Richard O. Whitcomb ’48

Richard O. Whitcomb ’48 died on October 9, 2020 in Evanstpn, Illinois. 

(The following was published by The Pantograph on October 20, 2020)

Richard O. Whitcomb, 94, retired professor living in Evanston, IL died at his home in Three Crowns Park on October 9, 2020. After many years as a professor and department chairperson at universities in Wisconsin, New York, Washington, and Illinois, Whitcomb retired in 1991 and moved to Vermont with his wife, Helga. A few years after Helga’s death in 2008, he moved to Evanston to be closer to his children and grandchildren. He was very active in Senior Living at Three Crowns Park from 2014-2020.

Born August 16, 1926, in Waltham, MA, Whitcomb attended Waltham High School and graduated in 1944. After two years of military service culminating in fifteen months in Okinawa and Korea, Whitcomb attended Bowdoin College as a member of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity, graduating in 1950. He earned a master’s degree at Harvard University and a doctorate at Stanford University with additional study at the Middlebury College Summer Language Schools and the University of Mainz, Germany, as a Fulbright Scholar.

Whitcomb was Foreign Language Department Chairperson at both Eastern Washington University and Illinois State University from 1968-1991. In his teaching and research, he specialized in German Language, Literature, and Culture of the 19th and 20th centuries, especially the prose and drama. His other interests included German politics, and business language of the Post-War Era.

Whitcomb was very active in professional organizations and served as president of three state and regional organizations as well as a member of the National Executive Council of the American Association of Teachers of German.

Whitcomb enjoyed music, especially choral music and opera, spending many happy years in church choirs, large choruses, including Vermont Symphony Orchestra Chorus and the South Burlington Community Chorus as well as solo performances on stage in recitals and musical comedies. He had a wonderful baritone voice.

An avid badminton player, he competed throughout the years and participated in the Senior Olympics in San Antonio, Texas, and Orlando. He enjoyed playing billiards with great enthusiasm with his friends in South Burlington.

He was a member of All Saints Episcopal Church in South Burlington where he served as a member of the Vestry and the Choir.

He was born to Warren D. and Neva O. Whitcomb. His sisters were Doris Ashton, and Frances Kraintz; he is survived by sister Suzanne and husband William Hays of Lexington, MA. Whitcomb was predeceased by his wife, Helga Neuse Whitcomb. He leaves his daughter, Professor Katharine E. Whitcomb and her husband Larry Varin of Ellensburg, WA, and his son, John W. Whitcomb and his wife Alicia Aiken, both attorneys in Evanston, IL and their children, his grandson Joseph R. Whitcomb and his granddaughter, Neva J. Whitcomb, also of Evanston. He leaves extended family around the world.

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