LIMA — Glenwood Marshall had a memorable way of walking — and he walked everywhere. Clad in an orange safety vest, a Bible in one hand and a cane in the other, Marshall fairly bounced down the sidewalk, gesturing and conducting a mostly indecipherable one-man revival service.
Even when he did stop walking, almost always at the corner of North and Main streets, he didn’t stop moving — or preaching. For two decades in fair weather and foul, Marshall was a near-daily fixture in downtown Lima, waving the Bible, gesturing and preaching at passing cars and pedestrians, who either gawked at or studiously ignored him.
“We called him Popcorn in homage to his bantam rooster’s walk, jutting and popping his way down the street in a spastic trot, all the while singing and shouting to no one in particular,” The Lima News columnist Bart Mills wrote in May 2004, shortly after Marshall died at the age of 89.
On a website devoted to all things Lima, the question was posed: “Anybody remember the preacher man?” A lot of people did.
While several responders dismissed him as a crazy man, most wrote that he was a “great guy” or a “good man.” Many recalled Marshall walking on state Route 309 for Delphos, where he had once lived and where his wife had once been in a nursing home. A woman wrote that “I got to know him while working at a local nursing home. He came every Sunday to visit his wife Pauline, who was a patient there. A dear, sweet soul …” Noting that he was “out in all kinds of weather,” another responder wrote that “I admired him.”
What anyone thought never seemed to matter to Marshall. He was on a mission.
Marshall was born Oct. 30, 1914, in Moweaqua, Illinois, the son of Emery and Dessie Blackwood Marshall. By 1920, according to census data, the Marshall family — which, in addition to Glenwood, included three brothers and a sister — were living in Van Wert County. On Oct. 9, 1943, just shy of his 29th birthday, Marshall married Mary Alice Friend, who was born Mary Alice Dunlap in Rushmore in November 1878. Dunlap had previously been married to Charles Friend.
After almost 25 years of marriage, Dunlap died at the age of 89 in January 1968. In 1970, Marshall, then 56, married 58-year-old Pauline Lucille Foust, who had been married to Herman Foust. She died in Shawnee Manor Nursing Home in August 1986 at 74.
When Glenwood Marshall died in May 2014, The Lima News noted that “Mr. Marshall had been a factory worker.” By 1972, Marshall, according to the Lima city directory, was retired and living with Pauline in an apartment in the 200 block of East Market Street. Subsequent directories, in 1973 and 1978, give his occupation as salesman, living in 1973 in the 700 block of South Elizabeth Street and, by 1978, in an apartment in the 100 block of North Elizabeth Street.
In 1995, according to the city directory, Marshall, now a widower, was living in an apartment at 119 1/2 E. Pearl St., above Ruth’s Restaurant.
Around 1981, Marshall had become a salesman of a different sort. “Anyone curious enough to ask — and eventually we all got curious — would hear his story,” Mills wrote in 2004. “He’d been struck by lightning twice. The first time he didn’t think much about it. But by the second strike he began to figure maybe God was trying to get his attention.
“He decided if God was good enough to spare his life, the least he could do was spread his word. So, he got his cane, grabbed his Bible and took to the streets. The orange vest came later,” Mills wrote.
In July 1996, a News reporter was curious enough to ask Marshall about his mission. “I’m a servant of the Lord every day,” Marshall said after completing a rendition of “Jesus in My Heart.” Marshall has been preaching publicly in Lima every day for about 15 years, earning him the nickname, “Preacher Man.”
“Undistracted by people’s apparent disinterest, he pursues his mission with zeal and abandon,” the reporter wrote. “Jesus wanted to know if I would go to the highways and byways,” he said. “I will go where he wants me to go. I will be where he wants me to be and say what he wants me to say.”
“Marshall spent the last few years of his life at Beverly Health Care Facility where he had been since 2001,” the News wrote May 19, 2004, the day after he died. “Still, to many he always will be remembered as the ‘Preacher Man.’”
Marshall was remembered in another way by many of those who were curious enough to talk to him or were simply just curious about him. After it was reported he had been buried on top of Pauline’s grave in Perry Township’s Fletcher Cemetery with a temporary plastic grave marker, a campaign was started to give him a “proper burial and gravestone,” the News reported in July 2004.
The campaign was led by Ruth Combs, the owner of the East Pearl Street restaurant he had lived above for nearly 20 years. More than $3,000 was raised and Donald Partch, the owner of Woodlawn Monument Works, agreed to help with the cost of the stone and donate the inscription.
On a sunny, windy day in late October 2004, Marshall “was buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Elida after, the News wrote, “a short service attended by friends singing ‘Amazing Grace.’”
“I said, ‘Get the biggest marker you can,’” Combs told the News. “I think he deserved it, someone who touched so many people. Many ridiculed him, but it was to their own downfall.” Combs, who operated her restaurant and befriended people like Marshall for 53 years, died in December 2016.
“Ultimately, Popcorn’s greatest contribution may be the example he set,” Mills wrote in 2004. “Sure, he was a strange old man with an indecipherable mission. But he had a commitment to that mission that should shame the rest of us. Whatever it is we claim to believe in — causes, gods or goals — we should hope to be as committed as he was.”
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.