A supporter of Kansas City artists, many around the metro remember Barbara Hall Marshall

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — She’s being remembered as a generous supporter of Kansas City’s artists.

Barbara Hall Marshall, 97, whose father, J.C. Hall, founded Hallmark, died on Wednesday. Marshall was never an artist, but she worked for her father’s greeting card empire for 50 years, learning the creative process from the ground floor up. Marshall’s loved ones remember her as being a zealous supporter of the metro’s art scene.

“I’m eternally grateful to Barbara Marshall and her insights,” Emily Akins, a Hallmark editorial director, said on Thursday.

Akins, a 12-year employee at Hallmark, said Marshall fostered and encouraged creativity in all things. Akins and her partner, Sergio Moreno, who is a former Hallmark editorial director, have both won the company’s celebrated Barbara Marshall Award. That prize awards a six-month paid sabbatical to employees to independently study creative endeavors on their own.

Akins said her time was spent examining the transformative power of children’s literature.

“There’s a sense of loss, but it’s also due to her generosity that we can continue appreciating what she brought to this community. While she herself is gone, her impact is just as strong as it ever was,” Akins said.

Moreno, a native of Mexico City, said his Marshall Award sabbatical focused on the diverse array of faith narratives and spirituality across the United States. He salutes Marshall, since his studies led him to become a Buddhist chaplain. 

“I believe Barbara Marshall had a deep belief in creativity and artists and people who have creative pursuits and endeavors and she invested in creative people,” Moreno said. “I’m deeply grateful for the life of Barbara Marshall for the opportunities she created for people like us.”

Marshall’s contributions to metro artists included support for programs featured at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, which is located on the UMKC Campus in Kansas City.

She’s also remembered fondly at the Kansas City Art Institute, where, according to Tony Jones, Nerman Family President, her contributions once saved the school from going out of business. That’s why the school honored her by naming its newest residence hall in her honor in 2020. 

“Her life was woven into the history of this city and this college,” Jones said. “She helped us. She believed in us. She dedicated her time and her effort and her philanthropic gifts too to make the college work.”

Everyone FOX4 spoke with learned of Marshall’s passing on Thursday morning, and rather than to react with sadness, feelings of gratitude arose.

The Hallmark corporation hired countless graduates from the Kansas City Art Institute, providing opportunity to put their dreams to work. A statement on the company’s website said a memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, Marshall’s loved ones ask for contributions to the Kansas City Art Institute and National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.

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