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Catherine Marshall remembered.


As Diane Sawyer fondlyremembers Catherine Marshall, so the inspirational author remembered her. After their brief encounter in 1963, they became friends over the years.

"The moment we met thatpoised, talented 18-year-old, we sensed that she was someone very special," says Leonard LeSourd, who, along with his wife, Catherine, was one of the judges at the 1963 America's Junior Miss Contest. "Because of her unusual charisma, she was, in a way, a problem for us judges in that she was in a class by herself. There was something mystical about her, an inner glow that both Catherine and I found came from an unusually sensitive spirit and a deep humility.

"Catherine was never more of aprophet than when she said to me after the contest, 'That lovely girl has unlimited potential.'

"We have stayed in contact witheach other," LeSourd says, "and when Diane's father was killed in an auto accident in 1969, she was on the phone with us within hours. Catherine ministered to her, and the two prayed together."

Diane Sawyer is just one of themillions of people whose lives have been touched by the internationally beloved author. Catherine Marshall's 20 books and countless articles continue to inspire readers today.

Catherine had a remarkable facilityfor reaching a wide range of people, from housewives to business executives, from teen-agers to celebrities. Dean Smith, the coach of one of the nation's top basketball teams, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, has said reading Catherine Marshall's book Beyond Ourselves helped him at a crucial point in his life. Max Cleland, Georgia's secretary of state and the former V.A. administrator under President Carter, has told how much her works helped him deal with losing both legs and an arm in Vietnam.

Why does her writing have such awide following? Probably because Catherine Marshall experienced life so deeply through marriage, motherhood, everyday struggles, illness, tragedy, and death. And drawing from this bittersweet well, she touched chords common to us all.

Catherine grew up during the Depression. Hermother, Leonora Wood, remembers when she found her high-school daughter sobbing on her bed as she faced the impossibility of attending college because of the poverty that blighted the hills around Keyser, West Virginia, where they then lived.

"See here," her mother said, "youand I are going to pray about this." Leonora talked about the confidence faith gives and how when one turns problems over to God, He listens. Later, a federal project paid Catherine's mother to write the history of their West Virginia county, and this money helped meet tuition expenses.

Catherine graduated PhiBeta kappa from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, in 1936. (She later served as a trustee.) While there, she met the Reverend Peter Marshall, the popular young Scottish pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. After their marriage in the fall of 1936, he pastored the hitoric New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., where the informal sincerity of his sermons made him one of the nation's most highly regarded preachers.

In 1947 Peter Marshall was namedchaplain of the U.S. Senate. He became known particularly for his illuminating prayers on the Senate floor. Two years later, however, he died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving Catherine as a 34-year-old widow with a 9-year-old son, Peter John Marshall.

It was a gloomy scene in the parsonagesome weeks later when four well-meaning businessmen, officers of the church and good friends, came to advise Catherine on her future. Her income would drop drastically, they pointed out; she would have to sell her car and cut her living expenses to the bone.

But the setback was only temporary. "Asense of adventure crept into the situation," Catherine recalled later. "It would be exciting to see how God would help me work out my problems."

It did not take long to happen. Foryears Catherine had kept a personal journal in hopes of becoming a writer. She put together a volume of her husband's sermons entitled Mister Jones, Meet the Master and without benefit of an agent sold it to a publisher. It became a best seller.

A biography of her husband, AMan Called Peter, followed; it became a national best seller in 1951 and a successful motion picture for Twentieth Century-Fox in 1955.

The fluency of Catherine's writingis best seen in Christy, a novel based on the early life of her mother when she was a teacher in the Great Smoky Mountains. The book has sold more than 8 million copies.

In 1959 Catherine married LeonardLeSourd, then the executive editor of Guideposts, an inspirational magazine published by Norman Vincent Peale. Two years later, she joined its staff as a roving editor, and for 22 years he meticulously crafted articles inspired the magazine's millions of readers.

Catherine's "so-called success," asshe termed it, also brought her heavy responsibilities. One was answering scores of letters that poured into her office daily, most from people burdened with problems and seeking her advice. She did her best to answer each one. Touched by the great need, in 1980 she founded "The Intercessors," a nonprofit ministry through which thousands of people across the United States pray for each other's needs. It continues today, and those wishing someone to pray especially for them need only write: The Intercessors, Breakthrough, Inc., P.O. Box 121, Lincoln, Virginia 22078.

Despite her successes, tribulationcontinued to be a part of the author's life. Because of diminished lung power from an earlier illness, Catherine was forced to winter in Florida, though she spent summers at the family's Evergreen Farm in Lincoln, Virginia, where her 95-year-old mother still lives.

In 1982, Catherine's weakenedlungs faltered, and on March 18, 1983, she died of heart failure at the age of 68.

In his introduction to A CloserWalk, based on Catherine's extensive personal journals, LESourd has written: "During our 23 years of marriage, I did discover the secrets behind her extraordinary gifts of communication. There were two. One came out through the dedication she showed in rearing my three young children--despite lungs that never operated at more than 75 percent normal capacity. It emerged as she struggled for the precise descriptive phrase in her writing, as she sought the exactly right color for a living-room chair, as she searched for total perfection in stereo music. She tried to lift the sights of her family and friends by planting dreams in our hearts of achievements that appeared beyond us. This reach toward excellence was a part of everything she did."

No one would agree with LeonardLeSourd more than Diane Sawyer. About three years ago, Leonard and Catherine's son-in-law, Phil Lader, who was president of Wintrhop College in Rock Hill, South Carolina, invited Diane to give a commencement address. The students heard what inspired Diane Sawyer in 1963 when she faced her own threshold of life.

"Dream big," she told the graduates,"dream big."
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Schneider, Dick
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Biography
Date:Apr 1, 1987
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