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Pentagon Widower Creates Meaning Out of His Sorrow
Foundation Aims to Inspire, Enrich

Raymond McCaffrey
Washington Post Staff Writer

February 17, 2002; Page SM01

The little boy punched the keyboard of the laptop computer, then turned to watch as an image was projected onto a wall behind him.

"Mommy," 3-year-old Drake Marshall said.

The image the boy saw last weekend at the Broadway Gallery in Old Town Alexandria was a picture of his late mother, Shelley A. Marshall, a Defense Department analyst who died Sept. 11 at the Pentagon. With the push of his finger, Drake had completed the ceremonial launch of the Web site for a foundation created in his mother's name by his father, Donn Marshall.

"A grief counselor told me I should give my sorrow meaning," Marshall, a Marbury resident, told the crowd packed into the art gallery.

The Shelley A. Marshall Foundation, the Web site says, will fund "local, community-based activities . . . activities that will inspire and enrich the spirit and have a direct impact on people's lives, even if that impact is only to cause someone to smile for a time."

"Right now, what we're going to do is children's story hours [in Vienna, Va.] and in my hometown," said Marshall, who hails from Morgantown, W. Va. Vienna was Shelley Marshall's hometown.

The foundation will also sponsor creative writing competitions for students, Marshall said, and host tea parties, something Shelley liked to do.

"Sort of the flagship activity is going to be the tea parties at the nursing homes," her husband said. "We're going to bring these generations together."

The dates and locations of the events will be posted on the Web site, where visitors can find biographical information about the Marshall family, which includes a daughter, Chandler, now 2.

Since Sept. 11, the family has received support from people throughout the country. A flier that asked Marbury residents to help the Marshalls resulted in a community outpouring: Marshall said he received more than $4,000 from organizations, churches and the three dozen or so people who visited his home in the beginning of December.

He has also been sent about 50 teacups from people who learned about Shelley's love of tea parties. They will be used at the parties.

"Collectors from all over the world are sending me cups," Marshall said.

The creation of the Web site -- and its gala launch last Saturday -- was another instance of people offering help.

A friend, Jennifer Chappell, who manages the Broadway Gallery, offered to host the launch party. And Erin Mulé, of Purcellville, Va., a professional Web site designer, offered her services after learning through a family friend that Marshall needed technical assistance.
"It was absolutely an honor to be asked," said Mulé, who was at Saturday's launch.

"Erin took my scattered ideas and notions and turned it into a fantastic Web site," Marshall said.

The site -- www.shelleysfoundation.org -- also gives details about how people can contribute to the charity, which is being funded largely by Shelley's retirement savings in hopes that her "name and spirit will live on in the charitable events."

"Shelley was not a victim of September 11th," Marshall told the crowd, "but a hero."

And, as Saturday's launch illustrated, the foundation will serve as a way for his children to remember their mother."This is one of the ways her kids are going to keep in touch with her," Marshall said.

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