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Bella Irene Marshall Barden

Beloved city official Bella Irene Marshall died in her home May 1. She was 62.

Bella, born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada on March 11, 1950, moved to Detroit’s east side when she was 8 years old. She attended Nativity of Our Lord Catholic School, where she was active in youth activities, athletics and civic projects.

After graduating high school with honors, she attended Wayne State University in 1972. She then earned a law degree in 1975 from the University of Michigan.

As a young attorney, Bella was hired as staff counsel by the Detroit office of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, eventually becoming its first female director and the agency’s youngest-ever director.

She went on to serve as finance director for the city of Detroit under Mayor Coleman A. Young. At the age of 32, she was the first female to hold the position. During her tenure, she helped reform the city’s property tax department and directed the development of the Greater Detroit Resource Recovery Authority.

Bella then met casino developer Donald H. Barden, who she later married. The couple raised one daughter, Alana.

After working together with her husband as president at Barden International, an automotive manufacturing, sales and service operation in Namibia, South Africa, Marshall returned to public service, working as chief financial officer and later chief operating officer for Wayne County.

Throughout her career, Marshall received numerous awards, including the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund – Award of Excellence.

Bella was preceded in death by her father, William Edward; mother, Lillian; sister, Barbara McGresham; and husband, Don. She is survived by her daughter, Alana; stepson, Don, Jr.; brother, William (Joyce); and a host of nieces, nephews and friends.

Funeral services for Bella were held May 7 at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit.

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