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William W. Newcomb Jr.

William W. Newcomb, Jr., Ph.D. Oct. 30, 1921 - Feb. 8, 2010 Bill Newcomb, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Texas and long-time Director of the Texas Memorial Museum, died peacefully Monday in Austin, where he made his home for the past 56 years. Bill was born in Detroit, Michigan and grew up in Ann Arbor where he received his B.A degree from the University of Michigan before being called into service with the Army. From 1943 through the end of World War II, he served his country in General Patton's Army, earning three battle stars. Following the war, he returned to Ann Arbor to begin graduate school at his alma mater. It was there that he met and married a vivacious Glendora (Gleny) Thielan. After completing his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees with Gleny as his faithful typist, he spent a year teaching at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., a place Gleny described as the coldest spot on earth. Bill was offered the position as Curator of Anthropology and Research Scientist at the Texas Memorial Museum in Austin, Texas where the climate is distinctly warmer, and he accepted. Three years later, Bill became Director, a position he held for 21 years. Bill's early fieldwork with the Delaware and other Indians, combined with his work at the museum, led to his lifelong interest in the ethnohistory of North American Indians and the nature of culture. His 1961 book The Indians of Texas, arguably the most comprehensive and authoritative work on the subject, was just the first of many books and articles published in Bill's distinguished career. Bill listened to friends and colleagues, Glen Evans and Chad Oliver, who regaled him with the wonders of fly fishing for trout in Colorado. He and Gleny succumbed to the pull of the stories and took their children Mary Elaine and Bill to Lake City in 1965 to join them, the first of many vacations there. Fly fishing became one of Bill's passions. He would haul out his limit every day and Gleny would fry them. More than 35 years later, on Bill's last vacation in Lake City, he hauled out his old gear and caught the only fish of the trip. Throughout his life, Bill enjoyed a deep tie with all things living. He had a special connection with dogs, and a masterful ability with plants. He never met a dog that wasn't thoroughly charmed by him and his green thumb was legend. He once plucked a frost-bitten airplane plant that Gleny had chucked on the compost pile and brought it back to magnificence. In 1998, Gleny lost her long fight with cancer. Fortunately for Bill, dear friend Dorothy Evans (daughter of Glen) came into his life. Bill and Gleny first met Dorothy at Barton Springs when she was a little girl and she credits them with teaching her to swim there. In 2001 they married. Dorothy and Bill blissfully shared the last years of his life. His children cannot adequately express their heartfelt happiness at the joy Dorothy brought their father in his later years. Bill is survived by wife Dorothy, daughter Mary Elaine, son William Andrew, son-in-law Jeri Putnam, grandsons Matthew Scott Putnam, William Venable Newcomb and Bradford Venable Newcomb. A memorial service will be held Friday, February 12th at 7:00 p.m. at the Texas Memorial Museum on the UT Campus, 2400 Trinity. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Texas Memorial Museum, Hospice Austin or the charity of your choice. Obituary and guestbook available online at www.wcfish.com


Published in Austin American-Statesman on Feb. 10, 2010
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