Our friend, neighbor, and husband of Richmond’s third elected mayor died this week. Doug led a remarkable life of service to his community, especially to young people and families. He served right up to the end on the board of the Early Childhood Mental Health Program, a non-profit based in Richmond that provides assistance to young children and their families with mental health services, typically from distressed communities and families Like most of the people on the Early Childhood Mental Health Program board, my son, Andrew, was personally recruited by Doug Corbin.
1928 - 2019 Obituary Condolences
Douglas Tenny Corbin
May 24, 1928 - February 24, 2019
Douglas Tenny Corbin was born in Rochester, New York on May 24, 1928, and died February 24, 2019 at home in Richmond with his family beside him after a brief illness.
He was the son of Eugene Corbin & Mildred Van Saun. They died in the tuberculosis epidemic of the early 1930s, so he was raised by an unmarried aunt, Alta Van Saun, who taught him to be independent. In high school he started his own business cleaning offices at night. His love of his Gilbert Chemistry Set as a child led him to major in chemistry at St. Lawrence University. He decided to apply his knowledge of chemistry as a lawyer, so he obtained his law degree at George Washington University, and became a patent attorney in Washington D.C. But, after a few years the west coast beckoned, and he joined the patent law firm of Eckoff and Slick in San Francisco in the mid-1950s.
In his spare time he became active in the Democratic party where he served as the treasurer of the County Central Committee. Patent law wasn't exciting enough for Doug, so he became a Public Defender at the height of the "flower power" era. He was particularly proud of defending "flower children" and gay people against harassment. He also volunteered to buy houses for African Americans whose bids had been rejected, thereby getting the houses for them for less than they had been willing to pay. Working on Democratic campaigns and protesting the Viet Nam war he met a librarian named Rosemary MacGowan who shared his philosophical, political, cultural & recreational interests. They were married in 1968.
Shortly thereafter he was appointed the first Juvenile Court Referee for Contra Costa County, so they moved to the Richmond neighborhood of Point Richmond in August of 1968, where they lived in the same house for more than 50 years. Their son, Jeffrey, was born in 1969, and their daughter, Diana, followed in 1971. Doug's love of the out-of-doors inspired him to co-chair the effort to establish Pt. Pinole as a regional park. He always wanted his family and friends to join him in his many passions. Like a pied piper he led excursions hiking, backpacking and skiing in the Sierras, beachcombing and snorkeling on the West Coast and the Caribbean, attending Shakespeare festivals, exploring abroad, golfing, and listening to opera. Sometimes he pushed people beyond their comfort zones, but all thanked him for it.
His laugh was infectious, and he loved telling jokes and reciting his endless collection of limericks. In 1982 Doug retired early and led his family on their biggest adventure: a year in Spain. They studied Spanish and explored Europe to the enrichment of all. Back in Richmond, Doug re-discovered golf, and joined the Richmond Country Club, where he and Rosemary became active. Led by a commitment to improve his community he supervised a Habitat for Humanity development of 4 town homes in Richmond, and he served The Early Childhood Mental Health Program for decades as a board member and chairman. As their children grew and departed, Doug & Rosemary enjoyed Elderhostel trips to Mexico to study Spanish & the culture, Europe to study history and music, and around the U.S. to explore and improve their golf games, and they continued skiing & back-packing until their knees gave out.
Doug enriched the lives of everyone around him. He was a voracious reader, mainly of non-fiction, and he shared his extensive knowledge with all around him, including his grand-children, who also loved playing games with him. Doug & Rosemary celebrated their 50th anniversary and Doug's 90th birthday last spring in Sedona, AZ. with their whole family. Doug began swimming as a child, served on his high school swimming team, and was still swimming a half mile a day at the Richmond Plunge until a month before his death.
Doug is survived by his wife Rosemary; his son Jeffrey, Jeffrey's wife Janette Schue & their daughter Elise; his daughter Diana, Diana's husband Evan Berg, their son Cameron & daughter Jenna.
A memorial celebration is uncertain, but if you want to make a memorial contribution please send it to the Early Childhood Mental Health Program, 200 – 24th St., Richmond, CA 94804.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Feb. 26 to Feb. 28, 2019