Obituary of Ann Theo Marshall
Dr. Ann Theo Marshall Born: February 29, 1929 - Died: 16 May 2023 Ann Theo Marshall (née Bowden) - was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the first born of James Frederick Bowden and Anna Mary Legate. She attended primary school at Strathearn School with her secondary school education at Victoria College. She was a keen photographer, competent Girl Guide, long distance cyclist and captain of her school field hockey team. After secondary school she went on to graduate from Queen's University of Belfast with a Bachelor of Medicine, Surgery and Obstetrics (MB, BCh, BAO). By the end of 1952, she was fully licensed by the General Medical Council in the U.K. She married Robert Thomas Andrew Marshall, a Presbyterian minister in 1951. After several years in Raffrey, County Down, Northern Ireland and the births of 3 sons, the family immigrated to Whitechurch near Wingham, Ontario where her husband became the Minister of three local Presbyterian Churches. Professionally, Theo Marshall had continued her training through general practice locums in Northern Ireland including a year as a Senior House Officer at the Downshire Hospital. Once in Canada, she completed her Canadian medical license exam for Ontario in August 1958. Theo blended taking care of children with part-time positions as a Family Physician in Wingham and with the Huron County Health Unit. During this time, from 1958 to 1965, she worked tirelessly, travelling by car to various locations, sometimes bringing her own young children along, vaccinating many baby-boomer children at rural infant pop-up clinics. In 1958, Theo and Robert had a fourth child in Wingham Ontario. Remarkably, all her children were boys. The now larger family of 6 moved to Strathroy, Ontario in 1959, where her husband Robert had become minister of the town’s St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Very shortly after her arrival, Theo became a member of the Medical Staff at Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital. In the 1960s, Theo and her family established themselves in their new hometown. Along with handling the many needs of caring for her children and devoting herself to the activities and meetings of the Presbyterian Church’s voluntary organisations, she became the Secretary of the Medical Staff at the Hospital. In 1964 she started her own practice on the second floor of the family home. By 1965, she was appointed Attending Physician to several newly established nursing homes in the area. Additionally, she joined the newly established Strathroy Medical Clinic as a family physician. The family remembers long work weeks and interrupted nights taking ownership of her patient emergencies and deliveries - leaving for what she called “a baby cooking”. In the ensuing years, as her children entered high school, she was able to expand her role in the Strathroy medical community. At this time, Certification with the College of Family Physicians was not required to practise family medicine in Canada, but Theo's commitment to Family Medicine prompted her to pursue further study. This led to her certification exam and being awarded her CCFP. As in her earlier years, Theo's strong commitment to community health led to her continuing to include prenatal care, obstetrics, and counselling to her patients. Being one of the first female physicians in the area, she was able to support women's health in a way her community had not experienced before. She became a role model in the medical community. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Theo and Robert discovered an exciting new avocation, and they both became competent sailors. Their first boat was a Wayfarer 16 then a C&C 25 (Castaway). With these two boats, Theo and Robert explored the waters of Lake Huron, Georgian Bay and the North Channel. In 1980, they embarked on a remarkable future-defining, year-long adventure: they sailed their new CS 27 (Golden Gael) from the Great Lakes, through the Erie Barge Canal, down the Hudson River to New York City and then the Intracoastal Waterway along the Eastern seaboard. The last and challenging step of their journey was then to sail the open ocean and cross the treacherous Gulf Stream from Florida to the Bahamas. They achieved this and explored the Abacos. Their new boats, Erin Gael and Celtic Cross, became their floating winter homes for the next 17 years. They developed a connection to the village and people of Hopetown which was rich and rewarding. Theo became a health and medicine resource for many on the island purely for the joy of helping people and sharing her skills like a Good Samaritan. Her canvas doctor bag was as essential for going ashore as fuel for the outboard! Along with this joy of sailing from the 1970s to the 1990s, Theo enjoyed other leisure pursuits: reading, Scrabble, and Contract Bridge. Often, when she would go to bed, Theo would regularly “snotter” - an Irish-inspired word for lying down - and start and finish yet another book in hours, not days. She also enjoyed walks by beaches, forests, and farm fields throughout her entire adult life. She loved being a family doctor: she took on locums for Northern Ontario communities that were underserviced over a series of summers and in Strathroy for others including her son. Because of her love of medicine and helping people, she kept her licence active into the second decade of the 21st century. After her husband died in 1995, Theo re-energized herself with further travel throughout the world. From 1996 to 2008, she travelled to Australia 3 times to visit one of her sons’ family. With her sister Sally Suter, family members, or close friends, she went on many boat cruises and tours that included the northwest coast of North America, the seas and ports of Ireland and England, and an intriguing investigation of the Mediterranean and the Adriatic that included visits to Italy, Greece and Türkiye. In 2016, her fascination in learning and understanding the Portuguese community in Strathroy led her to explore the Azores with her son Peter and his wife Colleen. She fed her love of the Caribbean with stays in Hopetown and visits to a family spot in the Yucatan, Mexico. Ann Theo Marshall was a tireless and valuable aid to family, friends and patients throughout her life. Her insights and engagement made all who knew her, treasure every moment of connection and sharing time with her. She was an understanding and supportive mother who encouraged her four sons to be critical thinkers and lifelong learners. The proud dedication to her family was rewarded as she shared in their success in extra-curricular activities, sports, advanced education, and, ultimately, their careers and families. On the 16th of May, Theo died peacefully at the age of 94 in the Strathroy hospital where she had helped many people for more than 5 decades of her life. She will be missed by all the generations of her family - including 4 sons: Neil (Deborah), Peter (Colleen), Alan, David (Sally), 9 grandchildren: Nuala (Greg), Clare (Darren), Erin (Ruben), Rachèle (Stephanie), Colin (Nancy), Catherine, Sarah (Cody), Isaac (Samantha): and 7 great-grandchildren. She will be missed by many others, especially Connie Jesus. A private family memorial has been held. Donations, in lieu of flowers, can be made to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) or The Stephen Lewis Foundation.
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