accessAtlanta

City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

A year later, Royal Marshall’s passing still haunts the Boortz team

Christina Gonzalez, Belinda Skelton and Neal Boortz dedicating a tree in Royal Marshall's name on WSB property. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Christina Gonzalez, Belinda Skelton and Neal Boortz dedicating a tree in Royal Marshall's name on WSB property. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Royal Marshall, Neal Boortz’s irrepressibly cheerful right-hand man for more than 17 years, died of a heart attack a year ago.

His closest friends, family and colleagues are still trying to pick up the pieces. At AM 750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB, Marshall’s workplace for nearly two decades, the station Friday honored him with a bronze plaque and tree planted in his name. The plaque will be placed in the control room, his second home.

“Honestly, it still doesn’t feel real,” said Belinda Skelton, Boortz’s producer. “I keep thinking he’s coming back from vacation. But every day, I feel his loss. I miss that laugh.”

Boortz told the group at the dedication when he started doing his show in Naples, Fla. more often, he couldn’t visually signal Marshall when he was ready to go. But he said Marshall knew him so well, “he always knew where my mind was. He knew to the second when I was ready to start the bumper music.”

Marshall was originally Boortz’s engineer and engineers on most shows don’t say much– if anything — on radio shows. But Marshall early on began inserting himself into the conversation and Boortz liked it.

“He understood intuitively when I wanted him to come into the show,” he said. His voice broke as he said, “It just hit me again last weekend… I was sitting down there watching sailboats and I couldn’t get Royal off my mind. You really can’t. So happy we’re dedicating that room to him.”

Boortz couldn’t resist a self-deprecating crack: “Three or four years down the road, they’ll dedicate the restroom for me.”

Here’s a photo gallery we did of Marshall last year.

In an earlier interview, Boortz said Marshall is “irreplaceable. He was perfect for me. He helped put my show on a national map. I miss him agreeing with me. I miss him confronting me. He is just something wonderful that happened. I’m not going to ever try to find another one like him because he doesn’t exist.”

Belinda Skelton and Neal Boortz in the newsroom speaking with Christina Gonzalez.

Belinda Skelton and Neal Boortz in the newsroom speaking with Christina Gonzalez.

Perhaps the toughest transition has been for Annette Marshall, Royal’s wife, and his two young daughters, Amira, 5, and Ava, 3.

The chief compliance officer at an investment firm, Annette jumped right back into work  about two weeks after Royal died.

This was not a healthy move, she said. She ultimately took a 12-week leave of absence last summer to help deal with her grief. She received counseling and came to better terms with what happened.

Her daughters didn’t have it any easier. Her oldest daughter Amira has had stress-related issues, while Ava cried every day for her daddy for eight months.

“At one point,” Annette said, “Ava told me, ‘I don’t like Daddy anymore because he won’t come home.’ ”

But Ava in late August had a breakthrough, a dream about Royal. She told her mom she realized her daddy “was with God.” And she didn’t cry as much anymore.

Marshall made plenty of videos of his girls and she has uploaded many of them off his iPhone and placed them on YouTube. “No special moments,” Annette said. “Just moments. You don’t see much of him. But you hear his laugh.”

She did this not just for herself but for her girls. “I want them to remember the essence of who their dad is from looking at pictures and videos.”

Annette keeps Royal’s Facebook page alive. “It warms my heart that people have not forgotten him,” she said.

The holidays, she said, were especially difficult. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, she was feeling depressed when Ava accidentally left the upstairs bedroom bathroom sink on. The resulting flood forced the family to live first with friends, then a hotel, for three weeks, while repairs were being made.

“In a way,” Annette said, “dealing with the flood and rebuilding was a welcome distraction.”

She said she is grateful for the six-plus years she was with Royal. “I always imagined what kind of relationship I wanted,” she said. “For a marriage, this surpassed it.”

The pair actually knew each other going back to high school in St. Louis. But he was younger than she was by about a year and she paid him little mind. They crossed paths in college and then, in Atlanta as well, over the years. But only in 2004, when they ran into each other by chance at Piedmont Park, did she finally give him her phone number.

Their first date, she said, she didn’t even realize was a date. He invited her to a friend’s cookout. Her expectations were so modest, she had dressed up, thinking she would meet someone else there. She only realized his intentions, she said, when he started feeding her shrimp. Their first kiss? She said she actually saw fireworks.

By 2005, they were married.

“We had a great relationship,” she said. “We laughed. We played. We sang. We never tried to impress each other. We accepted one another, faults and all. God brought us together when we were both ready for it. He allowed us to experience on Earth just a little bit of His love for me through Royal’s love for me.”

Here’s Boortz’s producer Belinda Skelton and Annette speaking at the Royal Marshall dedication in the WSB Radio newsroom:

And here is Neal Boortz unveiling the plaque and a special painting done of Royal:

Annette Marshall, Royal's wife, has struggled to deal with life without her husband.

Annette Marshall, Royal's wife, has struggled to deal with life without her husband.

The final plaque is not finished yet. This is the template.

The final plaque is not finished yet. This is the template.

Steve Penley painted this portrait of Royal Marshall in dedication to Boortz's right-hand man, who passed away last year at age 43.

Steve Penley painted this portrait of Royal Marshall in dedication to Boortz's right-hand man, who passed away last year at age 43.

