William J. Marsden, Jr.

October 13, 1955 - October 14, 2017 Avondale, PA | Age 62

William J. Marsden, Jr. of Avondale, PA, age 62, passed away on October 14, 2017 at Christiana Hospital following unexpected cardiac arrest.  A Wilmington attorney, William is survived by his wife of 37 years, Ellen Jones Marsden, his children, Benjamin (Britta) of Avondale, PA, Margaret of Durango, CO, and Emma of Philadelphia, as well as his sisters Jo Ann Andren of Fairfax, VA, and Gloria Stavropoulos (Pete) of Holton, KS, along with a devoted circle of extended family, colleagues and friends.

William was born to William John and Muriel Smith Marsden in Tenafly, NJ, where he spent his early years. He graduated from Haverford College in 1978—an experience that prepared him for the life he wanted to lead.  It was there he decided to join the Religious Society of Friends.  After Haverford, William worked as an intern for the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington DC, where he met Ellen.  William graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1983 and began working with the firm of Potter, Anderson & Corroon focusing on intellectual property law.  His natural curiosity about the intersection of science and law and his perseverance made him well suited to handle these complex cases.

After 16 years at Potter, William moved on to Fish & Richardson, the oldest and one of the largest patent firms in the country.  William opened Fish’s Delaware office in 1999 as its only attorney and one of three employees.  In the eighteen years that followed, William expanded the office to employ dozens of attorneys and staff, all of whom were inspired by the example he set.  He was a zealous advocate for his clients, yet a courteous and respectful opponent.  He was a committed lawyer who believed and taught that family must come first.  He was an individual who stepped forward to be accountable when things did not go well, and stood back to ensure others got credit for the many victories in which he played a great part.  Integrity, judgment and good humor were his hallmarks.  According to his colleagues, he was the personification of all that is best in an American lawyer.

Although his life’s work was as a patent attorney, he was extraordinarily multifaceted.  His joy was horticulture, and he was a proud and devoted steward of the Crestfield Farm in New Garden Township on which his children grew up as the fifth generation.  He was a lifelong student with interests in many fields—most recently at Mt. Cuba, learning about native wildflowers, shrubs and trees in one of America’s finest wildflower gardens.  As a dedicated volunteer, he gave generously of his time and treasure to a variety of organizations ranging from Haverford College, where he served on the Board of Managers, to New Garden Township’s Zoning Hearing Board, which he chaired.  William also enjoyed golf, was a curious and adventuresome traveler, and a lover of the arts, history and culture.  Above all, William was devoted to his large, extended family. One of his nephews spoke for all when he said, “I don’t even remember Uncle Willie as a man, but as a Giant.”

A visitation will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 19, 2017 at Kuzo & Grieco Funeral Home (610-444-4116) at 250 West State Street, Kennett Square, PA 19348.  A Quaker memorial meeting for worship will be held on Friday, October 20, 2017, at 4:00 p.m. in the London Grove Friends Meeting House at 500 W. Street Rd, Kennett Square, PA 19348.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions be made to London Grove Friends Kindergarten (London Grove Monthly Meeting, 500 West Street Road, Kennett Square, PA 19348).  To view William’s online tribute and to share a memory with his family, please visit www.griecocares.com

Message from the Family

Please enhance this tribute to William by sharing your memories

Memorial Donations

London Grove Friends Kindergarten

C/O London Grove Monthly Meeting
500 West Street Road
Kennett Square, PA 19348



October 19, 2017 5-8PM Kuzo & Grieco Funeral Home Inc.
250 W. State St.
Kennett Square, PA 19348

Memorial Service

October 20, 2017 4PM London Grove Friends Meeting House
500 W. Street Rd.
Kennett Square, PA 19348


  1. To Ellen and William’s entire family:

    I only learned of William’s passing just now (in mid-January), and I am heartbroken. I, like so many others, benefitted greatly from his wisdom, humor, and extraordinary judgment, having worked with him extensively ( as co-counsel) on a series of trials in the mid- to late-1990s. And while I did not see him often, as a fellow Haverford alumnus (I graduated in 1990), I always felt a special kinship with William, and hoped to someday be the kind of example he set for me and countless others — a very lofty goal indeed. Without exception, the most heartfelt laughter I have ever had in connection with my career was the result of his handiwork, as though trying to get me to laugh in front of the jury was some sort of “rookie hazing.” And he was masterful at it — and seemed to want to hone that particular craft on a near-daily basis. I will forever be indebted to him for his kind and generous mentorship, and for his sage counsel in times of stress. Please know how beloved William was by so many — like me — who you probably never met and never heard of. William just had a way. I will miss him dearly.

    Kurt Calia | January 21, 2018 at 11:43 PM
  2. I just learned of William’s sudden passing in the Delaware Bar magazine.I was so shocked and saddened.I took the Delaware Bar with William in 1983 and although our law practices did not intersect I know that he was a model person and lawyer who always had a smile on his face and a pleasant demeanor…what a great way to be remembered.So sorry to hear of his passing-a great loss to you and the Delaware Bar.My thoughts and prayers are with you all.Sincerely,Mary E.Sherlock,Esq.

