Geoff Leech and Denis Marshall were boyhood friends who grew up in Salmon Arm and kept up their friendship all their lives. Even though their lives evolved into different careers and in different locations they visited one another, including in Salmon Arm, whenever possible.
Upon his death in 2012 Geoff left a portion of his estate to the Okanagan Historical Society, Salmon Arm Branch, in Denis’ memory. The Branch established the Denis Marshall and Geoff Leech Memorial Endowment Fund in memory of both men who were passionate about preserving the history of Salmon Arm.
Denis Marshall came to Salmon Arm as a youngster in 1944 when his parents, Frank and Laura, bought the Salmon Arm Observer. After high school graduation Denis attended the Ryerson School of Journalism in Toronto, then worked in the family business full time from 1953 to 1976. He became the publisher after his father’s death in 1964. During this time he reported and documented local events, developed a passion for local history, and married the love of his life Joan.
Denis put his love for local history to work with the Salmon Arm Branch of the Okanagan Historical Society as its long-time treasurer, promoting such projects as the original street signs, historical plaques, and historically accurate doors for the Salmon Arm Art Gallery. He edited the Okanagan Historical Society Report for five years and wrote five books of community history, four specific to Salmon Arm: Fleeting Images, Photographic Memories, A Short History of Salmon Arm, and Historic Routes. The fifth, Sawdust Caesars, was about th interior forest industry. His peers praised him for the quality of his writing as well as his hard work and detailed research. Denis donated the profits from these books to the S.A. Branch of the O.H.S. which contributed the proceeds to the RJ Haney Heritage Village & Museum for much needed equipment.
An excerpt from A Short History of Salmon Arm is on the museum’s website: http://www.salmonarmmuseum.org/ashorthistorybydenismarshall.htm
As a volunteer at the RJ Haney Heritage Village & Museum Denis created a computer index of the Observer from 1907 until 1948. He made this his life’s work, wanting to finish to 1950, but passed away too soon, in 2011, to complete it. Volunteers have continued this work in the room now named the Denis Marshall Archives Room.
Geoffrey B. Leech was born in Montreal in 1918 and was raised in Salmon Arm. Geoff’s family lived on a large property on what was once called “Leech Hill”. It is said the property extended from the corner where Lakeshore turns into 20th Ave. NE all the way up to 30th Street NE.
Geoff earned a BSc in geology from UBC, followed by an MSc from Queen’s in 1944. He spent the next two years with INCO at Copper Cliff and in exploration in Venezuela and southwest Yukon. During this time he married his life partner, Jean Winters. He joined the Geological Survey of Canada in Ottawa after obtaining a PhD in 1949. Geoff spent 33 years in a productive career as a field geologist/research scientist, becoming a recognized expert in the geology of South Eastern BC. He was highly respected by his fellow academics and in 1960 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
Geoff loved the mountains and the “bush,” and died peacefully while walking in the woods west of Ottawa in April 2012 at age 93. In his honour, his extensive collection of geological publications was donated to Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. He is remembered in the Mount Ida Cemetery overlooking Salmon Arm with a plaque showing a prospector’s pick and the epitaph “with my boots on.”
The proceeds of the Denis Marshall and Geoff Leech Memorial Fund support the work of the Salmon Arm Chapter of the Okanagan Historical Society. The Fund welcomes donations to support the Chapter in its work to preserve local history.