Marshall A. Kent, born in Rome in 1927, passed away in January 2021 in Napa, CA.
Looking back over the remarkable life of our beloved Marshall Aaron Kent, a modern-day Renaissance man, we appreciate and celebrate his breadth of interests and talents in the arts and sciences, his fascination with exploring the world, and his commitment to family and community.
Born in Rome, New York, to parents, Gordon and Sarah Stocking Kent, Marshall was the youngest of three children (Joel Conger Kent and Lodoska Kent Clausen).
Marshall attended local public schools: Fort Stanwix Grade School and Rome Free Academy, and later, Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
In 1933, Gordon purchased, with the Clausen family, Goat Island, in Massachusetts, where many magical summers were spent.
After one year at college, Marshall, a conscientious objector, spent two years at the end of WWII with the Merchant Marine as a “sea-going cowboy,” ferrying horses from the US to Poland to assist farmers there. Thus began his lifelong interest in travel. At Antioch College, he earned a BS in Civil Engineering and a minor in Art in 1949, the same year he married Gail Feinauer ’51.
After college, Marshall started his career in construction with various jobs in Springfield, Ohio, earning entry to the Carpenter’s Union and the American Association of Home Builders. In the spring of 1952, Marshall set off with Gail and their firstborn to tour the US in a panel truck, looking for a place to settle. Starting in Maine, they traveled for two years along the entire coast of the US, to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.
After deciding to settle in the SF Bay area, first in San Rafael, Marshall and Gail eventually moved to Napa, where they raised their four children.
The first building Marshall designed and built was his home in Napa, located on thirteen acres on the outskirts of town.
With his own home to prove his talents, Marshall founded, in 1957, his architecture and construction business, Marshall Kent and Associates. He went on to complete many residential and commercial buildings around Napa and Vallejo before retiring at the age of forty-four.
Notable award-winning examples of his work include: Kaiser Steel Administrative Offices (Napa 1964), incorporating Kaiser Steel pipes, beams, and columns in the building’s design and structure; Beard Road Medical Building (Napa 1965), awarded Grand Award for outstanding contribution to Napa’s Aesthetic Improvement; Rosedale Building (Vallejo 1964), received Annual Beautification Commission Award for outstanding achievement in beautifying Vallejo; Richard Howell Bldg. (Napa 1966), recognized for Outstanding Contribution to Napa’s Aesthetic Improvement; Griffith home (Napa Valley 1965), recognized for Unique Design on Unique Site by the American Institute of Building Design (December 1965).
Marshall contributed to community service work with membership in the local Kiwanis and Rotary clubs. He also served on the Advisory Council of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District during the 1970s, helping to establish the first clean-air standards for the San Francisco area by combining his understanding of business with his passion for the environment.
Marshall’s love of the environment, together with his business acumen, also led him in 1968 to become a founding member of Perry Gulch Ranch, a cooperative of nine families sharing stewardship of a 1,200-acre redwood forest in Mendocino County. Despite attractive offers from timber companies at the time, many centuries-old redwood trees remain thanks to his leadership. In 2000, Marshall again exercised his architectural skills in the design of a family cabin tucked under the redwoods at the Ranch.
A keen traveler all his life, Marshall visited countries on every continent. From traveling with family to Europe and Central America, to hiking in the Himalayas and Machu Picchu, and going on safari in East Africa, Marshall pursued an ongoing fascination with the world and its people. One of his notable adventures was traveling the Silk Route in China and ending up on Tiananmen Square during the June Fourth protests in 1989. During his travels, Marshall captured it all with his continued love of photography, using his eye for composition, structure, and color.
Throughout his life, Marshall pursued art in various forms, including architecture, photography, sculpture and painting, receiving a number of awards in all four disciplines. Post retirement, he further developed his skill in monotypes and watercolor painting. In his oil painting, Marshall often used a unique scraping technique, done with a flexible plastic putty knife, producing both abstract compositions and scenic landscapes.
Marshall always enjoyed innovative, outside-the-box thinking in his creative work. His artwork has been exhibited in various galleries in the Napa Valley.
In addition to his artwork, Marshall wrote and self-published two books devoted to Gail, who passed away in 1996: In Death We Do Not Part and An Afterlife View of Our World: As Told by Gail Kent After Her Passing, in which he explored his interest in spirituality and the afterlife.
In 2013, in a grove of redwood trees next to the family cabin he designed, Marshall married Constance Jarvis (Connie) Wolfe. They enjoyed many endeavors together, including travel and supporting local arts groups such as the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University and the Santa Rosa Symphony. Marshall felt fortunate to play an important role in the lives of Connie’s children and grandchildren.
One example of Marshall and Connie’s dynamic partnership was the donation of Marshall’s vast collection of jazz recordings to academia. As a teenager, Marshall fell in love with jazz. Soon after moving to California, he started recording performances of leading Bay Area jazz musicians. Facilitated by Connie, the Department of Music at Sonoma State University was delighted to receive, catalogue, and digitalize the 350 now historic recordings.
Marshall was proud that he was able to live until the very end in the home he had built as a young man some sixty years before. He is survived by his wife, Connie, four children, and four grandchildren, who continue, to his delight, to pursue many of the interests he fostered over his long, rich and successful life. His was a life well lived, filled with love and adventure and family and community. We all consider ourselves fortunate to have known him, traveled with him, and to have sat at his table for many spirited debates. We love and miss you, Marshall.
Per Marshall’s request, there will be no formal memorial. Donations may be made to a charity in his name. His favorite charities include: Save the Redwoods League; Sonoma State University Jazz Department; Santa Rosa Symphony; Green Music Center.