Join my Facebook fan page and Twitter.

By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

30 comments Add your comment

Tami

January 27th, 2012
5:55 pm

Wonderful tribute. I’m glad that Annette and her girls are beginning to move on. It’s a process, though. It has its own, unique time frame. Still can’t believe a year has gone by already.

Andrew

January 27th, 2012
6:27 pm

May God continue to bless Annette and the girls. You are not alone.

Minute Maid

January 27th, 2012
6:30 pm

He was and is truly loved and missed. Just D@mn!!

gary cutler

January 27th, 2012
6:35 pm

i would to neal and royal in marietta all the time on wsb and then i move to maryland and get it on the radio at my job all the way up here but sometime i it would not come in thank you

flacker

January 27th, 2012
6:36 pm

Ohter than Clark, i never listen to WSB, but i listened when Royal had a show, GOD bless his soul and spirit and good luck to his family.

MeaneyMouse

January 27th, 2012
6:38 pm

Well just dayyyyuuuummmm!

RIP Royal!!

Fred

January 27th, 2012
6:43 pm

The wrong person of the Neal Boortz show died, that’s for sure. I’d bet even Neal would agree.

Very well written piece Rodney.

Carol Hughes

January 27th, 2012
6:59 pm

Psalm 34:18 has helped me cope with sad losses. We do miss Royal!

Highlander

January 27th, 2012
7:00 pm

We all still miss Royal. And all the best, again, to Annette and the family.

TK

January 27th, 2012
7:08 pm

Yes, Sorely miss hearing that laugh from Royal Marshall- what a wonderful dedication to as Neal put it, ” a marvelous” man. May God bless his family. Sure do miss you Royal!!

[...] more A year later, Royal Marshall’s passing still haunts the Boortz team at Radio & TV Talk… /* * * CONFIGURATION VARIABLES: EDIT BEFORE PASTING INTO YOUR [...]

Just Groovy

January 27th, 2012
7:28 pm

Nice tribute to him. RIP Marshall.

Patty Bloeser

January 27th, 2012
7:40 pm

I miss Royal so much! I loved listening to his muffled laugh….he not only knew what Neal was thinking but his listeners too. It was like having somebody in my truck sitting next to me as I drove up and back to North Georgia. Just loved him.

Royal Marhall Fan

January 27th, 2012
7:53 pm

Royal, we here in Atlanta still miss you so much and will be forever grateful to you for all your entertainment efforts, especially:

BOO GOT SHOT !

Rick James

January 27th, 2012
8:16 pm

What a loss to Atlanta and the world of radio..

Fred

January 27th, 2012
8:20 pm

Rob Ear: Royal had plenty of life insurance and his investments were and are doing well. Neal just organized those fund raisers so the one percenters could “take care” of fellow one percenters.

@highlander: Bite me

TrishaDishaWarEagle

January 27th, 2012
8:55 pm

Wow it has not seemed like a whole year since he passed…Just Damn! RIP Royal !

“…Punkin’ wept”

GaGirl

January 27th, 2012
9:08 pm

Royal was class act and he is very much missed on the Boortz show

Still hearing the voice

January 27th, 2012
9:14 pm

We will always remember Royal’s velvet voice. His humor and charm will be missed not only in Atlanta but anywhere it was heard. God bless the girls he loved so much…..all three of them. May they live their lives with his beautiful smile in their hearts and on their faces.

Sharon Harrison

January 27th, 2012
9:24 pm

God bless Royal’s family. I will always remember him with a smile. Just damn!

Hot Dog

January 28th, 2012
7:41 am

I too, miss Royal so very much. His kindness and thoughtfulness was beyond measure. He was truly one of God’s special angels. May God continue to bless his family.

RIP, Royal our special Angel.

Nathaniel

January 28th, 2012
8:01 pm

I miss Royal golden voice and his joke’s and laugh, Just Damn, Miss and love you my brother.

Sarah

January 29th, 2012
10:48 pm

Just Dam I still miss you cousin

Reality

January 29th, 2012
11:00 pm

Only a complete piece of trash would hope to redirect death to someone else because they may disagree with them. It’s hard to grasp how pathetic and angry someone must be, due to their own failings in life, to ever have that point of view.

Traci

January 30th, 2012
4:26 am

Still brings tears to my eyes. The shock still has not worn off. Miss his laugh.

May we all heal peacefully. Amen

Marshall

January 30th, 2012
1:30 pm

Only dealt with Royal via long distance circa mid 1990’s when freelancing for WSB. A truly wonderful guy–warn, funny, friendly and caring. So happy to see the outpouring of remembrance.

Shannon

January 30th, 2012
2:11 pm

Who couldn’t love Royal – and with the rest of the listeners it was a sad day to hear of his passing. A year later it still brings a tear to my eye.

Producer

January 30th, 2012
4:34 pm

Fred, you’re pathetic. Did Royal ever harm you? I doubt it. Why the poisonous attitude?? Why knock Neil for helping out the family after his death? Why bring class warfare into a tribute discussion?

marc morgan

January 30th, 2012
8:46 pm

Unlike me, Royal will be missed at WSB. Since my retirement, the secretaries have stopped packing pepper spray.

HENRY

January 31st, 2012
3:44 pm

GOD BLESS ROYAL AND HIS FAMILY. WE ALL MISS HIM…………….