Valley Lives - Gudula von Schoenberg Marshall

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the August 20, 2014 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Devoted mother, artist, passionate debater, dies at 74

by Joel Balsam

Nightfall may have come hours earlier, but Gudula von Schoenberg Marshall would still be out working in the backyard of her family home in Cascades, which overlooks the Gatineau River. For as many as 12 hours at a time, she could be seen out the back window of her family country home with a cigarette dangling from her mouth, and covered head to toe in marble dust. Von Schoenberg Marshall loved chiselling abstract artwork out of marble or soapstone, but if you asked her what a given piece meant, she'd just say "it's my doodle," allowing you to contemplate it for a while.

Valley Lives
Gudula von Schoenberg Marshall was extremely intelligent and often debated about philosophy and religion. Her husband Duncan Marshall took this photo.

Her goal as both artist and homemaker was to make one think outside of the box - something she loved to do herself. Husband of 50 years Duncan Marshall said his wife was a great conversationalist who was interested in religion, philosophy, and art. She returned to school to study philosophy after turning 50 and was a veracious reader, with four books on the go at one time. Even when Von Schoenberg Marshall died on Aug. 9 at the age of 74 after over a decade of painful illness, her mind remained sharp until her last days.

Von Schoenberg Marshall grew up in Germany before moving to Quebec City at the age of 12. She went to secondary school in Quebec where she learned French - making her trilingual - then went to Carleton University in Ottawa to study geology. It was during those school years in Ottawa that she met her future husband while working as a summer student for a job related to her field on Booth Street.

When the summer was over and Duncan Marshall returned to his home in Alberta, the two young lovers exchanged romantic letters and, a year later, in the fall of 1963, they got married in Quebec City.

After moving to Winnipeg, then Edmonton, then Ottawa, the couple designed a home in Cascades where they settled with their five children. They've resided there for the last 25 years. Marshall said his wife loved to spend lots of time ouside on the six-acre lot, enjoying the nature and trails behind the house. She also loved to play bridge with her friends in Wakefield and Chelsea. "She had a beautiful sense of play and that really came out in bridge," said Marshall.

"She was an extraordinarily bright lady," confirmed friend and frequent bridge teammate Shelagh Simmons. "She played bridge very, very well. [She] could have been a bridge champion."

In fact, Simmons said when she played on her own she rarely won in bridge, but when she was on a team with von Schoenberg Marshall "we won all the time".

It was von Schoenberg Marshall's intelligence and acute critical mind that gave her the edge in bridge. According to her daughter Vanessa, she was "an extraordinarily bright, intelligent woman."

She had "a deep sense of humility," added her youngest daughter, and yet was "not afraid to state her opinion."

While von Schoenberg Marshall wasn't religious - often challenging her brother who is part of a German church in Ottawa to defend Catholic principles - she carried the moral values from her religion into her

life. To this day, Vanessa, who lives in Geneva, Switzerland, said her mother is her "moral guide". "Personally, one of the biggest lessons in my life [that my mother taught me] was that, regardless of the judgments of other people, it's not what matters."

As a mother, she wouldn't exactly coddle her kids, but rather she would challenge them to be critical and make good decisions. "She never told us what to do. She made suggestions," explained Vanessa.

"Growing up, she did it all and she didn't complain one ounce to us and she never showed any level of resentment to us. Ever," added Vanessa. "We were kind of blind to... the work that she did with five babies."

Having spent years continents apart, Vanessa got the chance to tell her mother last month how much she appreciated her. "I miss her incredibly and it's extremely hard because I've been away for so long, but the one thing I said to my mom... is that I've always known that she loved me," said Vanessa.

"She was a wonderful mother," affirmed husband Duncan. "To her, having children and caring for children was the most important part of her life."

Von Schoenberg Marshall's funeral has now passed, but those willing to make a donation on her behalf are asked to contribute to the La Maison des Collines palliative care charity lamaisondescollines.org.

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