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Earl Arthur Zarbin

01/03/1929 - 03/09/2024
Service Date: 03/23/2024
Service Time: 11:30 am
Service Location: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 3775 S Greenfield Rd Gilbert

By Earl Zarbin (His last “By” line).

Earl Arthur Zarbin, 95, a retired newspaperman and author of All the Time a Newspaper: The First 100 Years of The Arizona Republic, and five other history books, died March 9, 2024.

The Chicago-born (Jan. 3, 1929) newsman, who arrived in Tucson, Arizona, in January 1951, joined The Republic March 17, 1958, as a night police beat reporter, and took early retirement Dec. 31, 1988.

After accepting retirement, Zarbin completed writing The Republic’s history under contract. The book was published in 1990.

Starting October 1, 1989, Zarbin became a part-time contract worker for the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, operator of the Central Arizona Project (CAP). He resigned from the CAP in March 2005 to be his wife’s care giver.

Initially for the CAP, he served as a public relations writer and consultant, but early in 1997 began giving background talks and escorting visitors on tours of CAP facilities. For the next eight years, he gave many talks about the CAP to civic, educational, fraternal, governmental and retiree groups. He represented the CAP at various public events, such as Earth Day.

Zarbin also gave many talks about Arizona history, primarily about water. His other books were Roosevelt Dam: A History to 1911 (1984); Salt River Project: Four Steps Forward, 1902-1910 (1986); The Bench and the Bar: A History of Maricopa County’s Legal Professions (1991); Two Sides of the River: Salt River Valley Canals, 1867-1902 (1997), and Let the Record Show…Gila River Indian Reservation Water Rights and the Central Arizona Project (2004).

The 1984, 1986 and 1997 books were published by the Salt River Project (SRP). The SRP also published two of Zarbin’s booklets, The Swilling Legacy (1978) and Salt River Valley Canals: 1867-1875 (1980). The Swilling Legacy first appeared as a series of 18 articles in The Republic in August 1978 to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of John W. (Jack) Swilling, a leader in restoring irrigated agriculture to the Salt River Valley.

A third booklet, Celebrating 50 Years of Vision, containing articles about the founding of the Central Arizona Project Association and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, was published by the CAP in September 1996.

Zarbin contributed to three other books: The Taming of the Salt (1979), Arizona Highways Album: The Road To Statehood (1987), and Phoenix in the Twentieth Century (1993).

Besides editing The Taming of the Salt’s 2nd edition, Zarbin contributed original articles about Dr. Alexander J. Chandler, founder of the City of Chandler; Arthur Powell Davis, the U.S. Geological Survey engineer who drew the original plans for Theodore Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River; and President Theodore Roosevelt, who dedicated the dam March 18, 1911.

Zarbin contributed articles to The Journal of Arizona History, published by the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson, and gave many talks at society annual conventions. His article, “Henry Garfias: Phoenix’s First City Marshal,” was selected by the editors as the best by a non-professional historian published by The Journal of Arizona History in 2005 (spring edition).

Some of his essays, with libertarian themes, were printed in The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education. Some were translated into foreign languages. In the early 1960s, he wrote broadcast editorials for KTAR radio.

Proceeds from the sales of Roosevelt Dam: A History to 1911 and Salt River Project: Four Steps Forward, 1902-1910 were contributed to the Arizona Historical Society, which used the money to help underwrite the cost of producing The Arizona Story, a 4th grade book prepared for publication in connection with the 100th anniversary of Arizona statehood Feb. 14, 2012.

He graduated high school from Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Ga., in summer 1945, then worked at a variety of unskilled jobs until enlisting for two years in the U.S. Army on May 6, 1948. After basic training, he worked a few months as a clerk before studying and becoming an X-ray technician.

Following discharge from the Army, Zarbin again took unskilled employment. In the fall of 1950, working as a furniture and appliance deliveryman, he was injured carrying a stove. A doctor suggested Zarbin further his education. Zarbin enrolled at the University of Arizona in Tucson. In his junior year, he married Billie Jo Marks of Phoenix April 11, 1953. Later that spring, he became the librarian at The Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. That summer, the newspaper’s city editor, Frank Johnson, employed Zarbin as a reporter.

