CONCORD, MASS. – When Marshall Neilson was a middle-schooler, he wondered if his father might pick him up a little later from hockey practice. Asked why, Marshall replied, “To allow time for dawdling and conversation.”
Marshall Neilson passed away after a brief illness on Thursday, Sept. 8. He was an accomplished dawdler and conversationalist. He honed these skills over many years of love and friendship. Marshall was born in 1971 at Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood, Pa. to Judy and Benjie Neilson. He was the beloved youngest of five, and his older brother and sisters spanned the 10 years ahead of him. He was always happiest when surrounded by friends and family.
Marshall attended Children’s House and the Shipley School in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where he grew up playing ice hockey, Little League baseball and lacrosse, remaining a lifelong fan of these sports. In 1985, he entered St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., as a third former, and four years later, he matriculated at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, graduating in 1993.
After earning his BA at Bowdoin, Marshall decided to enter the field of education, and he took a master’s degree in education at Lesley College. In 1997, he started a job in the technology department at the Park School in Brookline, Mass., where he worked until he was forced to take a leave in January due to his illness.
Marshall would also eventually be awarded a M.Ed. in educational technology at Boston University, but the details of his education and career give only a narrow glimpse of who Marshall really was. In 2003, he married Elizabeth Dixon, and together they began a project that would be the first priority for him for the rest of his life. Marshall once told Liz, “I wish there was a job just being a good friend. That’s something I’d really excel at.” He enjoyed his work in education — loved his students and his colleagues and approached his duties with patience and dedication — but he found his greatest joy in family and friends.
There were some other things Marshall loved. He was renowned among his co-workers for his love of cake — so much so that they didn’t begrudge him the emails alerting the faculty to cake in the faculty room only after he had secured a piece. He loved music, and many reunions and house parties were enlivened by pick up bands with Marshall on guitar or drums or…whatever was needed. He loved to sail, which he did in the summers in Penobscot Bay with his father, his wife, his siblings, and his children. Marshall created a witty and warm social media voice, and he delighted in posting humorous vignettes of school and family life; indeed, no holiday season was complete without an essay in selfies on setting up his mother’s Christmas tree.
Most of all, though, Marshall Neilson loved his wife and kids — fiercely, loyally and completely. Liz and Marsh are the parents of Bea, Parker and Molly. Throughout his marriage, Marshall worked tirelessly to be the best husband and father he could. He approached this task with empathy, energy, and love. He was a father who showed up, a husband who enacted his commitment to his wife every single day.
Dawdling and conversation. These are the things that matter. Marshall Neilson took the time to know his friends and his family at the deepest level — to know their hearts, and to see the world how they saw it. He was a person with whom his friends and family enjoyed lifelong conversations. Marshall dedicated himself to the project of loving faithfully and behaving honorably. He leaves an enduring legacy.
In addition to his parents, wife and children, Marshall Neilson is survived by his siblings, Jamie Neilson and his wife, Stephanie, of Pasadena, Calif., Theo (Neilson) Clark and her husband, James, of Viera, Fla., Johanna Neilson Boynton and her husband, John, of Concord and Alberta Neilson and her husband, Peter Mundy, of San Francisco, Calif., his step-siblings, Alix Strong of Keeau, Hawaii, Andrea Grace and Mark Jenkinson of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., and Gene Grace of McLean, Va., his father and mother-in-law, Edward and Pamela Dixon of Concord, his sister-in-law, Molly (Dixon) Flanagan, of Petaluma, Calif., and many, many nieces and nephews.
Visiting hours in the Dee Funeral Home, 27 Bedford St., Concord Center, will be held on Monday, Sept. 12, from 3 to 8 p.m. Relatives and friends are invited to attend his funeral Mass on Tuesday, Sept. 13, at noon in Holy Family Parish, Monument Square, Concord Center. Burial will follow at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in memory of Marshall Neilson to support cancer research and patient care, P.O. Box 849168, Boston, MA 02284 or via (www.dana-farber.org/gift).
To share a remembrance or to send a condolence in his online guestbook, please visit www.deefuneralhome.com.