Chester Marion

Chester Marion is seen in this provided photo.

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Chester Marion seemed to be a man of routines.

There were places he visited often if not daily: Dan Bailey's Fly Shop, the Livingston Public Library, and his friend Dean Hendrickson's insurance office, where he'd pull up a chair in the waiting room, read the paper, and make casual conversation - often about local basketball and baseball teams.

The stops hint at Marion's three great passions - fly fishing, literature, and sports. A renowned fishing guide, voracious reader and local sports enthusiast, he left his mark on the Livingston community, becoming a beloved small-town character that will long be remembered.

Marion, 73, and his close friend, Sheldon Goldberg, died July 28, on the Boulder River while fishing with Goldberg's wife. The rubber raft they were in struck a cottonwood tree that'd fallen across the waterway, and with the classic fishermen's attire of chest waders and no lifejackets, the two men were swept downriver. The woman survived.

Marion's death has left the Livingston community in shock, and to those who knew the legendary fishing guide, it was a tragedy with no sense to it. But his friends have also been repeating a simple line that seems to serve as an explanation: The river made him and the river took him.

Even when Marion was a young man working at Dan Bailey's Fly Shop, he was known as a fly fishing "hotshot," a young guy changing the sport's rules. Eventually, he'd grow to become an icon of Livingston fishing.

John Bailey, owner of Dan Bailey's Fly Shop, recently described Marion's fishing. Marion spent more time on the river than anybody else he knew, Bailey said, and some years fished nearly everyday and every season with the exception of winter. He was in tune with the water and could easily read it to see where fish were swimming, as if it were second nature.

"I don't know that he thought about it, he just knew," Bailey said. "Fishing with Chester, you always learned."

Rod Beland, who works part-time at Dan Bailey's, smiled at remembering Marion's boat, which was labeled "The Curmudgeon." He said Marion was a man who "wouldn't suffer fools," but was willing to help anybody.

"He was a small-town character that everybody loves," Beland said.

Mounted on the fly shop wall are two brown trout Marion caught on the Yellowstone River, each weighing more than 11 pounds.

But the Livingston man was about more than fishing. He loved to read, could recite Shakespeare, and for a time was an English teacher at Park High School. His students said he brought literature to life and made it enjoyable.

But even after leaving teaching, Marion kept up reading with almost daily visits to the Livingston Library. Librarian Lisa Sukut said those at the library came to know him, and recalled one day when Marian got a new puppy and brought it in to show everyone.

That was another love of his - animals. When Marion died, he had four dogs and seven cats, which are now up for adoption at the Stafford Animal Shelter.

Marion was also an avid local sports fan, and would attend basketball and baseball games for kids of any age. He was an announcer at local games and volunteered to help however he could.

On Mondays, he liked to visit Dean Hendrickson at his office and tell him about the newest, best player he'd gotten to watch over the weekend.

At his office recently, Hendrickson pointed out a caricature he'd drawn and framed of Marion. He was holding a fishing rod, wearing a baseball cap that said "Just Fish" and dangling a cigar out of his mouth.

A softball and basketball lay at his feet, and his shirt read: "2 fish or not 2 fish? What a stupid question!"

And Hendrickson had written in what Marion might be saying: "Man, the fishing is great here, and every kid that plays basketball can dunk and never misses a shot."

And that seemed to be the Livingston Marion knew - one that couldn't be better.

A remembrance and celebration of Marion's life is planned for Friday, Aug. 26, in the evening at Sacajawea Park.

Carly Flandro may be reached at 582-2638 or cflandro@dailychronicle.com.

 

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