The death of a Simcoe County cowgirl, known for her natural ease around horses and her friendly nature with humans, has hit her community hard.
Katie Marshall, 31, of Clearview Township, was killed in a car collision last weekend. Her husband, Brody, was seriously injured and their two dogs, Sage and Ry, also died.
The collision happened Saturday, Sept. 23, before 8 a.m. at 3-4 Sideroad Sunnidale and Concession Road 9 Sunnidale in Clearview. Marshall was on her way to work at the Barrie hospital.
One of the dogs in the Marshalls' vehicle went missing after the crash. Friends searched for the dog for two days before finding its body in a nearby field.
Huronia West OPP have confirmed there were two adults and five children in the other vehicle involved in the crash. Brody, originally from Newmarket, was taken by Ornge air ambulance to a trauma centre in Toronto, as was one of the infant passengers from the other vehicle. The rest of the passengers were taken to a local hospital with what police say were minor injuries.
Police are still investigating the collision.
"It's pretty devastating the whole way around," said Tonya Hook, a longtime friend of the family and former colleague to Katie and her parents at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in Barrie.
She said Brody is slowly recovering in hospital after surgeries, but will face immense grief at the loss of his wife and their two dogs.
Katie worked as a security officer at RVH, where her mom also works as a nurse. Katie started working at the hospital in 2012, eventually settling in the security department.
"She was always friendly, outgoing, and she could deal with crisis situations," said Hook. "She was small and fierce. She was a shorter, kind of skinny girl -- you wouldn't expect someone like that to be in security, but she was a force to be reckoned with ... She stood up for people, for people's rights and she made sure the nurses were safe."
News of Katie's death has hit the team at RVH hard. A statement from the hospital notes the loss is being felt by the many who knew her, and because of her outgoing personality, that was most people.
"Katie was well known at RVH and a friend to so many ... As one of the security team leads, Katie was front and centre ... she was fiercely protective of her team," said Andrew Bell, director of emergency management, safety and security in the statement issued by RVH. "[She] came to work every day to make a difference with a bright smile on her face."
Hook remembers that smile being contagious.
A few conversations with Katie revealed she was a passionate horse person and a fan of country life.
She often visited What Do You Know horse rescue in Innisfil where Brody did ferrier work on the rescue horses.
There, co-owner Rebecca Gray got to know Katie well.
"She was a natural with horses," said Gray. "We have horses that have never been handled ... and she'd come in and the horses would just relax around her and she'd pick up on things that other people missed.
"She was a true horsewoman."
Katie's friend and fellow board member for the Ontario Barrel Racing Association, Melissa Kersey, said Katie had "horse blood."
"That's what we call it in our world," said Kersey. "It means you can just connect, you have that natural knack when it comes to these magnificent animals."
Katie and Brody Marshall had just celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary. They are big names in the equestrian world and the sports of barrel racing and pole bending. They both spent their lives around horses. Brody used a horse to help him propose to Katie.
"I don't know their love story, but I know that it was definitely one for the records," said Kersey. "They were just made for each other. They were an old love in a new generation."
Gray agreed, having watched Brody and Katie work together while he shod rescue horses.
"They are honestly some of the most amazing people ... they're the type of people who will give you the shirts off their backs," said Gray. "They walk into a room and they act like they've known you for years and they're always laughing and always smiling. They're just there to make everyone smile and help everyone out."
Katie was a top-level competitor in barrel racing, the loudest supporter in the stands for the other racers, including her husband, and served as a director for the Ontario Barrel Racing Association.
"She's very missed already," said Kersey. "It's been a rough go."
As the news of Katie's death and Brody's injuries spread, their friends and the equestrian community stepped in to take care of the Marshalls' animals.
The Ontario Barrel Racing Association started collecting donations to give to Brody during his recovery. Two different T-shirts are being sold in memory of Katie with proceeds going to support her family.
"In the equestrian world ... it doesn't matter what discipline you are in or what organization ... we are still a family, and at times like this, we pull together as a family."
There's a memorial at RVH with Katie's photo on it, and bouquets have covered the security vehicle parked by her photo. The Barrie hospital has also lowered its flags to half-mast.
Hook started a Go Fund Me campaign to support Katie's parents, Sherry and Rob. Katie is the second of their three children to have died in the last two years. Money raised through the Go Fund Me will be given to Sherry and Rob to help with any of the financial needs that arise. In under 24 hours, the campaign raised more than $3,000.
"Katie was a beautiful ray of light no matter what organization or event she was attending she would always be one of the first to help in any situation," said Kersey, speaking on behalf of the Ontario Barrel Racing Association. "She was loved by so many and we’ll be truly missed. On behalf of members, directors and all of our organization, our hearts are broken. Our thoughts are with her family."
Donations for Brody can be emailed to the Ontario Barrel Racing Association at [email protected]. Use "Brody" in the subject line to specify the donation.
Coming up next month, the Ontario Barrel Racing Association will be raising money for Brody through raffle tickets, clothing in Katie’s name as well as 50-50 draw at the finals event on Oct. 14,15 2023 in Clinton, Ont.
There are also special-edition, long-sleeve shirts for sale through the Ontario Barrel Racing Association in memory of Katie Marshall. Competitors will be able to wear the shirts during the finals events, and those competing in the Top Gun race, which was started by Brody and Katie in 2021 will wear special purple ones on the weekend. Lilac was Katie's favourite colour. More information is available online here.
Another memorial T-shirt for sale from the Ranchy Equestrian is available for purchase online with proceeds going to Brody.