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Merle "Roger" Marshall and wife Jeanne of Crosslake won $34,772 in Northstar Cash in April. Marshall used his winnings to pay off his truck, and the couple plans to continue traveling across the United States, one of their favorite activities. Photo by Chelsey Perkins

Crosslake couple hits the jackpot

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A daily ritual for Merle "Roger" Marshall of Crosslake paid off - literally.

In late April, Marshall, 83, won a $34,772 Northstar Cash jackpot after purchasing a ticket at the Holiday Stationstore in Crosslake.

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"My old saying is, 'If you don't play, you don't win,'" he said. "Sometimes they see me coming into the store and they've got it all printed up for me."

Marshall said he and his wife, Jeanne, 81, almost always call in the evenings to find out if they've won anything on their lottery tickets, but on that particular day, they spent most of it traveling and didn't arrive home until midnight.

"We were both beat, so we went to bed," he said.

The next morning, he went and bought a Sunday newspaper and found his ticket to compare to the winning numbers.

"I took that ticket out and looked at the numbers - one, two, three, four, five in a row (matched) and I thought, 'It can't be.' About 10 times I looked," he said. "I said, 'Jeanne, come over here and help me with this thing.' So she looked and said, 'We won!'"

They walked away with more than $23,500 when all was said and done, and Marshall used the money to finish paying off his pickup truck, which he and Jeanne use to travel all over the United States.

Luck may be a theme of Marshall's life. The most he'd won on a lottery ticket before this was $100, he said, although he usually wins a few dollars each time he plays. Just three weeks earlier, he won $1,219 playing slot machines at Northern Lights Casino in Walker.

It extends beyond winning money. After 57 years without having seen his childhood friend, Jeanne, they reunited as widower and widow to find out their interests had each evolved in a similar way: They both loved to travel, and each had done so extensively already. They decided to continue their journeys together, and married less than two years ago.

Well before that, Marshall fought in the Korean War and, according to his account, was one of 13 men in his company of 232 soldiers who survived a battle on the Nakdong River, albeit with battle wounds that earned him three Purple Hearts.

"A lot of my buddies were getting killed and wounded," he said. "I was just very fortunate that I made it out of there."

Marshall grew up spending summers in Crosslake at his grandparents' resort, Wildwood Resort, on Daggett Lake. He still has a photograph of him and his brother from 1938, posing alongside what is now County Road 66 when it was only a dirt road. He eventually moved to live with them at age 16, after they'd purchased a farm near Brainerd.

Jeanne was his neighbor then, and the two participated in 4-H together, performing in plays as lead actors. Marshall was even her first kiss on stage at age 15.

In October 1948, while taking credits toward graduation he'd missed while switching between three high schools, he decided to join the Army after learning his friend, Bill, had joined at the courthouse in Brainerd.

"I took a cab, went home and got a couple of war bonds, and told my grandpa and grandma goodbye," he said.

After basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Marshall and Bill were the first two soldiers to arrive at the new base in Washington state, Fort Lewis (now Joint Base Lewis-McChord). He was then selected to do cold-weather training on Mount Rainier, where he spent more than six months.

He'd heard rumors about a war in Korea, but it wasn't until May 1950 that the rumors became substantiated.

"All of sudden in May, we were getting our shots and everything. We knew something was up," he said.

The Korean War officially started for the United States on June 25, 1950, and less than two months later, Marshall was on his way to war.

"On Aug. 5, I got to Korea," he said. "I was up on the front line the next morning."

Marshall fought in Korea for 34 days before he was wounded along the Nakdong River. After a long night of fighting, he got out of his foxhole, his leg, which had been shot the night before and bled all night, hardly able to support him. He used his rifle as a crutch, he said. He'd also lost two of his fingers when a hand grenade landed near him and he picked it up to throw it away.

Army tanks arrived to help him and the other wounded men, and while on a stretcher on front of the tank, another bullet hit his shoulder.

After moving between several hospitals in Asia and then Hawaii, Marshall spent nearly two years at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas.

"It took a whole year before I could walk again," he said. "I was on crutches for over a year."

Following his discharge from the Army in 1952, Marshall went to live with his brother and a friend in California, although they continued to spend their summers through deer hunting season in the Brainerd lakes area. He didn't see Jeanne while he was back in Minnesota, however; they'd written back and forth to one another for awhile after he joined the Army, but eventually lost touch.

He married in 1955 and traveled with his wife for about six years, then lived in Brainerd, working at the Potlatch paper mill for nine years. The couple relocated to Blaine, where he lived for 42 years. Jeanne, meanwhile, married in 1953 and moved to Monticello.

Marshall began driving a semi truck for Penny's Supermarket, which eventually was purchased by Supervalu, and continued to do so for 25 years until his retirement in 1994.

When Marshall's wife died in 2005, a friend of Jeanne's passed along the obituary to her. Having never quite forgotten her childhood friend, Roger, Jeanne, whose own husband died in 1994, planned to get in touch with him.

"I was going to call him for a sympathy call, but I never got around to that," she said. Not right away; later that year, however, they reunited.

Marshall decided he was going to sell his house and most of his possessions, and take back to the road he'd always loved.

"It took seven days to get rid of everything. I couldn't believe I had so much junk," he said. "I said, 'I'm going to buy a new pickup and I'm going to buy a trailer and I'm going to go, I'm going to go traveling.'"

Jeanne, who'd also done a lot of traveling and camping throughout her life, went along for the ride. Together, the couple has traveled across almost the entire United States, particularly in the western United States.

"There's a mountain road that we go up a lot. It's a crooked road here or there, but just beautiful," Marshall said. "We've got a spot where we go a lot to see the wild horses."

"I don't think there's a road in Arizona or New Mexico that we haven't been on," Marshall added. "We have a lot of good times, a lot of fun together."

The couple frequently came to Crosslake over the years, and last year, they rented a condo in the city. After last winter, however, they plan to spend this one in Phoenix, Arizona.

"Everybody says, 'When are you leaving?'" he said. "I said, 'As soon as I see the first snowflake.'"

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Chelsey Perkins
Chelsey Perkins grew up in Crosslake and is a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School. She earned her Bachelor's degree in professional journalism from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Perkins has interned at the Lake Country Echo and the Rochester and Austin Post-Bulletins and also worked for the student-run Minnesota Daily newspaper as a copy editor and columnist during college. She went on to intern at Utne Reader magazine, where she was later hired as the research editor. Before joining the Brainerd Dispatch, Perkins worked as a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.
(218) 855-5874
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