    Mary E.Sherlock | November 10, 2017 at 9:03 AM
  3. I came to know William from his service on the Haverford College Board of Managers. William’s generosity of spirit, quiet wisdom, and thoughtfulness were an example and inspiration to all of us on the Board. He was a man in whom there was no guile, and his guidance, manifest good nature, and calm demeanor will be missed.

    Charley Beever | November 6, 2017 at 2:01 PM
  4. Dear Ellen,

    Bill, as he was then known, and I were in college at the same time, he Haverford ’78 and I Bryn Mawr ’78. During the two years I lived on Haverford’s campus, I always looked forward to seeing him. Although i did not know him well, I never failed to look forward to his wonderful smile. I never saw him preoccupied or unhappy; if he had any worries, he did not show them to the world. Without saying a word, Bill brought a silent radiance everywhere he went. I am happy (but not surprised) to learn of all his accomplishments and all he has done for Haverford and other important institutions and groups, but happiest of all that he had so many happy years with you and with your children. May God sustain you in this sudden loss.

    Maureen O'Riordan | October 21, 2017 at 5:27 PM
  5. It is not an exaggeration to say that William had a hand in hiring every single person in the Fish Delaware office. He was our leader – pure and simple. His unfiltered sense of humor. His unfailing drive for success. His blunt (and always astute) observations. But most of all, his loyalty to, and faith in, all of us. William was truly a giant among men. We were all better for having known him. And I will miss him dearly.

    Martina Hufnal | October 20, 2017 at 12:07 PM
  6. Ellen,
    I was truly saddened to hear of Williams passing. I waved at him just last week. Vicki and I will have you in our thoughts and prayers.

    mark satterly | October 19, 2017 at 7:08 PM
  7. Dear Ellen, Meggie and family,
    What a devastating and tragic time for your family. Although I never met William, I saw so many of his and Ellen’s wonderful qualities in Meggie, when she lived with us on our farm in New Zealand. The photos from Meggie’s wedding spoke volumes about the importance of family and heritage. Please know that you will be in our thoughts and prayers. Love, Emily Wood Crofoot

    Emily Wood Crofoot | October 18, 2017 at 6:16 PM
  8. The suddenness of this makes expression of the loss difficult. But the wonderful memories of William are many and these are easy to share. I will never forget his infectious laugh. Perhaps my favorite William story is this. My first experience working with William was at a trial in Delaware before Judge Farnan. During one of the evenings after trial, William got to telling a story. When he was a kid, he and his friends were on a job parking cars for an event and watching TV during the breaks. And on the TV was a show portraying Mr. Jiggs, apparently a famous monkey in Hollywood. Well just minutes later came a car to the event with the actual Mr. Jiggs and his handler. William laughed and laughed as he told the story which, of course, got all of us laughing. I am not sure he knew this, but we have been affectionately referring to William as Mr. Jiggs ever since. I can hear that laugh now. One more story. On the same case, William was slated to cross examination the other side’s in-house lawyer. When that lawyer was on direct examination, William made an objection on an issue. Well right after that objection, the witness fainted on the stand. We all knew it was because the witness knew what was about to come at him with William’s cross. A great memory. William – you are missed by all of your colleagues at Fish. Rest in peace my friend.

    Mike McKeon | October 18, 2017 at 1:29 PM
  9. Dear Ellen and Family: I had the pleasure of being a somewhat older colleague of William’s during his Potter Anderson years. We worked together on a number of matters before the idea of an intellectual property practice was even a twinkling in anyone’s eyes. We were both generalists at first as we learned how to be effective in civil litigation. It was always a pleasure to work with William because it was a given that William could be relied upon to pursue every avenue in preparing a brief or argument for our clients. We gradually began to focus on specific and different areas of the law during William’s later years at PAC, but we often worked together to expand the practice of the firm’s litigation group. William never hesitated to take positions against the status quo that he thought would make our firm more inviting to new lawyers and that would make the governance of PAC more fair. William and I also shared the bond of having graduated from UNC law school and, therefore, experienced the agony and ecstasy of Carolina basketball together. I still have the special victory soda can in Carolina Blue that William brought to me after the Tar Heels won the national championship in 1982.. When I learned that William had decided to leave the firm I was dumbfounded, because he had developed the intellectual property practice by then ex nihilo. But I came to realize that he made the right decision for him in changing firms because he wanted to work as a first chair lawyer which could only be done with an IP firm that had a national practice. I am certain that during the transition to Fish he had to work harder than ever and face anxieties that he would not have had with a top tier local practice at PAC. But it all paid off and he had a fulfilling career both professionally and financially. And it permitted him to retire early and enjoy more family time than might otherwise have been the case. Sadly, though, he was taken when still in the prime of life and for that my wife, Sandy, and I extend our heartfelt condolences to you and your children.
    With deepest sympathy,
    John James and Sandy Dennison-James

    JOHN E JAMES | October 18, 2017 at 1:04 PM
  10. Dear Ellen and family,

    We both enjoyed getting to know William at different points in our lives. Jonathan (’79) overlapped with him at Haverford and then was just finishing up at UNC Chapel Hill at Library School when William arrived for Law School. I (’86) have had the pleasure of working with him on the Corporation and the Board. He was always kind, inquisitive, respectful, supremely articulate and thoughtful. We’re stunned by his passing and are holding all of you in the Light. We hope that in this extended moment of grief and anguish you also feel surrounded by love.

