by David Shannon
When someone lives almost 96 years, we are naturally impressed with their longevity of life. But when our brother, Marshall Wilhite, passed from this earth we felt the loss of a dear friend.
Marshall was born and grew up in Algood, TN. In high school he felt his young brothers needed a better opportunity in life so he took them and himself and enrolled in TIS (Tennessee Industrial School). There he learned a trade and came to enjoy the game of football. As a senior in 1931, he played first string for the “All City All Star Team” of Nashville. In 1937, he enrolled in the National Guard. In 1940, he enlisted in the Army during WWII. In 1942, he married Lucille Ervin who had children, ages five and ten years old. He took those children into his life and heart claiming them as his own. During this time they lived in East Nashville.
Their move to MJ in 1959 brought them closer to lakes and streams , which they enjoyed so much in order to fish and boat. Marshall was athletic. He enjoyed skiing and even barefoot skiing. While stationed in Hawaii he even tried surfing. He continued to love football, refusing to miss a UT football game either on the radio or TV.
He was thankful to have been selected to serve as a deacon in 1960 at the MJ congregation. He retired from the Methodist Publishing House with 30 years of service. Marshall was a man who often carried a buckeye in his pocket. He would usually have rubbed it smooth. Throughout his years he loved to garden, cut wood, and rabbit hunt. He kept himself fit until the very end. Even until recent years he would do jumping jacks, sit-ups and other calisthenics. One of the greatest attributes of this man was his ability to make so many people feel special. There were little children who visited him in hospice to bring balloons and there was a teenager who dropped off a photo. A young man in his twenties made the drive over to Madison to visit his friend who always talked UT football with him. A man in his forties, who owns a print shop, went by to see him. People closer to retirement and others who have retired made their way to see their friend. Probably every decade of life was represented by his visitors to his hospital room and hospice room. Why? Because he had the gift to make friends of all ages and make each one feel very special. Stories of love, appreciation, and humor have been told in abundance in the last few days.
One of the last days he was able to communicate he asked me to share some thoughts with each of you. “Seek God and His mercy. Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” He paused to catch his breath and slowly began speaking again, “Let them know how much I appreciate them. They are the best brothers and sisters. Tell them I love them. I love them one and all–sincerely. They are the best.” We would say the same about him!
The Lord’s church is a blessing. For quite a while now Leroy Beard has served Marshall daily. He found out about his needs while delivering Meals on Wheels. Leroy’s hours of service, heart of compassion and pleasurable friendship led one of Marshall’s family members to say, “If there are angels on earth, Leroy Beard is one them.” Leroy has a wonderful way of finding his place in the Lord’s body and showing up daily