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A fatal love of the open road

A father organizes a dinner and ride to honor a son killed in a motorcycle crash. On his way home to Tampa, the unthinkable happens.

Published September 15, 2005

TAMPA - For months, William Brent Marshall Sr. had drawn comfort from his late son's friends. He gathered them and others Tuesday for a memorial dinner and motorcycle ride.

The group drove 30 motorcycles and 10 cars to the site of the March motorcycle crash that killed 18-year-old William Brent Marshall Jr. It's a place now marked by a tree, a bench and a plaque that says, "Ride in peace."

The father thanked everyone for the emotional support. It was time, he said, to turn a page and get on with life.

And then the unimaginable happened: Marshall Sr., 43, died in a motorcycle crash on his way home from the memorial.

The Westchase resident lost control of his 1998 Harley-Davidson going southbound on Gunn Highway just south of Lutz Lake Fern Road, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office reported. He was found in a drainage ditch about 7 a.m. Wednesday.

He wore no helmet. His son had died wearing one on March 30, when Marshall Jr. crashed his 2004 Suzuki into a sport utility vehicle on Linebaugh Avenue.

The two had shared a love for the road. Marshall Sr. rode a Harley with the Black Pistons bike club, while Marshall Jr. rode a 2004 Suzuki with the stunt team Wicked Wayz.

Marshall Sr. was popular among his son's friends.

After Tuesday's dinner and memorial service, he and some of the friends scouted out a possible site for a Wicked Wayz clubhouse in the Keystone area of northwest Hillsborough County. They were looking for a safe place to hang out and do stunts.

Marshall Sr. didn't make it home that night.

His wife, who had left after the memorial, figured her husband just needed to be alone with his thoughts, a family member said. In the morning, Judy Marshall called a friend who works for the Sheriff's Office. That's when Marshall Sr.'s body was found.

Wednesday afternoon, dozens of people - teenagers, adults, friends and family - gathered at home with Judy Marshall and her younger son Branden, crying, talking and remembering both men.

Although he had thanked others for their support, some considered Marshall Sr. a source of strength.

"It's hard because when Brent (Marshall Jr.) died, he kept it together for everyone else," said friend Angie Diamond, 16.

Flowers were still fresh at a table full of the younger Marshall's photographs.

The elder Marshall's friend, Randy Levin, called him "one of the bravest, strongest people I know."

"Even the way he gave his son's eulogy. He made it through giving a 20-minute eulogy," Levin said. "Everyone's eyes were just flowing."

He described Marshall Sr. as "a likable guy with a thick southern accent and a big heart."

The cause of the crash is still under investigation, said sheriff's spokesperson Debbie Carter.

[Last modified September 15, 2005, 01:04:09]

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