You’ve seen his buildings, but they were only one part of his life

Outside Lakewood’s Bowlero Lanes, designed by architect Marshall Perrow, in 1968.
Outside Lakewood’s Bowlero Lanes, designed by architect Marshall Perrow, in 1968. Tacoma Public Library, image 32021

What could you do with 101 years? Have two careers? Maybe even three?

Marshall Perrow, who died June 5, made his 101-year life about more than his day job as an architect. The man who helped design many Tacoma buildings also found success as an artist and ski instructor — he was a darn good sailor, too.

Among his notable projects were Farley’s Flower Shop (1948); Johnny’s Dock Restaurant (1954); and the Eric Hayes Nursery (1958) in Purdy.

One of his most famous buildings, Bowlero Lanes in Lakewood, is still in use.

Back in the day, the owners didn’t want a building that looked like the usual bowling alley, so Perrow gave them an icon with a folded plate roof and a towering sign passersby couldn’t miss.

Inside, the V-shaped ceiling made the space “an acoustical and lighting paradise for bowlers,” according to Pacific Architect & Builder magazine’s July 1961 issue.

“He lived an amazingly long and productive life,” said Eugenia Woo, director of Preservation Services Historic Seattle, adding, “I LOVE Bowlero Lanes!”

The bowling alley was more than 40 years after Perrow’s career as an architect began at age 15.

Stadium High School allowed him to attend half days so he could work as an apprentice for an architectural firm. By the time he graduated he was a full draftsman.

He managed to build his own 14-foot-long sailboat during that time, too.

Outside Lakewood’s Bowlero Lanes, designed by architect Marshall Perrow, in 1968. Tacoma Public Library, image 32021

Perrow, known for trolling the waters with his float plane in tow, traded in his final sailboat for a motor boat when he was 83. He agreed to furl his sail for good after the day he fell into Commencement Bay and had to swim to his boat as it ran aground.

He also hung onto his hobby as a skier until late in life.

Before serving in the Navy Reserves and Coast Guard during World War II, Perrow was a skier and taught the sport on Mount Rainier. He went on to engineer the West Coast’s first ski tow at the mountain’s Alta Vista ski area in 1937.

In 2008, he was inducted into the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Hall of Fame for skiing, shortly after hanging up his skis earlier that year — he was 92.

After the war, he became a licensed architect despite lacking formal training and opened his own firm in Tacoma in 1948.

A retired admiral turned school trustee gave him and other veterans in architecture their starts with a few design projects for local schools.

Geiger Elementary School in 1949, now Geiger Montessori School, was among Perrow’s first buildings out of his new firm.

Some of his designs helped shaped the interior of the Westfield Southcenter and Tacoma malls.

Several years ago, when he went to submit designs for additions to his daughter’s house, the local permit office tried to tell him the license he got in 1960 was expired.

They were wrong, and he kept his architecture license until he was 95.

Along the way, Perrow found time to become a respected watercolor painter.

After years of submitting nautical-themed art to the Coast Guard and different publications, he taught vacationers aboard cruise ships as he traveled the world with his wife, Marjorie.

She passed away in 1997 at 79. Perrow is survived by his daughter, Michelle; son-in-law Clark Burkheimer; two grandsons; and four great-grandchildren.

Perrow bought his daughter her first dinghy when she was 11 and was known to take her, and then her sons, out of school for months at a time for excursions around the world.

Perrow made his last major trip two years ago to Norway, and had been healthy and active up until six months ago, Burkheimer said.

“He just had adventure in his soul,” his daughter Michelle Burkheimer told The News Tribune.

Celebration of life

A celebration of life will be at 2:30 p.m. June 25 at the Tacoma Yacht Club.