Christopher H. Corbett

chris“Go as the way opens,” was the oft-spoken advice of Christopher Hawley Corbett, who lived fully and passed away peacefully on June 22, 2021, his 80th birthday, surrounded by loving family, a year and a half after a diagnosis of ALS.

Chris was raised in Montclair, New Jersey, the third of four children, a proud Eagle Scout, an avid sailor, and a lifetime lover of the outdoors. As a young man, he discovered music, playing trombone in a 17-piece jazz big band, guitar and vocals in a classic 1950’s rock band, and thereafter managing to join every impromptu sing-along or porch jamboree he could find—making music and encouraging merriment around campfires, at jazz bars, and in the living rooms of a wide network of friends. As he saw it, music was a wellspring of joy and togetherness, something meant to be shared.

After graduating from Yale University in 1964, Chris served as a weapons officer in the U.S. Navy, spending four years on a destroyer escort based out of Newport, Rhode Island. He married Margaret (Peggy) Anne Fulton in 1967 and together they embarked on a life marked by community, family, and a shared love of nature. They raised three children in Andover, Massachusetts, instilling in them their passion for hiking, camping, skiing, travel, and reading good books.

Chris earned an MBA from Northeastern University and became a plant manager at the Polaroid Corporation, where he spent 12 years directing manufacturing at three film factories during the heyday of the SX-70 instant camera. He then served for 16 years as Vice President of Operations at New England Business Services and went on to work as a consultant to manufacturing companies while also volunteering as an advisor to numerous non-profits through the Executive Service Corps of New England. At one point, on a business trip to Missouri, Chris fell in love with 1890s-era player piano and had it shipped back to Massachusetts, providing more opportunities for everyone to sing.

After losing Peggy unexpectedly in 1998, Chris began spending more time in Maine, where he would end up settling permanently. He dedicated himself to community service, helping youth build boats through the Maine Compass Project, becoming a founding member of the Committee of Southern Maine Conservation Coalition, serving on the board of the Environmental Funders Network, and working to protect green spaces through several land trust organizations. For 22 years, he also administered a mini-grant program for public-school science teachers in honor of Peggy, who had been a chemistry teacher, raising and distributing more than $200,000 to encourage creativity and hands-on learning in science classrooms.chrismanny

On a hiking trip to Yosemite in 2001, Chris met and was instantly smitten by Manny Morgan, herself an avid outdoorswoman who happened to live in Maine. They married in 2007 and enjoyed an exuberant life together. They traveled the world, sailed, climbed mountains, and spent summers among many friends on Chebeague Island. They were reliably the first pair to get up and dance at any party; nights at their home often ended with Chris playing guitar. On big occasions—and small ones, too—he was famous for the ceremonial firing of his homemade “potato gun,” a piece of PVC tubing he’d outfitted to cannon-launch spuds into space. 

Given a terminal diagnosis of ALS in summer of 2020, Chris did what he’d always done, setting a determined example of how to live gracefully and joyously. His last months were spent in the constant company of friends and family, infused with music, laughter, and conversation. As his body grew weak, he opted to make use of Maine’s Death with Dignity process, which afforded him the ability to die at home and without suffering. He will be remembered as hard-working, generous and gentle, even-keeled, deeply curious, open-minded and always bent on having fun.

Chris is survived by his wife, Manny Morgan, his siblings Anne Simmons, Judy Adams, and Dave Corbett, daughter Sara Corbett, sons Matthew and Stephen Corbett, stepchildren Hoyt and Kim Morgan, and all of their spouses, along with eleven treasured grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to The Telling Room, a nonprofit literary arts program for Maine students.

The Telling Room
225 Commercial Street, Suite 201
Portland, ME 04101