Clyde Beal: Retired dentist a longtime Marshall supporter
Most everyone would accept the idea that a home is a reflection of those who live within. Take for instance the living quarters of 94 year-old Marvin Dill. His home is a living testimony of a deep-rooted love for Marshall University that began when the cinder track surrounded the grass field at Fairfield Stadium. In addition to the large Marshall blanket covering his bed, there is an assorted display of Marshall pictures that includes everything from the Memorial Fountain to the inaugural football game in the new stadium against New Hampshire in 1991. Completing his personal history are framed military diplomas, a bookcase full of family pictures and a stack of well-read "Wild Wonderful West Virginia" magazines.
Dill was born and raised in Pocahontas County amid the booming logging community of Cass, W.Va. His father worked at the Cass Sawmill while Dill, along with his brothers and sisters, attended the nearby two-story frame schoolhouse. During the week his father usually came home for lunch with all the kids where mom would often fix a family favorite -- buckwheat pancakes.
"Back during the day there were thousands of people working at Cass," Dill said. "And the Company Store was the glue that held it all together. That store was big and they sold everything. School supplies, beer, guns, clothing, car oil, groceries, tools and books -- there was even a druggist and pharmacy. If you needed it, they either had it or they would get it."
Other things Dill will always remember is the unique sounds of the sawmill whistle when it blew at quitting time and the sound of the Shay steam engine coming down the mountain.
Dill said winters were rough and it usually snowed from October to April. Come summer, one of his favorite activities was to ride the train to Bald Knob to pick blackberries. He would ride back down the hill with the loggers at quitting time. His mother would always transform his efforts into several blackberry pies. On other occasions, Dill would ride the train up the mountain, explore caves and fly fish along the Leatherbark River as he meandered back down the mountain. Always he had a basket full of native brook trout for dinner. He also mentioned his squirrel hunting jaunts through the Pocahontas countryside with a very stout borrowed 12-gauge shotgun. While he was always able to bring home enough for dinner, the recoil of that shotgun left his shoulder aching for days.
"We were a large family," Dill said. "But there was always plenty to eat. We had a couple of milk cows along with our garden, and mom made the best homemade bread ever."
During his days at Green Bank High School, Dill worked his summers at the Cass Lumber Mill before graduating in 1937. He was also quarterback for the football team during his senior year.
"I suppose every kid in school has a favorite teacher," Dill said. "Mine was Matt Brooks who always seemed to be able to get the best from me in the classroom. Shortly after high school graduation, Mr. Brooks took me to Huntington, helped me get enrolled at Marshall and found me a job on campus at the cafeteria. Every kid needs the support and guidance of a teacher like him."
Dill graduated from Marshall College in 1941, and less than 90 days later he signed up with the Navy to become an aviator. After his tour of basic training at Anacostia Naval Air Station in Washington D.C., he was sent to Pensacola Naval Air Station for extensive flight training in the Navy's rescue and reconnaissance aircraft.
"I can honestly say that I never had a bad plane ride during my entire career in the Navy," Dill said. "I enjoyed my assignments to such a degree that I was assigned instructor duties for nearly two years. After that I was reassigned to the Galapagos Islands where I flew submarine search missions over the pacific."
After his honorable discharge in December of 1945, Dill returned to Marshall the following semester for the necessary classes to be accepted into the dental program at the University of Louisville.
"There were a few classes I needed," Dill said. "One class in particular was a chemistry class that wasn't even offered. After my friends and I recruited enough students willing to take it, Marshall put it on their schedule. For a while I made a few dollars as a flight instructor at the Chesapeake airport while attending Marshall."
After a courtship that lasted nearly 18 months, Dill was finally able to convince Sue Hill to marry him. On June 22, 1947, wedding bells echoed in downtown Huntington as two Marshall students were married. After a brief honeymoon to Sea Island, Ga., it was back to the classroom.
"I graduated from dental school in 1950," Dill said. "I opened up my office and practiced dentistry in Huntington for over 30 years. Off and on I volunteered as the team dentist for various Marshall athletic programs during the 1950s. I became a Big Green Member when Herb Royer was football coach at Marshall; that was a long time ago."
Until his retirement in 1985, Dill was involved with Marshall as a season ticketholder and as a supporter. When Perry Moss was Marshall's football coach, he asked Dill to make dental records for the team. He later used those very same records to help identify members of the Marshall football family that perished Nov. 14, 1970.
Dill speaks with remarkable accuracy about the excitement at Fairfield Stadium when the real Marco the buffalo got loose. He remembers being a part of the homecoming pageantry with Marshall's marching band and decorated floats that paraded through Huntington.
As a season ticketholder for Marshall's football and basketball programs, his daughter Marsha Dilley sees to it that he doesn't miss many games. He tells stories of fly fishing on canoe trips with his nephew, Tom Lightner, and he's proud of his picture with Chad Pennington. Dill also speaks of a wonderful marriage with his beloved wife who passed away in 2002.
Yes indeed, there might just as well be a sign on Dill's front door that reads: "A Real Marshall Supporter Lives Here." You could hang those words right under the large green Marshall pennant that's already been there for quite some time.
Clyde Beal seeks out interesting stories from folks around the Tri-State. Email email@example.com.
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