Conly was born Nov. 16, 1926, in Burns. He was the second child of Culver and Violet Marshall. The Marshalls lived about three-quarters of a mile from the mouth of the Blitzen River, north of the town of Voltage. He started grade school at Voltage, but that school was closed in 1935, so Conly went to school at Sodhouse. In 1937, the Marshall property, and many neighbors’ property, was condemned and converted into the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Conly then completed his last two years of grade school in Ontario, and then attended high school in Grants Pass.
In high school, Conly was really into sports. He played football, basketball, tennis and track. In the summers, he got back to the high desert, working for Al Wallace of the Trout Creek Ranch in years 1939-41. The summers of 1942 and 1943, he was at the Disaster Peak Ranch, at the head of Little Whitehorse Creek, working for Arch Meyers and Culver Marshall. Conly said, “My brother and I earned enough money to buy a Model A, 1928, Ford pickup for $75. We were too young to have a driver license, but during the war they let us drive with a permit.” Culver Jr. and Conly would drive to Grants Pass to school and back to Harney County to work in the summers. “The main problem with this trip was gas and tires. We saved gas coupons to buy enough to get back to Grants Pass each fall,” Conly said.
Culver Jr. and Conly went through high school in the same grade, and after graduation in 1944, Jr. went into the armed services and Conly stayed home because of his age. In the spring of 1945, Jr. was killed at Luzon in the South Pacific Theatre, leaving Conly the only surviving son.
Conly married Barbara Joanne Smith of Grants Pass on Feb. 15, 1946. The next fall, Conly and Joanne moved to La Grande, where they went into a partnership with his father in the grocery business, spending most of his time behind the meat counter as a butcher. He invested in real estate, buying 320 acres of timberland with two cabins. In 1948, they sold the business and timberland, and moved to Grants Pass, where they bought a new home and Conly went to work for the power company.
In 1953, they moved to Beulah, to get back to what he really loved, ranching. He leased a ranch and started building a cow herd, along with a family. Three years later in 1956, they moved to Drewsey, where they lived for the rest of their lives. From Conly and Joanne’s lifelong marriage came six children: Craig, Gary, Conly Lee, Kevin, Coleen and Carla.
Conly’s loves were dancing, hunting, roping, sports, dogs, horses and kids. Combine any two or three of these and he was in heaven. For instance, hunting and kids, roping and kids, sports and kids, horses and kids, anything and kids. It was his love for kids that made him the Grand Marshal of the 75th Harney County Fair, Rodeo and Race Meet in 1999.
Conly said, “Bill Robertson gave me a buckskin colt in 1962 that was the daddy of all my horses. He was such a nice cow horse, had a good disposition, and I decided that any person who wanted a good horse, especially a young person, should have one of his colts.” For many years, the outstanding 4-H horseman of the Harney County Fair would win a colt donated by Conly or Don Opie. Many other young people were given the opportunity to train one the colts raised on the Marshall ranch.
Some of Conly’s contributions to the Harney County community were teaching hunter safety courses, teaching 4-H for 24 years, basketball coach at Drewsey for 10 years, assisted many girls trying out for Fair Court, helped many young people learn to train horses and how to rope, and served on the school board for 10 years. He also supplied cattle for team roping and cow cutting events, and spent many of his later years collecting history, on video, from any “old timer” that he could.
Conly was part of the community and the community was part of him. He said, “My wife, my family, and my friends during my lifetime are unbelievable. The help we received in good times and in bad, makes you wonder what we have to gripe about. I’ve had the best!”
Conly is survived by sons, Gary (Georgia) Marshall, Kevin (Cheryl) Marshall; daughters, Coleen (Speed) Perkins, Carla (Greg) Johnston and Maureen Marshall; 13 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Conly was preceded in death by his wife, Joanne; sons, Conly Lee and Craig; brother, Culver Marshall Jr.; and his parents.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, at the Drewsey Community Hall.
Donations in Conly Marshall’s name may be made to any 4-H or youth group of your choice.