Community loses historian

On Saturday, Oct. 8, Salmon Arm’s Denis Marshall passed away at 78.

Chronicling history: Former newspaper owner Denis Marshall with his mother Laura at the Observer.

A man who was instrumental in recording the history of this community has died.

On Saturday, Oct. 8, Salmon Arm’s Denis Marshall passed away at 78.

Marshall’s chronicling of the community began with the Salmon Arm Observer. His parents, Frank and Laura Marshall, bought the newspaper in 1944. Denis began working at the paper full-time in 1953 and, in 1964 when his father died, he became publisher, a role he filled until 1976 when he sold the paper.

Former Observer production staffer Gene Leduc remembers Marshall as a good man to work with, and “an immaculate writer” for the Observer.

“And his books that he put out, they really impressed me too,” Leduc said.

Former Observer owner/publisher Ian Wickett said Marshall put out a good newspaper that 90 per cent of people in town read. He also praised Marshall’s recording of the community’s past.

“The history work he’s been doing is really significant.”

That work included editing for five years the Report of the Okanagan Historical Society, as well as writing four books of community history, three of them specific to Salmon Arm: Fleeting Images, Photographic Memories and Historic Routes. The fourth, Sawdust Caesars, is an account of the forest industry in the Interior.

“The detail and research he’d have to do for that…,” commented Leduc, noting how industrious Marshall was.  That quality was with him to the end.

Deborah Chapman, curator of the Salmon Arm Museum and Archives, notes that for the past two years, Marshall had been indexing the Observer, beginning in 1907.

“He wanted to make it to 1950 and he made it to 1948,” she says, noting Marshall termed it his life’s work. “He was driven and I’m really grateful. It’s the only resource that’s continuous in the community.”

Marshall also contributed to the museum through proceeds from his books, via the historical society. The proceeds made up the lion’s share of the approximate $20,000 cost of a microfiche film reader/printer and shelving for storage at the museum.

Former Observer employee Bernie Hucul describes Marshall as a “really great guy,” an intelligent man with an unabashed manner.

Hucul was working for a trucking company when he got to know Marshall through the Observer. It was Marshall who facilitated Hucul’s start in the printing business and encouraged him along the way.

“He had a great influence on my life.”

Marshall leaves three daughters, three grandchildren and his wife of 40 years, Joan.

Joan describes Denis as a “darn good father” and a good, kind man who was dependable, straightforward and honest. She says he was also a great outdoorsperson. She laughs as she describes their early days together.

“His idea of courtship was hauling me up a mountain.”

A gathering to remember Denis Marshall and his many contributions will be held on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 3 p.m. at the Fifth Avenue Seniors Centre.


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