Passing: John E. Limber

photo of John E. Limber

John E. Limber

John E. Limber, associate professor emeritus of psychology, passed away on April 26, 2017. A memorial service will be held on May 26, 2017 at 5 p.m. at Three Chimneys Inn in Durham.

On Wednesday, April 26, John Edward Limber died peacefully at his home in Durham, N.H., surrounded by his daughters, Kristin and Alexandra McGraw.

Born on Chicago’s South Side, John earned his undergraduate and honors graduate degrees at the University of Illinois, and was forever tied to the hapless Fighting Illini football and basketball teams. A win, at least every now and then, made John a happy member of Illini Nation.

In 1971, following post-doctoral work in psycholinguistics at Wesleyan University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, John became a member of the Department of Psychology of the University of New Hampshire, where he continued to teach undergraduate and graduate students and supervise their research until his retirement in 2009.

His graduate students became his lifelong friends and, especially in his later years, reminded him of the powerful influence he had on them, personally and professionally. A common refrain was that he taught, and led, by example.

John was also an innovator. At the beginning of each class and then periodically throughout the semester, he warned students that while all views were welcome, they needed to be data-based and cogently argued. He never tolerated, he said, “B.S.” He brought out a rubber stamp and a red ink pad and illustrated what he would add, as needed, to papers turned into him. Note: the rubber stamp did not use the abbreviation. Neither did John. Any number of students can testify that this was not an idle threat, but they can also testify that it was always done with charm and flair, to move their thinking along.

John’s views were not always taken as gospel by friends. For decades, John was an active member of the Psyclones — the slow-pitch softball team fielded by members of the psychology department. John was the team’s main pitcher, and for decades he insisted he was able to throw a slow-pitch curve ball. Knowledgeable people (including a former minor league major baseball pitcher) denied the very possibility of such a pitch. But John scoffed at skeptics, as he explained the physics of why the ball had to curve when released it just so!

John was a charter member of the “Applied Probability Group” in Durham — otherwise known as the monthly poker game. John was often the big winner of the night and at the last meeting he attended just a couple of months ago, he maintained his winning style.

John Limber was kind, nurturing, smart and pragmatic. His was a life well lived. At John’s core was his love of family. In the view of family and friends, John always found (and gave) the essentials: love, perspective, humor and kindness.

A memorial service to honor John’s life will be held at 5 p.m., May 26, 2017 at Three Chimneys Inn in Durham. His family and friends request that if you attend, you come with a story about John to share with the group. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in John’s name to a charity of your choice.

—Edited from a longer piece written by the Limber family

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