Splash photo by Tim Putnam

After playing a role in its success since its founding, Tom and Bev Markson will lead the 2014 Liberty Lake Fourth of July Parade.

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Profiles: Marksons to lead parade as grand marshals
6/26/2014 2:17:32 PM

By Tim Putnam
Splash Contributor

Of the estimated 50 or so golf carts Tom and Bev Markson believe will be in this year's Fourth of July Parade, perhaps their biggest surprise is who will ride in the lead cart: the two of them. The couple of 57 years was selected as this year's grand marshals. 

"We were just surprised," Bev Markson said. "I think there must be an awful lot of other people who were qualified."

Laughed her husband: "I think once you get past 80 they probably feel you're a candidate. If you've been active in a variety of degrees in the community, that's probably the way all grand marshals are picked."

The Marksons count themselves in good company as they recall past honorees such as Harley and Lorraine Halverson (2013), Ray and Karen Ruef (2007) and Bob Wills Sr. (1994). 

"He was one of our favorite patriots," Tom Markson said of Wills, recounting his story as a Lieutenant Colonel in World War II who was held as a prisoner of war in Germany after being shot down before escaping to rejoin his company. "What a hero! That's what grand marshals are made of."

Active members of both the Liberty Lake and Spokane Valley communities, the couple came to the area from Minneapolis. 

Bev Markson went to the University of British Columbia and finished up her degree in home economics at the University of Manitoba. From Eli, Minn., Tom Markson graduated from the University of Minnesota with both a bachelors in physical therapy and a masters in hospital administration.

The Marksons met in 1955 while working in the health care industry in Minneapolis. She worked as a dietician. He worked as a physical therapist in the same hospital.

"We were married in 1957," Bev Markson said, before adding with a smile: "And we're still married."

The couple's journey brought them to Spokane in 1968 as Tom Markson became the first administrator of Spokane Valley Hospital.

"I was like the first employee," he said. "Going through interviews, I got to know a lot of people because we were going to hire maybe three or four hundred people."

Tom Markson recalled good years developing a medical staff of 200-300 consulting doctors. 

"We developed a home-grown medical support staff of nurses and technicians," he said. "They lived in the Valley for the most part, taking care of friends and relatives."

In 1972, the company that owned Valley Hospital asked Markson to be the regional director for its five northwest hospitals. Its other facilities included two in Portland, and one each in Tacoma and Coos Bay. 

He served in that role from 1972 to 1974, when the company decided to move the regional office to California. The Marksons chose to stay home, and Tom returned to Spokane Valley Hospital.

In 1977, he set off on a new adventure to work for Pyrotek as a sales engineer for a couple years.

The couple then purchased Valley Yamaha, a business they ran for more than seven years before Markson went back to tackle other health industry-related posts. But that period outside of health care gave the Marksons plenty of new experiences. 

"While we were in the motorcycle business, we bought a window manufacturing company, the old Fuller O'Brien," Tom Markson said. "We served the Inland Northwest making commercial storefronts as well as a lot of windows."

He recalled during the time they ran the business, from 1982 to 1984, the economy was not favorable for the window manufacturing business. 

"It just gave me experience," he said. "And probably gave Bev some headaches."

One rare experience happened while Bev Markson was working as the dietician at the Academy Retirement Community. During her tenure, Tom was approached by one of his friends - an owner - about working there. 

"He asked me if I would be the administrator," Markson recalled. "I was Bev's boss at that time. It was the only time I was her boss."

In addition to his career, Markson's role in the community included being active in the development of the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District, serving in leadership capacities with the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce and in Rotary.

These days, the Marksons often turn to favorite hobbies. Tom likes to fashion clocks out of old portholes, while Bev enjoys buying and selling antiques.

"We've had a good life and active hobbies," Tom Markson said. "Antiquing has always kept us interested in things."

Not that their business experience doesn't still come into play. 

"We've been antique dealers as a vocation for years and years," Tom Markson said. "We were the original pickers. We started to pick, and wherever we traveled we would always find an antique store. Bev's got a great eye for antiques."

Among the original parade committee members, the Marksons' nomination came in part because of their longtime involvement in the parade.

"I've always been on the parade committee every year," Bev Markson said. "If you live here, you just get involved with it. I hope the parade will always continue, and I hope it will always be a children's parade."

Another longtime parade organizer, Ross Schneidmiller, recalled how Tom Markson used to take pictures of parade participants with a Polaroid camera and then hand them the photo, an activity he did on his own just because he thought people would like it.

"Tom was one of the original hamburger flippers when the parade got its start," Schneidmiller said. "He has consistently helped make the parade a fun experience over the years, often working in the background so the parade runs smoothly."

The Marksons raised two girls and boy in Liberty Lake - Jeanne, Carol and Kurt - and now have five grandchildren.

"This has been a wonderful place to live," Bev Markson said. "It was a great place to raise a family. Our children loved it."

Liberty Lake parade grand marshals
The following have been honored as grand marshals since the inception of the Fourth of July Parade in Alpine Shores in 1989:  

2014 Tom & Bev Markson
2013 Harley & Lorraine Halverson
2012 Dave & Susan Graham
2011 Bob & Barbara Gamble
2010 Lois Hatch
2009 Darlene Stokke
2008 Dick & Donna Hoover
2007 Ray & Karen Ruef
2006 Harold & Joan Hughes
2005 Anton "Ras" Rasmussen
2004 Howard & Mary Floy Dolphin
2003 Lyle Stephenson
2002 Floyd & Betty Johnson 
2001 Lud Kramer
2000 Lee Smith
1999 Elmer Schneidmiller
1998 Rosie Brady
1997 Ruth Barnes
1996 Bob Blair
1995 Jim Brumm
1994 Bob Wills Sr.
1993 Della Neyland
1992 Alex Farrante
1991 Ann MacKenzie Wyatt
1990 June Bailey
1989 Sigwell Knudsen