James Barry Corbet

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  • "What a loss for the whole family. Barry's strength of..."
    - John & Lynne Newton
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CORBET _ James Barry, August 1936, to December 18, 2004. To say that he will be greatly missed is an understatement. He lived a life that was full in the extreme, and he touched the lives of a great many. One of two sons of Clifford Cole Corbet and Eileen Belden Corbet, Barry grew up in Vancouver attending Prince of Wales High School then Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He moved to Wyoming to pursue his great loves of that time - skiing and mountaineering. He married Mary (Muffy) French, was father to three children: Jonathan, Jennifer, and Michael, and brother to Burke. Barry was a member of the successful 1963 American Everest expedition, where he helped place the highest camp on the West Ridge ascent and lost one of his best friends to an avalanche. With John Evans, he made the first ascent of Mount Tyree in Antarctica. If certain accounts are to be believed, he participated in an expedition to plant surveillance hardware in the Himalayas to monitor China's nuclear missile tests. Barry also worked as a ski instructor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Corbet's Couloir, the infamous ski run there was named for him. He started Jackson Hole Mountain Guides and a mountaineering store as well. He became a partner of Roger Brown in Summit Films. Together they created a classic series of ski movies, including the seminal Ski the Outer Limits. Much of this came to an end in 1968. While filming a ski event in Aspen, his helicopter crashed, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Many people would have responded to such an event with depression and surrender. Not Barry Corbet. He built a new life for himself in a new home on Lookout Mountain in the foothills west of Denver. He continued making films, traveled the country and to wheelchair unfriendly Korea to watch his daughter compete in Olympic rowing. Disability was another mountain to climb. Barry accepted that challenge, knowing that he would have to climb for the rest of his life and still never catch sight of the summit. In time, he turned his attention to helping others cope with disability. He traveled across the U.S. and Canada talking to spinal cord injury victims and learning how they had rebuilt their lives. The result was a book called Options, a concentrated distillation of experience with spinal cord injury. The message from Options was clear: it is possible to live a good life with disability. Other books and films followed, along with many years as editor of New Mobility magazine. New Mobility has put up a collection of Barry's articles at www.newmobility.com. Barry's end came sooner than he had expected, but far later than anybody would have predicted after his injury in 1968. He ended his life as he lived it - in his own home, surrounded by family and dear friends, and on his own terms. In a letter to people he loved, he wrote: "I've had love overflowing, impassioned careers, a life of adventure and everything I've ever wanted. Nothing missed and no regrets."There is a huge empty space where Barry Corbet used to be, but the memories live on in the minds of the many people whose lives he touched. For additional information see www.barrycorbet.com
Published in Vancouver Sun on Dec. 24, 2004
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