Corbin’s life celebrated with Civil War-themed service

William "Bill" Corbin

Bill Corbin stands at the Civil War memorial he created at Bowen’s Prairie Cemetery outside of Monticello. The Express interviewed Corbin about the research and work that went into the memorial, which honors Civil War soldiers. Corbin was extremely passionate about the Civil War. (Express file photo)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Long-time Monticello resident and local historian William “Bill” Corbin passed away at the age of 91 on May 6, 2018.

     There will be a Civil War-themed celebration of life for Corbin this weekend, Saturday, July 14, at 10:30 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Monticello. The visitation will be held on Friday from 4-7 p.m., and again Saturday morning from 9:30-10:30, both at First Presbyterian Church. Corbin will be buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Monticello with honors.

     So many people came into contact with Corbin in his lifetime due to the many organizations, committees, and events he had a hand in. History was his passion, particularly the Civil War, which is why his family chose to incorporate that into his service.

     In fact, Corbin studied the Civil War and penned a book titled “A Star for Patriotism: Iowa’s Outstanding Civil War College” in 1972. Corbin dedicated the book “to Iowa’s early newspaper editors whose interest in reporting the news made his book of history possible.” The book honors the history and contribution of Hopkinton’s Lenox College (Bowen Collegiate Institute).

     One of Corbin’s local acquaintances, Byron Freese, with the Jones County Historical Society, still had a copy of Corbin’s almost-500-page hardbound book.

     Conducting Corbin’s celebration of life will be someone who has probably known Corbin longer than anyone else, Dr. Rev. David Walker. Walker now resides in the Arizona mountains, but grew up and attended school in Monticello where he first met Corbin. Walker went on to become a Presbyterian minister, and not married Bill and Jane Corbin on July 11, 1953, but married their daughter, Nancy and her husband Jan Helge Pile 50 years to the day. Suffice to say, walker holds a special place in the Corbin family’s life.

     “We’ve known each other since we were babies,” Walker said. “Our moms knew each other through the Presbyterian Church and we went to Sunday School together.”

     Both graduated from MHS with the Class of 1945.

     Walker said it was Corbin’s wish to die in the house he was born in, and he was granted that wish. Corbin was born on Aug. 24, 2926 to William and Mabel (Chaloupka) Corbin in the home that his father built.

     “Very few people can say that,” remarked Walker.

     Walker said after he moved away and worked all over the world and country, when ever he returned home to Monticello to visit family, Corbin was one of the only “old” friends he made a point of catching up with.

     He said both Corbin and Jane were only children, so their children refer to Walker as “Uncle David” because of the close family connection.

     Walker said it is a privilege to not only conduct his old friend’s funeral, but to do it in the same church in Monticello where he was ordained and where the two boys grew up.

     “There are so many memories I plan to talk about in the service,” hinted Walker. “It will easy to get carried away.”

     As the son of a WWI veteran, Walker said his father never allowed guns in the house. But, the Corbin family had guns. “I learned to hunt rabbits and squirrels with Bill,” he said. He said if they shot an animal, they had to eat it; not shoot to just kill. “We did a lot of hunting together.”

     When the Jitney train came through Monticello, Walker said the two would play around the railroad cars quite a bit.

     After conducting 1,500 funerals in his career, Walker said Corbin’s will certainly be unique in many ways.

     “I’ve never done one like this,” he said of the anticipation.

     The Christian service will include Civil War hymns, as well as someone playing the fife and drums. “You won’t see a service quite like this one,” warned Walker.

     Corbin’s Civil War fascination goes back many years when he started creating models of Civil War artifacts. His extensive study of the Civil War led to his research of Lenox College, hence his book. This then turned into an annual event in Hopkinton known as “Civil war Days,” complete with a reenactment. Civil War Days lasted for 30 years.

     Corbin was a member of a Civil war reenactment group out of Illinois, and taught himself how to play the fife.

     Several locals might recall Corbin dressed in his Civil War uniform with a bird on his shoulder, reminiscent of Monticello’s Dr. Benadom.

     Corbin shared his love of the Civil War with young school groups in the area for many years.

     Another passion of Corbin’s was Bowen’s Prairie Cemetery outside of Monticello on Highway 151. He spent much of his later years researching those buried in the cemetery, and documenting the graves. He was instrumental is getting a Civil War memorial placed at Bowen’s Prairie, dedicated to the soldiers who died in the war.

     Corbin himself, at the age of 19 in 1945, enlisted in the Army. He served in Germany for two years, rebuilding bridges following WWII.

     As a veteran, he knew the importance to honoring those who served.

     Other ventures Corbin took on included the Jones County Iowa Sesquicentennial committee, Rotary Club, Monticello Park Board, a lifetime member of the Jones County Historical Society (Edinburgh Village), the Monticello Beautification Committee, MOLLUS (Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the U.S.), Cedar rapids Civil War Round Table, Jones County Conservation League, Delaware County Historical Society, among many others.

     Corbin leaves behind his wife of 65 years, Jane; two children, David William (Dianne) Corbin and Nancy (Jan Helge) Pile; five grandchildren, Michael Corbin (Alexis Masse), Jennifer (Jimmy) Martz, Nathan (Allison) Corbin, Amy Corbin (Mario Wytch), Vanessa Hartner; and three great grandchildren, Tenner and Logan Corbin, and Corbin Martz. Corbin and Jane had a son, David Edward, who died five days following his birth.

     To view Corbin’s full obituary, visit In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to Avenue of Flags, Camp Courageous, Delaware County Historical Society, First Presbyterian Church, Flags on Highway 38, or Jones County Historical Society.



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