Marshall Keene Corbett died of natural causes Jan. 4 in Kalispell, MT, three days shy of his 90th birthday. He was a vigorous man for most of his life, with an irrepressible sense of humor and a penchant for storytelling.
Marshall was born Jan. 7, 1930, in Colebrook, NH, to Gerald Albert and Doris (Keene) Corbett. His New England heritage, which traced back to the mid-1600s, was evident throughout his life in every word he spoke.
Marshall grew up in Colebrook on the family farm about 10 miles south of the Canadian border. Country life in the far north was tough: he had to walk uphill both ways to school every day, pulling himself along by the foliage along the icy road – or so he often liked to say.
He and his two brothers, Albert and Roy, took advantage of the freedom that farm life afforded and found creative ways to make mischief, like using cookie sheets to sled off the high barn roof. A sister, Gerri, came along when he was in his teens.
Marshall graduated from Colebrook Academy and attended the University of New Hampshire in Durham, earning a bachelor’s degree in forestry. While there, he met Jean Anne Parmenter at a fraternity party. They married in 1950 but divorced 50 years later, after raising two daughters, Gayle and Lauren.
Marshall served in the Air Force during the Korean War. He left service as a first lieutenant specializing in aerial-photo interpretation. Then he continued his education at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, earning a master’s degree in geology.
Soon, the family moved to Melbourne, Australia, for a year-long opportunity to work in the oil industry. They returned to the U.S. to live in Denver. This marked the beginning of Marshall’s transformation into a die-hard Westerner (and Broncos fan). He earned a PhD in geology at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
Marshall was proud of the 17 years he spent as a professor of geology at Idaho State University in Pocatello. His favorite part of the job was taking graduate students on field trips to the Jackson Hole area. He always made a point of proving that he could beat his students to the top of any hill.
When he tired of watching his students get jobs after graduation that paid much better than his, he left teaching and returned to the oil industry. When he was laid off in his 50s during an oil bust, he retrained as a hydrogeologist and took a job with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation in Helena, where daughter Gayle and her family lived.
Although Marshall’s career was spent in the pursuit of science, he had a creative side. He designed and at least partially built three family homes: in Pocatello ID, Kalispell MT, and above the Missouri River between Helena and Great Falls MT. He often enhanced birthday and other holiday cards with playful poems he wrote for the occasion.
In 2002, Marshall married Margie Puckett. They lived briefly in Libby, MT, before building a home together on 10 acres in Kalispell. Marshall was never more content than when sitting on a John Deere tractor, mowing hay or plowing snow. He also was an avid, lifelong hunter, with mounts of deer, elk, pronghorns, and a black bear hanging in his home to prove it.
Marshall was preceded in death by his parents and two brothers. Survivors include his wife Margie, Kalispell, MT; daughter Gayle Shirley and her husband Steve, Helena MT; daughter Lauren (now Corbett Sionainn) and wife Arlene Wheeler, Jeffersonville, VT; grandsons Colin and Jesse Shirley and Jesse’s wife Emily, Helena; and sister Gerri Kruger and her husband Dave, Sun City Center, FL.
Other survivors include stepchildren Michael Puckett (Tina), Sandpoint ID; Brenda Herbst, Kalispell MT; Karee Sweedman (Frank), Libby MT; Becky Cassel (Keith), Kalispell; and 15 step-grandchildren. Finally, he is survived by his cat, Saco, last in a long line of beloved felines.
Marshall chose to be cremated and have half his remains buried in Montana and half in Colebrook, NH. Johnson-Gloschat Funeral Home in Kalispell is in charge of arrangements. The family will hold private services.
The family would like to thank staff of Kalispell Regional Medical Center for their compassionate care and the West Valley Volunteer Fire Department in Kalispell for their frequent, kind, and respectful emergency responses. The family suggests memorials to West Valley Fire Department, PO Box 5037, Kalispell MT, 59903.