Dr. Neill Marshall: The Voice You Remember
At least half the town of New Martinsville could probably identify the man by his voice before he comes into view. Whether he’s asking you to repeat the letters on the eye chart or echoing over the loudspeaker at Bill Stewart Stadium, Dr. Neill Marshall’s dulcet tones are a calming presence to an entire town. You can often find that same voice at Barista’s Cafe and Pub regaling the patrons with stories of Magnolia Blue Eagles and West Virginia Mountaineers sports glory.
A lifelong resident of Wetzel County, Dr. Marshall has spent decades giving back to his community.
1. What was a typical summer day like for young Neill Marshall in New Martinsville? Swimming morning, afternoon and evening at Bruce Pool.
2. Where did you go to school? I attended Central Grade School from grade one through grade six. I graduated from Magnolia High School in 1962, attended West Virginia University from 1962-1965 and received my doctor of optometry degree from Southern College of Optometry. After earning my Doctor of Optometry degree, I served in the United States Army from 1968-1970.
3. Please give us a story or two about your mom and dad. They were great parents and always there for me. They would drive 70 miles to their hometown, Grantsville, on Decoration Day to put fresh cut roses that they stored in coffee cans on family graves. When I went to Memphis for optometry school, they drove a U-Haul loaded with furniture for my third floor apartment. I went on a Greyhound Bus that took 24 hours. Like the Tom T. Hall song, “That’s How I got to Memphis.”
4. What are some differences between being a parent and grandparent? When kids are young, grandparents can return them; you can love them or leave them. You can spoil them without consequences.
5. In addition to running a medical practice, you are also in charge of running a small business. What are some things about a small business most people wouldn’t know? You need a good lawyer, accountant, great staff and a practice consulting firm. Common sense is a key.
6. What are some practices we could do to protect our eyes? I recommend safety glasses at home and work. Sun protection is important. Annual vision and eye exams are important for healthy eyes.
7. Please share a humorous moment you’ve had while examining patients. I instructed a young patient to look below my right eye and she blew in my eye.
8. It’s no secret that you are the “Voice of the Eagles.” Did you have a particular style of announcing in mind when you took the job? No, the previous announcer was retiring and George Mullett called me into his office and asked if I was interested. I thought it would be fun and a great place to be on rainy nights.
9. Back in the day, pickup games were a constant in young people’s lives. As sixth and seventh graders, the Town boys played the Brooklyn boys at Kiger Stadium which was a vacant lot of 5th Street. We followed that with a return game at Brooklyn Park. It was memorable. It was tackle not touch.
10. How many games have you announced over the years? In football it’s been over 200 games, starting with the 1981 season. I began announcing Magnolia basketball during the 1984-85 season and have called at least 400 games.
11. Do you have a sport you prefer announcing and, if so, why? Basketball — it’s warmer, you don’t need binoculars or a spotter, and you are closer to the action.
12. Which games stand out? In 1978 we beat Ravenswood in three overtimes in a come-from-behind final home game. That was Rick Berger’s senior year and we stopped them on a goal line stand. Our loss to Ceredo Kenova in a playoff game at Marshall University has stuck with me over the years.
13. You’ve seen plenty of great Magnolia football teams. The 1961 team was an undefeated 10-0. The team was ranked number one going into the last game of the season against Sistersville Even though the Blue Eagles won the game, they lost points in the ranking system, dropping them to number three. Back then, only the top two teams got to play in the state championship game. We missed out by 0.3 of a point. The flawed point system was changed afterwards. Many thought that was the best team ever.
14. Are there a few performers that stand out? Kenny Fisher was exciting to watch. Fuzzy Filliez was one of many great receivers. Of course, two-time Kennedy Award winner, Mark Cisar, was a consummate play maker. There were plenty more.
15. Do you have a Billy Stewart story for us? The Mountaineers were playing Rutgers in East Rutherford, N.J. and we were staying at the same hotel as the WVU team. We got a late night knock on the door. It was Coach Stewart stopping by for a visit. He was always thoughtful with hometown folks. Dave Koppel and his wife were also there.
16. You get to invite some of your sports heroes to a party. Who would they be? Major Harris, Don Nehlen, Billy Stewart and Jerry West.
17. You’ve grown older gracefully. Any tips? Enjoy life, have faith in God, good friends, choose a great occupation, don’t stress, be happy and don’t worry.
18. What advice would you give young Neill? Do your best, try hard, keep your mouth shut and don’t quit.
19. Anything on your bucket list? Taking another cross-country road trip via the northern route to Idaho Falls, Idaho to visit our daughter Michelle and her family.