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Willard Dunn Libby

Willard Dunn Libby
1915-2014

Wilard passed away February 4, 2014. He was born October 25, 1915, in Falmouth, Maine, the son of Mabel Esther Dunn Libby and Dr. Herbert Carlyle Libby, a professor at Colby College. Willard was educated at the Coburn Classical Institute and Colby College ('37). After a year of post-graduate study of chemistry at MIT, he took a summer job in 1938 that turned into a 40 year career with Eastman Kodak, first as a chemist and later as the manager of the audio-visual department. When war broke out in 1941, he was assigned to work on a government project, exempting him from the draft. Rather than stay behind in the lab, however, Willard circumnavigated the regulations and enlisted in the Navy, serving in the Pacific and stationed at Okinawa by war's end.

On his way to fight in the Pacific, he met the woman who would become his wife, Rebecca Marshall Stribling. Like Willard, she was serving in the Navy. As she had been commissioned before him, she outranked him, which he pointed out with a twinkle whenever the subject arose thereafter. The story of their meeting is a family favorite: two young men from Maine stationed in San Pedro, California, went on a double date with two young ladies from Pasadena. They went for a driving tour of Los Angeles in Rebecca's car, which did not have a back seat. Rebecca drove, her date and Willard's date rode in the front seat beside her; Willard perched restively on a makeshift jump seat in back. At Willard's suggestion, they stopped for a drink at the famed Cocoanut Grove on Wilshire Boulevard. The two women adjourned to the ladies' room; when they returned, the men had switched dates. Willard became Rebecca's escort that night and henceforth, and he never rode on a jump seat again.

Willard was a passionate sailor, a talented photographer, a devotee of classical music and show tunes, a proficient carpenter, mechanic and electrician, and an athletic skier, hiker, camper, and boater. He raced his Thistle for over 25 years at the Rochester Canoe Club, a racing career distinguished not only by his unrivaled success but also by his never once raising his voice against opponent or crew, a novelty among skippers. He skied Tuckerman's Ravine and the Adirondacks, took his family canoe camping, sailed the Caribbean and coastal Maine, traveled in Europe, and drove and camped across the country numerous times, hiking the Tetons, Yosemite, and the Rockies enroute. He loved Hawaii and ice boating, Rochester and Portland. With Rebecca, he designed and built their home in Rochester overlooking Irondequoit Bay and a cottage at the edge of Johns Bay on Pemaquid Point. Except for the war years, Willard returned to Pemaquid every summer from the age of four.

Willard read the Wall Street Journal daily, wrote personal letters to senators and presidents, voted twice for the first African American president (a Democrat!), and kept those around him laughing and groaning with his memorable puns and verbal quips (eggs were "cackleberries"). All who met him felt his warmth and charisma. He imbued his family with his passions - including all combinations of water and boat, the mountains and the outdoors, language, winter sports, music, and photography. He approached any problem with a plan to solve it. He always knew which way was North, the names of mountain peaks in the far distance, and how to guffaw irreverently at life's absurd flukes. He understood that the cocktail hour is a daily celebration and that dinner is not complete without a dish of coffee ice cream.

Rebecca predeceased Willard (in 2001), as did his younger brothers, Carlyle and Mark. Willard is survived by his daughter Louisa Lockwood Libby Nelson; his son Lowell Whitney Libby; his son-in-law Mark L Nelson; his daughter-in-law Melissa Nye Libby; his grandchildren Caroline Lockwood Nelson, Emily Reynolds Nelson, Margaret Dunn Nelson, Spencer Lowell Libby, and Anna Nye Libby; his honorary grandchildren, who also called him Granddad (you know who you are); nieces and nephews on his side, Susan, Beth, Mark, Matthew, Jonathan, and Helen, and their respective families; nephews on Rebecca's side, Bill, Carroll, and Marshall, and their respective families; many first, second, and third cousins on both sides; and his in-laws, Bill and Ann Nelson, the Geoffroys, the Linds, and the Nelsons. He valued his friends in Rochester and Maine.

A memorial service will be held at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Falmouth, Maine, on Saturday, April 5, at 2 p.m., followed by a reception in the Parish Hall. In lieu of flowers, you are welcome to make a donation in Willard's name to the Herbert Carlyle Libby Lecture Fund at Colby College or to the Pemaquid Watershed Association. To get donation contact information, offer condolences and share memories with the family, please go to Willard's obituary at www.athutchins.com

Published in Pasadena Star-News on Feb. 9, 2014
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