William W. Marshall Jr., 92, of West Chester, an acoustical tile contractor in the Philadelphia area for 40 years, died Friday, Sept. 21, of cancer at his home.
Mr. Marshall was the former president of Berger Acoustical Co. Inc., which had offices at various times in Berwyn, Haverford, Philadelphia, and West Chester. The business was founded in 1927 by Otto Sandberger, Mr. Marshall's father-in-law.
Mr. Marshall joined Berger Acoustical in 1952 as the firm's president, just as acoustical ceiling tile was beginning to replace the plaster ceiling in commercial buildings.
"He was in the right place at the right time," said Robert L. Marshall, who worked with his father in the business.
Berger Acoustical supplied and installed acoustical ceiling tiles in buildings from Trenton south to Philadelphia, west to Lancaster, and in northern Delaware, his son said. "The size of their trading area and the amount of work they did allowed them to become one of the largest acoustical companies in the country. Their business grew and grew under my father's tutelage."
Berger Acoustical participated in the construction of Veterans Stadium in South Philadelphia, Liberty Place in Center City, and many of the original casino-hotels in Atlantic City, including Trump Taj Mahal.
Robert Marshall said Berger Acoustical had a contract to supply the Taj Mahal with about $1 million in ceiling tile. When owner Donald Trump threatened bankruptcy in the early 1990s, there were negotiations with subcontractors, including Berger, to accept 30 cents on the dollar. The only other option was for subcontractors to file a legal challenge and risk getting nothing. Mr. Marshall accepted the partial payment.
"As Trump said during the election campaign, everything was entirely legal and above board, it's true," Robert Marshall said. "We only got stung the once, but for a company that was not immense, it was a crippling blow in my father's life."
The underpayment led to the closing of Berger Acousticals in 1992, Robert Marshall said. So did the death of Mr. Marshall's son William Otto from a cerebral aneurysm in his early 40s.
"He ended up closing the business and retiring sooner than he wanted to," Robert Marshall said of his father. "It was sort of sad to see it go away."
Born in Ridley Park, Mr. Marshall graduated in 1944 from Glen-Nor High School in Delaware County. After high school, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He served in World War II starting in July 1944 and was deployed as a sharpshooter to the Pacific theater of operations with the Sixth Marine Division, 29th Regiment.
He fought in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. On May 17, he was wounded. He was honorably discharged in February 1946 with the rank of corporal and was awarded the Purple Heart.
"Like many from that generation, he didn't want to shine a light on himself, but it was one of the accomplishments of which he was most proud," his son said.
After he returned home, Mr. Marshall earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Pennsylvania Military College in 1949. He married Ann Sandberger in 1950. The couple had three children.
Mr. Marshall was a 50-year member of the Thompson Masonic Lodge in Paoli, a scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 50 in Devon, and an associate commander for Explorer Scout Post 50 in Devon. He also coached the Devon-Strafford Little League and taught classes in boating safety and basic seamanship as a member of the Main Line Sail and Power Squadron.
In retirement, he devoted himself to his grandchildren. "It was a wonderful opportunity to do things with them," his son said. "Last Friday, those same grandchildren were in the room when he passed away."
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Marshall is survived by a daughter, Elizabeth Sullivan, and six grandchildren. A sister died earlier.