Zarbin graduated from the University of Arizona with a liberal arts degree in May 1954 (the commencement speaker was Eugene C. Pulliam, publisher of The Republic, Zarbin’s future employer).

In August 1956, Zarbin left The Arizona Daily Star to work as a reporter for The Kansas City Star-Times in Kansas City, Missouri. Eight months later, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to join the Southwestern Bell public relations department. He left that job in January 1958 and brought his family to Phoenix, joining The Republic in March.

Most of his years at The Republic, Zarbin worked as an assistant city editor, serving many years as night city editor.

He left the newspaper at the end of May 1964 to again try public relations, joining the Patton Agency in Phoenix, but returned to the paper Jan. 18, 1965, as a reporter. In a few months, he again became night city editor.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Zarbin was a correspondent for Life magazine, published by Time, Inc. He also occasionally handled assignments for Time, Fortune and House and Home magazines, also printed by Time, Inc.

Starting in 1973, he began working days as The Republic’s photo editor, then assignment editor, followed by assistant city editor. In the mid-1970s, he also began covering the water beat. He continued the dual work of assistant city editor/water beat reporter until 1980, when he returned full time to the city desk. He became day city editor in 1982. Even then, he worked on special water sections printed by the newspaper.

In 1985, preparing for The Republic’s 100th birthday, he began interviewing retired, current and former employees. This inspired him to begin his research for writing All the Time a Newspaper.

He was a frequent writer of letters to The Republic, enjoyed crossword puzzles, classical and show music, reading and rhyming. He wrote more than 26,000 “IthinkIam” rhymes, all beginning with the same words–“I think I am”–and none longer than four lines. Some examples:

“I think I am a tuna, I think I am a fish, I will not eat the bait, And end up in a dish.” (This was the first.)

“…a cannibal, For dinner was late, Got a cold shoulder, From my vegan date.”

“…a tadpole, Come from lots of eggs, Friends in school tell me, Soon I’ll have four legs.”

“…a mouse, I used to be a pest, Now when I am quiet, A computer is at rest.”

“..self-important, Important always knew, Self is what allows me, To tell you what to do.”

Zarbin was a member of the Arizona Historical Society, Arizona Town Hall, Phoenix Zoo, Society of Professional Journalists, and the University of Arizona and the Arizona State University Alumni associations. He donated his history research and other papers to the Arizona State Library and Archives.

His first wife, Billie Jo Marks, divorced him in July 1972. They had five children: daughters, Cathryn E. (William) Bauer of Glendale, and Elizabeth Claire of Tempe; a third daughter, Jennifer C. Zarbin, and sons, Nicholas E. and Gregory P., preceded him in death.

Zarbin married Dorothy L. Johnson on October 6, 1973. He adopted his wife’s daughter, Denei K. A. (Milton) Pace of Gilbert. He is preceded in death by Dorothy, his stepson Monte (Judie) Wheeler, and his grandchildren Emily Christensen and Collin Pace.

Besides his daughters, Zarbin is survived by stepdaughter, Shelley (Raymon) Christensen of Moccasin; 18 grandchildren and many more great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, March 23rd at the LDS Church, 3775 S Greenfield Rd, Gilbert, AZ 85297.

As indicated above, Zarbin wrote this obituary, except for the date of death, age, and the place and time of the memorial service. He suggested contributions to the Foundation for Economic Education in Atlanta, Ga.



Arrangements by Bunker’s Garden Chapel, www.bunkerfuneral.com. Should this obituary appear anywhere but bunkerfuneral.com, please check our website for accurate details and service information.


  • Very interesting life led by Mr. Zarbin. I didn’t know it at the time, but I have read some of his work. A very accomplished writer with a sharp sense of humor. Thank you to the family for putting this together. Earl will be missed.

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