A: To be honest, it really didn't. I was actually a late bloomer into the fire service. I started as a volunteer in 1988. Prior to that I was in the construction trade for 20 years and then in the insurance business.
My wife and I had just moved in from the Bothell area, and I told her it was a great way to give back to the community.
Then all of a sudden I got laid off and I had one week of unemployment, and they asked me to come on to the department full time.
I began to assist the fire marshal and then in 2005 he got laid off and basically I was the only one who could pick up the pieces.
Then in that capacity people started to realize, hey, we've got an acting fire marshal with the name of Marshall.
Q: Would you change your name if you could, and why or why not?
A: No, absolutely not. Now that it's working for me. I still go into the schools for public education, and one particular program that's been running for 13 years, the injury prevention program, and they'll call over the loud speaker, "OK, everyone, Marshal Marshall is here for Risk Watch."
Interesting thing, thinking back to my growing up years in north Seattle, is that I never got questioned about my last name as a fire marshal but I'd get, here comes the sheriff, so they would associate the name with like a U.S. marshal.
Q: If you could choose another career, what would it be?
A: There are actually two. One would be a schoolteacher, and actually I do teach at the colleges. And the other would be an actor. It's something that I've always been enthused about. I've done a little but not very much at all. If I would have had the choice to do something else, it would have been that. I don't think it's ever too late to try something.
Q: How do you know when someone has picked up on the fact that your name is an aptonym?
A: Particularly with closer friends I hear all the time, "Here comes Marshal Marshall, so let's make sure things are all safe around here."
What I've enjoyed the most is the kids who have progressed into middle school and high school, and they still remember me as "Marshal Marshall." It blesses my heart because I know somewhere along the line, it's made an impression, and hopefully that takes them to the point: not that they remember me, but they remember the message to be safer with everyday activities. If that transition works that way, it's so worth every minute.
Q: How do people react to the combination of your name and job? Do they get it? Any funny stories as a result?
A: You see my last name is on my uniform shirt and my last name is spelled with two l's, and typically "fire marshal" is only spelled with one. So when people meet me, I'll say, "I'm Robert Marshall and I'm the fire marshal for Lake Stevens," and then they'll say, "So that's why there's a Marshall on your shirt," and I'll say, "No, that's my name, not my job. I'm the fire marshal, but my name is Marshall with two l's." So, you see, it gets confusing.
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