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Paul Corbin still sharp at 98Posted Wednesday, October 3, 2012, at 7:13 AM
Paul Corbin sits at his computer in his new living quarters at Advanced Assisted Living Center. The facility has been open since Labor Day, 2012. Corbin is one of the first dozen residents to move into the new building.
Corbin attended the one-room Stepp School, and, in an age when few completed more than the eighth grade, he walked the five miles to Zalma High School to graduate with a high school diploma in 1933. Of the 11 students in his graduating class, he is the only one still living, a testament to strong genes and an active life.
In the little town of Advance, Corbin is considered a community treasure, having spent his life exploring the United States, digging up its historical treasures and sharing them with the world. In 2001, at the age of 87, he donated $25,000 worth of artifacts to the Cape Girardeau Nature Center. The Bollinger County Museum of Natural History also displays a Corbin exhibit.
At the age of 85, he entered the modern age by teaching himself how to use one of those "new-fangled" computers, and, since 2001, he has used it to write for the North Stoddard Countian newspaper, TBY (The Best Years), the Ozark Mountaineer, and several other publications.
In 1945, Corbin and his wife Geneva opened one of the first variety stores in southeast Missouri. Corbin's Variety later became one of the first Ben Franklin franchises in this area. Corbin remembers the first ball point pens, which sold for ten dollars.
More than a businessman, Corbin served the community on the school board that built the elementary school in 1957, and he was one of the volunteers instrumental in the building of a shoe factory, which employed 600 people at its peak.
Corbin is the author of two books, loaded with local history--"Reflections in Missouri Mud" and "Fragments of My Fickle Mind." The books are a testament to the man's amazing memory for detail. He remembers when his father bought a Model T, then left it sitting under a sycamore tree and never drove it again, because gas went up from 11 cents a gallon to 15 cents. His father traded five head of cattle for the Model T. Corbin remembers his first ride in the car with his dad, who yelled, "Whoa!" when he wanted the vehicle to stop.
Corbin remembers, when, at age four, he watched the returning troops from World War I march down the cobblestone streets of Cape Girardeau, Mo. in 1918.
On the third week of September, 2012, Paul Corbin embarked on yet another journey into the unknown: After two falls at his home, he moved into Advance's new assisted living center, which opened only a few short weeks prior to his arrival. Though he chooses to use a walker to keep himself steady, he maneuvers the trip between his room and the central dining room quite well. He has plans to use the centrally-located therapy room soon, and he is looking forward to an October 6 field trip to Wappapello Lake to take part in a Corps of Engineers event.
"I probably won't fish," admits the once-avid fisherman.
Paul Corbin has led an active life since his days on the banks of Cato Slough. The remarkable thing is that he remembers it all so vividly and has the words to express it so eloquently. Thus, we can all share in his remarkable adventures. He is truly the Poet Laureate of Southeast Missouri.
When he was 92, he wrote, "I have always believed that life should not be a spectator sport. We should reach out each day for new and interesting experiences and turn things we would like to see and do into things that we have seen and done."
To read Paul Corbin's blog, "Bunyan Tales," click on the North Stoddard Countian website (lower right).
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Madeline DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 573-722-5322.