    William lives in our hearts and memories,
    Sarah Willie-LeBreton and Jonathan LeBreton

    Sarah Willie-LeBreton | October 18, 2017 at 7:28 AM
  11. Ellen, words can’t express my sadness and heartbreak for you and the Jones and Marsden family. When Ed & I signed up to explore Ireland with 20+ strangers, I never expected to make forever friends….and those forever friends included you and William. We so enjoyed the time, the visits, and getting to know a little about you both during that trip, and often reminisce about the fun we all had. How lucky we are that we had the opportunity to meet William. Although there are way too many miles between us, please know our thoughts, prayers, and love are with you and your family.

    Sam & Ed Peet | October 17, 2017 at 11:53 PM
  12. I knew Bill way before he was William. He entered my life in middle school, and we were inseparable from that point on. I don’t want to overplay the fact that he is the amazing friend who shaped my life. But that’s who he was. And that’s what he did. He gave me the courage to be myself. Imagine two guys riding a bicycle built for two all over the streets of Tenafly, NJ in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. One of us in a long blue coat with a white star stitched on the back. For the record, the coat and the bike were Bill’s. Thank you Muriel and Bill senior. Imagine a basketball star who also played the trumpet hanging out with his fellow trumpet player (me) instead of the cool guys. Imagine having a friend whose beautiful and popular older sisters, Jo Ann and Gloria, actually paid attention to us. Imagine meeting Ellen Jones and her inspirational family who did so much to help Bill bloom into the spectacular man he was and became. And imagine Benjamin, Margaret, and Emma arriving on the scene and embracing life in their own special way. I have never seen Bill smile so big. Ellen, Benjamin, Meggie, and Emma, I cannot imagine how shattered your hearts are right now. I am so sorry for your loss.

    Rich Jaffé | October 17, 2017 at 7:34 PM
  13. Dear Ellen and Family,
    I’m so sorry to learn of Bill’s passing. Way back, as an intern at FCNL, he touched us all with his warmth, intelligence, concern for others and good cheer. He has clearly left his caring mark on the world — although I have no doubt that he would count you as his most meaningful and lovely legacy. Prayers and wishes for comfort and peace to you.

    Elizabeth (Nanny) Schutt | October 17, 2017 at 5:16 PM
  14. William,

    When Peter relayed the news of your death, even then my first emotion was of joy, with warmth in my chest as our experiences together flooded my mind’s eye. The thousands of hours we shared as brothers in arms were my finest hours at Fish. There is no doubt the world will miss your grand lawyering. But what I remember and will miss is your humor, the turn of your head as you laughed. I will miss the irreverence, camouflaged by class. And I will miss your unflinching courage to lead by example, doing things the honorable and right way when the stakes were high and the sledding was rough and the consequences of the right choice were going to be unpleasant. What a rocking legacy to leave for all of us.

    Now the tears have come and I’ll say goodbye for now. Thanks for your friendship.

    My heart is with your family today.

    John Gartman

    John Gartman | October 17, 2017 at 3:15 PM
  15. …..lost too soon from our world, William’s spirit lives on through the lives and land he invested his love and work into that that will sustain us ….for generations to come….❤️We give thanks for William.

    Heidi Benson | October 17, 2017 at 10:28 AM
  16. In 2007, I decided I had enough of public service, and it was time to go to private practice. I went to see Judge Joe Farnan, who I had worked for right out of law school, and asked him for advice. It was short and to the point – “go see William Marsden.” That is all he said, and following that advice was one of the best things I ever did. William was a great lawyer – those of us in that world could give you chapter and verse about that (like the time he got a Judge to throw an expert out of a case while the guy was on the stand at trial or when he had the most hilarious cross examination of an expert who was more pompous than his credentials could reasonably support). But that is not what I will remember about William. I will remember that he was one of those few people you meet who really built something – there are dozens and dozens of people in our community who had jobs and whose families had security because he took a chance and did something that took vision and courage. And for those of us in his work family, all he wanted was for us to succeed. He knew the great secret about true leadership. It was not about him. It was about his troops, in whose ranks I am proud to count myself. If he were reading this, right about now he would say “at some point, you should consider getting to the point” – so I will simply say I miss him. Ok, I’m a lawyer so I will say one more thing. Everyone should have an Ellen Marsden in their life. How lucky was he to have the genuine article.

    Doug McCann | October 17, 2017 at 9:20 AM
  17. Ellen, William’s sudden passing brings great sadness to us although we only met him once. Our thoughts and prayers are for you and your family as you grieve this unexpected event.

    Tony Payer | October 17, 2017 at 8:30 AM

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