A lifelong learner, teacher, and arts creator and supporter, Christine Elizabeth Marshall died Sunday, June 28, 2020, at her home, after two years of treatment for ovarian cancer.
To know her was to love her. Chris had the loudest laugh in any room, a loud bark that turned into a kind of gasping wheeze if the joke was really good, though she was generous enough to laugh at the feeble jokes, too.
She was born April 12, 1947, at Boone Hospital to Charles Edmund Marshall and Mabel Frances Seddon Marshall, who came to Columbia from England in 1936 on a one-year invitation for Edmund to teach soil science at MU; they liked it so much that they stayed for the rest of their lives.
As a child, Chris regularly traveled with her family to England via ocean liner on summer breaks from school to see relatives and spent a year in a British school. This is likely where she perfected her withering glances and sense of irony.
In 1965, Chris graduated from University High School, the laboratory K-12 school for MU’s College of Education, and in 1969, she graduated from Mills College in Oakland, California, as a theater and English major. She went straight from Oakland to Northwestern University in Chicago to get a master’s degree in English. Then she pursued an opportunity as an editor at the University of Virginia Press in Charlottesville, where she worked for three years. She was, in fact, the family editor for the annual Christmas letter and other missives.
After her mother, Mabel, died in 1973, Chris returned to Columbia to pursue a doctorate in theater and was the costume designer in the MU Department of Theatre, designing and acting in shows on the main stage and in the Summer Repertory and teaching Voice and Articulation classes.
One autumn day in 1974, a young photojournalism student wandered into the Theatre Department looking for a photo subject. Chris, busy and distracted, nonetheless allowed him to take some photos of her at work, and when he returned to the costume shop the next day with the developed photos, he asked her out to coffee. Chris married David Rees four years later, and they celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary in May.
Daughter Annie Linden Rees was born in 1988 and son Alan Evan Rees in 1996. Although Chris had long since given up a career in costume design by then, Halloween was too good an opportunity to pass up, which meant that Annie and Alan had some of the most intricate Halloween costumes on the block — for example, the year that Chris dressed Annie as medieval Eleanor of Aquitaine from “The Lion in Winter.”
In 1979, Chris started teaching at Stephens College in the Mass Communication Department and for 20 years taught courses in media studies, women’s studies and speech.
In 2001, Chris became an academic adviser for the evening and distance-learning program at MU, helping nontraditional students finish their degrees with online courses, a job she loved. She decoded the decades-old credit systems to help students maximize their previous MU credits, and her notes were frequently strewn about the dining table as she continued problem-solving at home.
Chris was recognized by her colleagues and advisees as an enthusiastic champion of students as she blended students’ past courses, experiences and career goals into a grad plan that would be meaningful and enable them to finish their interrupted degrees. She retired from MU in 2017.
In addition to her full-time job, Chris packed her weeks with side projects that utilized her passion for teaching and designing. She was a lifelong congregant of Calvary Episcopal Church and taught a Montessori-style Sunday School for K-2 children for 20 years. This often necessitated a late-evening Saturday run to Michael’s to finish that week’s craft project for her young students. She also served on the vestry and clergy search committees and yearly mounted the Children’s Shoppe at the church’s annual St. Nicholas Advent Bazaar.
Chris loved to entertain friends and family, to travel and to attend theater and music and dance performances. Her cultural appreciation was thoughtful and heartfelt, as was her quick wit and keen vocabulary. She was an avid learner who devoured books and was a member of The Readers since the 1970s.
Chris accepted her initial Stage 4 cancer diagnosis in 2018 with a stiff-upper-lip determination befitting her English blood. It’s due to her spirit and grit as well as a wonderful medical team that she and her friends and family got two more years, which she packed with family time and trips to see loved ones.
Her husband, David Rees, survives, as do their children, Annie Linden Rees of Washington, D.C., and Alan Evan Rees of Rocheport, Missouri, and his partner, Gordon Damron; cousin Alan Griffith and family; stepbrother Dan Mathews; stepsisters Carolyn and Eleanor Mathews; and nephews and a niece.
A memorial service will be held at Calvary Episcopal Church, date to be determined, with burial of the ashes in the church’s Memorial Garden. Memorial contributions may be made to the Charles Edmund Marshall Scholarship Fund, University of Missouri, Attn. Gift Processing, 407 Reynolds Alumni Center, Columbia, MO 65211 (please make checks payable to the University of Missouri) or to Calvary Episcopal Church, 123 S. Ninth St., Columbia, MO 65201.