Ansel was born Aug. 1, 1914, at his grandparents homestead in Troy, Iowa, practically horseback. With his father making his living with horses, being a freighter and then as a race horse trainer, the Marshall family traveled and lived many places west of the Mississippi. Ansel became the family jockey at age 13, after his older brother’s death. They raced all over, up and down the west coast from Vancouver, B.C. to Tijuana, Mexico. Ansel had many wins and track records; he raced with legends Johnny Longden, Georgie Woolf, Eddie Arcaro, and Red Pollard. In 1935, he gave up the irons, and went to training race horses and working all facets of the industry. In 1938, Ansel found himself working on the breeding farm of J.D. Spreckles III in Prineville. There he met the love of his life, Martina Wilkes. They were married in 1940 in Yuma, Ariz., in between race meets. While still working the tracks and training horses in SoCal, their son, Terry Van, was born in 1942. Ansel and Martina enjoyed 64 years of marriage and many, many gatherings with friends.
In 1944, tired of the vagabond lifestyle of horse racing, Ansel, who always dreamed of owning a ranch, purchased a 40-acre, 5,000 head, “turkey” ranch in Redmond. After two years of trying to keep turkeys alive and the coyotes at bay, Ansel decided raising turkeys was for the birds, sold out, and purchased a cattle ranch on the north side of Malheur Lake at Lawen in Harney County. Ranching and raising fine AQHA horses was his passion for another 60 years. Ansel continued to train a few race horses, made lots of fine cowhorses and rope horses. He bragged of draggin more than 10,000 calves to the fire over the years.
Ansel never had an enemy, maybe a few neighbors unhappy with his fences or the lack of… He was very involved in the community; he helped bring the Harney Electric Coop lines to Lawen and Crane by gathering signatures, he served on the Crane School Board and the Harney County Fair Board in many capacities. He proudly served as president in 1957 and 1958, and was honored to serve as Grand Marshal in 1989. Ansel said, “I’ve been a Marshall all my life, but that was the first I’d been a Grand Marshal.” Ansel gave selflessly to help many a 4-H’er with their horses. Over the years, the Marshall ranch was home to many young men who lived and worked with Ansel to learn his special way with horses.
Ansel loved to tell his stories; ranging from the family losing everything in 1920, and traveling by covered wagon to Texas to start over, traveling in box cars with race horses up and down the west coast, flying with Stuart Hamblen’s race horse for the first flight on the west coast, shooting geese on his Lawen ranch with Gary Cooper, and his escapades as a young jockey. He continued sharing those stories right up until his passing. Ansel will be remembered for his gentle spirit and quick wit.
During Martina’s many years as an Avon district manager, the Marshalls kept a second home in Klamath Falls for her distribution. During the early 80s, that home was sold, and the rural Bend property was purchased. While keeping their strong ties to Harney County, Ansel and Martina sold most of the ranch and retired to Bend in the early 90s, continuing their breeding program and selling their fine horses. Their son, Terry, joined them in Bend during the late 90s, helping with marketing and care of the property. Ansel was still caring for and feeding his horses until 2012.
Following Martina’s death in 2004, and son, Terry’s untimely death a few months later, Ansel married Cyndy Coleman, longtime friend and fellow rancher from Burns. She brought him great happiness in the last 10 of his 100 years. Together they crossed many items off his bucket list; like attending the Belmont Stakes to see a possible Triple Crown, putting his toes in the beach sands of the Atlantic, seeing Old Faithful, seeing the homestead in Troy, Iowa where he was born, finding his brother’s grave in Salt Lake City, finding former homes in Salt Lake City, Oklahoma, San Ysidro, and San Bruno, his parents graves in Chula Vista, Calif., and lastly, to be able to pass into eternity peacefully at home.
Loving Jesus and serving Him was a huge part of Ansel’s 100 years. His mama taught him to love the Lord as a tiny tyke and he always found a church home where ever he lived. He attended Westside Church of Bend for more than 24 years, and spent his last three years at Whiterock Cowboy Fellowship in Redmond. Neither snow, nor rain nor sleet kept Ansel from attending, and when he just couldn’t make it to the last Sunday service, Whiterock brought the worship to his beside, and he just smiled and smiled…
Ansel is survived by his wife, Cyndy, of Bend; stepson Eric Smith; grandchildren, Taylor and Tage Smith of Salem; almost-adopted son, Robert Meck; brothers-in-law, Bob Stoy and George Sahlberg; nieces, Granita Wilkes Russell, and Pam Stoy Feely; and many, many great and great-great-nieces and nephews. Most of all, the friends who became family, they are too numerous to mention.
A Celebration of Life for Ansel Marshall was held April 4 at Whiterock Cowboy Fellowship in Redmond. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Ansel’s memory to the Harney County 4-H, c/o LaFollette’s Chapel, P.O. Box 488, Burns, OR 97720.