Badminton Legend Passes

July 08, 2013, 3:23 p.m. (ET)

It is with sadness that we note the passing of Ethel Marshall, a wonderful athlete who won many badminton titles in her long career, and was noted for her mobility and shot-making prowess.  She died June 12, 2013, in Weinberg Campus, Getzville, New York, at 89.

Born in Buffalo in 1924, Ethel attended Bennett High School and North Park Business School.  An office supervisor at Bell Aerospace for 23 years, she also worked as an office manager of Borden Chemical for 18 years, and worked part time as a badminton instructor in the Town of Amherst Recreation Department for 50 years.

A star of badminton and tennis, she was the National Women’s Singles Badminton Champion from 1947 to 1953 and never lost a match during that time.  She defeated 17-year-old Judy Devlin (Hashman) in the 1953 Women’s Singles final match for the title, Ethel’s last year to play the event.  She also won the national title in Women’s Doubles in 1952 and 1956 with the late Bea Massman, defeating the Devlin sisters on the latter occasion who had recently won the All-England Women’s Doubles title.  In all, she won 18 national senior badminton titles:  11 U.S. Senior Women’s Doubles, 4 U.S. Senior Mixed Doubles, and 3 U.S. Master Mixed Doubles. 

In 1957, Ethel was a member of the Uber Cup Team that won the world title for the U.S.  This was the American team that won the “Federation Cup of badminton,” and the only U.S. team to win either the Thomas or Uber Cup to this day.  In 1996, her most prestigious award came when she was prominently featured on the cover of USA Badminton’s 60th Jubilee Fact Book, an honor that was bestowed upon her as the greatest women’s badminton player in the history of the sport. 

In tennis, her record was amazing.  Thirteen years in a row she was the Muny Open Women’s Singles Champion, and won 16 straight Muny Open Doubles titles with her longtime friend and playing partner, Bea Massman. 

She was elected to seven Halls of Fame:  National Badminton Hall of Fame (1956), Amherst Avenue of Athletes (1960), Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame (Inaugural Class of 1991), Senior National Badminton Hall of Fame (2002), Bennett High School Sports Hall of Fame (Inaugural Class of 2002), USA Badminton Walk of Fame (2003), and the Buffalo Tennis Hall of Fame (2005). 

Ms. Marshall was also a sports clinician between 1967-1972, teaching badminton across North America, but she spent about 50 years as an instructor and coach.  She coached 12 U.S. Junior National badminton champions and several world-class players.  She also volunteered as an instructor at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf. 

Ms. Marshall’s lifelong love for the game of badminton started at 16 when she attended a Friday night match hosted by women in their 30’s.  “I thought, ‘This is a great game,’” Ms. Marshall told a Buffalo News reporter in 2005.  “You’ve got to think.  If you don’t think, you don’t win.”  In 1996, she was honored for her devotion and involvement to badminton when she received a letter of citation from President Clinton. 

Survivors include her sister, Ruth Marshall Barth.  A memorial service was held at Calvary Episcopal Church in Williamsville, New York, on June 29.