccurate information."

"My dad always paid it forward. He was an example of work ethic, honesty and caring for his family," Johnny Marshall continued. "He was generous, never looked for anything in return, he was anti-confrontational, enjoyed different walks of life, he loved ethnicities and culture." 

Some of Marshall’s best life moments were captured at the funeral by his grandchildren, who told vivid stories about their late "Papo."

"I was 5 years old and we had a long driveway. We were decorating the outside of the house for Halloween. I didn't hear my dad's car and it slowly backed up into me and ran me over by the back," said his granddaughter Francesca Oliva, now 22. "I was rushed to Peninsula Hospital and my whole family was sitting by my bedside and my dad felt horrible, but I didn't break or hurt anything.

“All I had were skid marks on my overalls,” she said. “He then would joke, ‘Hey, rubber-butt. You got some rubber left out there from that tire.’" 

Most of all, Marshall’s grandchildren said the best memory they’ll always remember about their grandfather was that he always made sure everyone had a good time.

"He used to take us for root beer floats and ice cream,” said his grandson Johnny Marshall, 20. “It was all an ongoing tradition." 

Bob Marshall, known as “Mr. San Bruno” because of his years of dedication to the city as mayor, a business owner and community leader, was instrumental in getting the senior center built. It has become known as “The House That Bob Built.”

After the processional, the family held a big celebration there and invited the community.

John Murphy May 13, 2012 at 04:08 PM
About 30 years ago I was the rec leader at John Muir School and Bob's sons, Bobby and Johnny, used to come by. In fact, Bobby basically crafted the entire card-board boat that we used in a race at the city park pool ... melted wax in my parents' garage to seal it up while everyone else just sat around eating pizza. Johnny was a really nice kid, but a handful on occasion. Once I got into it with him a little and I guess he mentioned it to his father. So the elder Bob Marshall paid me a visit and I remember how reasonable and calm he was while still getting his point across. What a great man!

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