SAN JUAN ISLAND, Wash. — On May 21, 2020, Marshall Phillip Sanborn, age 91, died peacefully at his home on San Juan Island, Wash., with his wife, Beth Helstien, at his side. Despite declining health due to COPD, heart disease and cancer, Marshall was active and vibrant until shortly before he died.
Born in 1928 in Longmont, Colo., to Kent and Edna Sanborn, Marshall grew up during the Great Depression and World War II. In 1945 after graduating from Longmont High School, Marshall enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a medic in Germany during 1945-47. He returned home to attend Colorado State College of Education in Greely from which he graduated in 1950 with a degree in English Education. In 1951 he married Helen Houg of St. Ansgar, Iowa, and moved to Gering, Neb., where he taught high school English. The following year he worked on a turkey farm.
Marshall and Helen moved to Steamboat Springs, Colo., in 1953 where he taught high school English, was the guidance counselor, drove a school bus, directed the school plays, and worked summers guiding horseback camping trips into the high country around Steamboat. He designed and helped build the Lutheran church there. During this time, Marshall also earned a Master’s Degree in Guidance and Counseling from Northern Iowa State Teacher’s College in 1960. In 1960 Marshall, Helen, and sons Steve, Mark, and Stu moved to Iowa City, Iowa, where he studied for Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. While a full-time graduate student, Marshall worked as a gas station mechanic and at a picture frame plant to support his family.
Upon earning his Ph.D. in 1963, Marshall and family moved to Madison, Wis., where he was professor of Guidance and Counseling at the University of Wisconsin. At UW from 1963-1979, he served as co-director of the Laboratory for Superior Students, published many scholarly articles and book chapters, advised M.S. and Ph.D. graduate students, and served as Chairman of the Department of Guidance and Counseling.
Marshall left his academic career and UW in 1979 and moved to San Juan Island, Wash., with his second wife, Sara (Sally) Eaton. On San Juan Island, Marshall worked at a fish processing plant and on a sheep farm while using his carpentry skills to build a home for he, Sara and their daughter, Bonnie, born in 1982. In 1995 Marshall married again, this time to Beth Helstien of Friday Harbor, Wash.
Over his forty-plus years on San Juan Island, Marshall was involved with the community; he worked for San Juan County in land use permitting. He may be the only human to have ever walked the perimeter of San Juan Island; he completed the first shoreline inventory tackling wet, chest-high salal and Himalayan blackberry, and he discovered numerous Native American prehistoric burial sites. He authored several papers in archaeology and participated in field work and repatriation of artifacts from sites around the San Juan Islands.
He helped establish the San Juan Island Park and Recreation District and served 12 years on the San Juan Island School District Board. He worked to renovate the middle school and purchase the land that is now the Linde playing fields. He built sets for community theater, co-founded the Courthouse employees union, cleaned the bathrooms at Spring Street International School, and advocated for the public good. By crafting a clear explanation of it, he helped establish the San Juan County Land Bank.
Throughout his working life and following his retirement in 1993, Marshall made time for many hobbies, riding and restoring BMW motorcycles, fly fishing, family history, carpentry, reading, and visiting with his many friends at American Legion Post 163 in Friday Harbor.
He was preceded in death by siblings, Betty Snow, Mary Barber, Kent Sanborn and Paul Sanborn, and his second wife, Sara Eaton. He is survived by his first wife, Helen Sanborn; third wife, Beth Helstien; children, Steve, Mark, Stuart and Bonnie; grandchildren, Marshall, Kaitlyn, Amanda, Austin, Kyle, Samantha and Nick; and great-granddaughter, Aurora.
A memorial service is scheduled for Aug. 29, 2020, in Friday Harbor, Wash. Donations may be made in Marshall’s memory to: Joyce L. Sobel Family Resource Center, P.O. Box 1981, Friday Harbor, WA 98250, or Bobby Boyce Scholarship, c/o American Legion Post 163, Friday Harbor, WA 98250.
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