Lawyer remembered fondly through private and public career

Smart, successful, well connected, they’re all fitting descriptions for attorney Doug Marsh. Other words come more quickly to those who knew him best: kind, caring and compassionate.

His son Breck Marsh, an attorney in the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office, said people have approached him for years to asking if Doug Marsh was his father. “They told me how they admired him. They went out of their way to do that. He really was happy if he was helping somebody.

“In the legal profession, most people have a little bit of ego going on. His ego was turned down low. He had a very good moral compass and he loved his family,” Breck Marsh said.

Douglas Breck Marsh died Oct. 8, seven years after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He was 64.

He is survived by his wife, Tanis Marsh; son Breck and his wife, Molly; daughter Shannon Marsh, also an attorney, and her husband, Sam Foucault; and five grandchildren, Parker, Kemper, Peter, Sam and Daisy.

He was a founding member of the Marsh Mundorf Pratt Sullivan &McKenzie law firm in Mill Creek. In 2000, he was chosen Attorney of the Year by the Snohomish County Bar Association.

Marsh started his legal career at the county prosecutor’s office before joining the longtime Everett law firm of Williams, Novack and Hansen. “Doug was very compassionate,” said Ed Hansen, Everett’s former mayor and a partner in that firm.

“He practiced primarily family law, dealing with a lot of emotions, families and children. Doug seemed to have a real knack for dealing with people facing some really tough times. It was just a unique ability. He really cared,” Hansen said from his home in Arizona.

Hansen joked that the kindness had limits.

“We had a group that played basketball together,” he said. “If you were to play basketball with him, under the basket with his elbows, you wouldn’t say ‘kind and gentle.’” As Marsh struggled with cancer, Hansen said he saw in his friend “a lot of inner strength, inner courage.”

Tanis Marsh met her future husband at the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962. She was selling tickets and souvenirs, he was ferrying visitors on a pedicab. Raised in Lake Stevens — her father and grandfather were the Williamses in the law firm with Hansen — Tanis was living on Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill.

Marsh, who’d grown up in Eugene, Ore., came to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, where he earned his undergraduate degree before going on to Gonzaga University School of Law.

“He had a great sense of humor, but he was not the comedian in the room. He was more the listener,” Tanis Marsh said. She remembered her husband paying for housing for clients who feared their husbands. “He was just kind,” she said.

Colleagues, judges, friends and family came to the Everett Yacht Club on Thursday for a celebration of Marsh’s life.

Valeta King was 19 when she landed a job with Marsh’s first firm. “He never looked like a lawyer, he looked more like a logger. He was very easygoing,” King said.

Marsh was so easygoing that Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ronald Castleberry recalled a funny tale from their days at the Williams Novack and Hansen firm. Marsh had been asked to go to federal court in Seattle.

“It coincided with the big sale at REI. Doug stood in line in the rain outside REI,” said Castleberry. “Nothing in federal court is informal. And Doug walks in wearing a dripping rain slicker.” Castleberry said the federal judge asked Marsh, “Where have you been, young man?” and then seemed more amused than upset with the answer.

“He was someone you wanted to spend time with,” said Bill Sullivan, Marsh’s partner. “He was kind and caring, and he always involved his family.” Sullivan often joined Doug and Breck Marsh and a group of other lawyers in Sunday morning games of golf.

In years past, Marsh was a crew member on a sailboat with attorney Pete Dewell, another close friend. Dewell’s daughter, Gwen Brown of Seattle, recalled sailing with Marsh as a child. She became reacquainted with him when they were both being treated at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

“We started e-mailing,” said Brown, 50. “He had a neat perspective. He sent me one e-mail that said when he asked how I was doing, he meant how was I doing in my head and in my heart.”

Marsh is also survived by brothers Peter and John Marsh. Peter Marsh remembers his older brother as an avid reader, but not the best student. “He didn’t care what people thought,” he said.

A skilled skier, he taught at an Oregon ski school before traveling to Davos, Switzerland, to work and ski, Peter Marsh said. When he could no longer ski, golf became a passion, as much for the camaraderie as for the game.

“Our golf group grew to probably 25 to 30 guys sometimes. Doug was just someone you wanted to spend time with,” Sullivan said.

Law partner Terry Mundorf said he used to wonder, “How could such a nice man become a lawyer? He was genuinely nice, gentle, and a gentleman to a fault.”

Reporter Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or

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