If you’ve driven down U.S. 98 and noticed there’s a sign on the outside of the Apalachicola Volunteer Fire Department for the Neuman Marshall Fire Station, and wondered about it, here’s the story.
Born Nov. 18, 1906, Marshall was the son of George Marshall, who built several homes and churches in town, including the Mount Zion Baptist and the Methodist church.
Neuman Marshall worked as a cement contractor, house mover and housebuilder, and lived to the age of 92, before passing away Jan. 15, 1998.
And he was for many, many of those years, chief of the fire department.
This was a long stretch of service, and when the new firehouse was built a decade or so ago, plans were put in place to name it after Marshall. But a sign was never made, and so Assistant Chief Fonds Davis, Capt. Ginger Creamer, Lts. Albert Floyd and Rhett Butler, Palmer Philyaw and the rest of the department decided it was time to get it done.
And so last month they did, surprising Neuman Marshall’s maternal grandson, George Watkins, the present-day fire chief, and son of Marshall’s daughter, Mary Joyce, at the regular department meeting.
“He told me that in 1935, he unloaded one of the first modern pumpers, an American LaFrance,” Watkins said. “He could remember getting it off from a flatbed in Chicago. It had wooden spoke wheels.”
Watkins said the department went on to have a 1952 truck, as well as a 1974 truck that couldn’t leave the city limits.
After Marshall passed away, Bert Simmons followed him as chief, and after 11 years, Watkins began as chief on August 1, 2009.
During that time, Watkins has seen the department earn a 5 rating by the ISO, considered about the best a volunteer fire department can achieve. About half of the department’s 20 firefighters have earned, or are earning, their state certification. Six members work as first responders, including Creamer.
On hand for the brief naming ceremony was Watkins and his wife Carla, as well as their daughter Kara McCluskey, her husband Brian, and their children, daughter Breelin, 3, and son Bryson Marshall, a fourth-grader.
“I was just glad we got it taken care of,” said Watkins.
Members of the department also include firefighters Mike Vroegop, Rick Hernandez, Avery Scott, Ashley Teat, Anthony Croom, and Brooke Newell, as well as Shannon Segree, Adam Joseph, Troy Segree, Bruce Hoffman and Craig Gibson, each of whom also serves as a first responder.
This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: Firehouse dedicated to Neuman Marshall