101-year-old Coast Guard WWII vet, award-winning artist celebrated

Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ali Flockerzi

Marshall Perrow. Photo courtesy of Department of Architectural Licensing.

Marshall Perrow. Photo courtesy of Department of Architectural Licensing.

If any artist could stir intense feelings with his creations, it would have been Marshall W. Perrow.

Sacrifice, dedication, legacy. Even these powerful words cannot quite capture the meaning of the painting hanging in Rear Adm. David Throop’s office in downtown Seattle.

“Walking past the image is intensely personal on a number of different levels,” said Throop, commander of the 13th Coast Guard District. “Perrow’s depiction of the outbound Station Quillayute River 44-foot Motor Lifeboat passing James Island just before the breaking bar captures the environment and the courage of our people perfectly, reminds us how important it is to learn how to manage the risk of operating in this unforgiving environment.”

Arguably the sole purpose of artistic expression, an emotional response is regarded as the keystone to experiencing art. Perrow was a Coast Guard World War II veteran who lived to be 101 years old and poured his passion into his paintings throughout his life.

Born in Tacoma, Washington, in 1916, Perrow’s life was full of affection for a variety of hobbies, including skiing, sailing and volunteering in his community by supporting the arts, city planning and education. Perrow’s skills as an artist with a brush and canvas poured over into his long 70-year career as an architect.

Perrow began his architectural education at the young age of 15 to help support his family. He received permission to attend school for half days and spent the rest of his day working. He was employed at the architectural firm of Mock and Morrison, the largest firm in the city at the time. With the help of his mentor and close friend, Nelson Morrison, Perrow rose to the level of full draftsman by the time he graduated from high school.

In the depression years, Perrow moved to Alaska and reportedly worked for wartime contractors designing large warehouse structures. During World War II, he entered the Navy Reserve and then transferred to the Coast Guard, where he rose to the level of chief warrant officer. Perrow was stationed aboard an 83-foot patrol boat at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, from 1942-1946. When he returned to the west coast, he worked on the maintenance and operation of the U.S. Coast Guard facilities up and down the entire coast.

“The debt we owe to our predecessors is further reinforced by the fact that Perrow was a WWII veteran,” said Throop. “If it weren’t for the men and women of his generation, the ‘Greatest Generation,’ our world would be a different place and none of us would have the remarkable opportunities and blessings without their sacrifice.”

Dolphin Helo making a dangerous night rescue off Port Susan, Wash. Artwork by Marshall Perrow.

Dolphin Helo making a dangerous night rescue off Port Susan, Wash. Artwork by Marshall Perrow.

“As a member of the Coast Guard Art Program, Marshall Perrow performed the vital function of helping to educate the public about the missions and contributions of the Coast Guard,” said Mary Ann Bader, the art program’s coordinator. “Mr. Perrow contributed two pieces in the late 90s and is remembered fondly for his courtesy and generosity as both an artist and as a volunteer for the art program.”

Co-founded by esteemed military artist George Gray in 1981, the Coast Guard Art Program (COGAP) uses fine art to educate diverse audiences about Coast Guard missions, operations and people. Over 1,800 works of fine art in the program’s collection are a testament to the rich traditions, history and people of the United States Coast Guard.

“The artists who produce these pieces are considered visual historians for the Coast Guard,” said Karen Loew, chair of the COGAP committee of the Salmagundi Club. “We record the service’s history, missions and life through art. We are the Coast Guard fan club and it’s a way of giving back; like immortalizing a thank you in art.”

Coast Guard art is exhibited in museums, galleries, libraries and Coast Guard facilities across the nation. Pieces from the collection are also prominently displayed in federal buildings including the Pentagon, U.S. embassies and Congress.

Following his discharge from the Coast Guard, Perrow took his illustrations around to New York magazines publishers, sold his work to Motor Boating, and had a piece featured on its August 1948 cover.

An HH-65 Dolphin helicopter hovers above a distressed sailboat off of La Push, Wash. Artwork by Marshall Perrow.

An HH-65 Dolphin helicopter hovers above a distressed sailboat off of La Push, Wash. Artwork by Marshall Perrow.

When the war was over, Perrow sat for the Washington State architectural exam and with no formal training, he received his license on March 15, 1946. He then opened his own office in Seattle, but moved the practice to Tacoma in 1948.
Perrow was a well-known and recognized architect in the area, designing many schools, a flower shop, restaurants and the Tacoma Pierce County Humane Society. In 1960, Perrow’s design for Bowlero Lanes Bowling Alley in Tacoma brought him much acclaim. The design, with its folded plate roof, was featured in Pacific Architect & Builder in July 1961. Perrow also designed several nursing homes and commercial buildings in northern California and was licensed in Alaska and Oregon during his career.

Through his art with the brush and the drafting table, he has left an enduring legacy for the people of Washington and for the Coast Guard. Perrow passed away on June 5, 2017, leaving behind his daughter, Michelle, and son-in-law Clark Burkheimer; two grandsons, Ian and Alec Burkheimer; and great grandchildren Kaito, Mia, Cale and Camden Burkheimer.

To read detailed accounts of Perrow’s accomplishments, please visit these websites:

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