Mary Toomey, left, of Mount Wolf, and former York City mayor Betty Marshall take part in the Anybody But Bush grassroots committee’s action group
Mary Toomey, left, of Mount Wolf, and former York City mayor Betty Marshall take part in the Anybody But Bush grassroots committee's action group meeting held January 2004 in the city. (York Dispatch file photo)

The family of former York City Mayor Elizabeth Marshall, who died last week, have scheduled a memorial service for Sunday, April 14.

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George St. will host the 2 p.m. service, according to Marshall's obituary.

Marshall's family asks that memorial contributions be made to the York Benevolent Association, 301 Kings Mill Road, or to Emily's List, a group "dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women to office," according to its website, www.emilyslist.org.

Reported earlier:

Something happened in November of 1977 that changed then-15-year-old Bob Kefauver's life.

For the first time in its history, York City elected a woman to be its mayor.

More than three decades later, Kefauver said, he remembers "how proud my mom was of that and how delighted she was that a woman had been elected to this high-level position."

"It touched my mom very deeply," he said.

The significance of Elizabeth Marshall's election wasn't lost on Kefauver, the current chairman of the York County Democratic Party who said he counts the former mayor among his inspirations.

Marshall died Friday morning at her home on Florida Avenue. She was 94.

Not only was she York's first elected female mayor, but Marshall was also the first woman to serve on the city council.

In 1974, she was elected the council's president, her son, Ted Marshall, said.

"It kind of went from there," he said. "She was very dedicated to the city."

In 1977, Marshall was elected mayor. She served through 1981, losing her bid for a second term that year. It was during Marshall's term that the city planted Bradford pear trees along West Market Street.

Her friend, Mary Toomey, said Marshall - who she called "Betty" - remained politically active into her later years.

"She would remind everybody she'd meet, 'You know, I was a Roosevelt Democrat,'" Toomey said. "That was so important to her because she wanted everybody to know she had lived through two wars and the Depression. She knew what it was like for people to be hungry."

Frustrated with then President George W. Bush, the two friends founded a group in 2003 aimed at organizing local Democrats for the 2004 presidential campaign. They called it the Grassroots Movement.

Kefauver said the Grassroots Movement fueled a reinvigoration of left-leaning York County politics.

"As I like to put it, Mary and Betty Marshall were the sparks to some very dry Democratic tinder," Kefauver said. "The county committee was not nearly as organized at that period of time as we are now."

In 2011, at age 92, Marshall testified before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging about elderly rights.

Toomey said she and Marshall, an avid reader, often talked about literature.

"It was just like taking a college course from her each time," she said.

Ted Marshall said his mother taught him and his two siblings "a lifelong sense of compassion for others who were struggling or less fortunate."

"She fought for her ideals and what she thought was right," he said.

The family has not yet made funeral arrangements.

- Erin James may also be reached at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.