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Lawrence E. Payne

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Lawrence E. Payne Obituary
Payne, Lawrence E.

Ithaca: Lawrence E. Payne, Ph.D., a renowned mathematician, wonderful father and friend, died at Hospicare in Ithaca, NY on Thurs., August 11, 2011, surrounded by his children. He was 87 years old.

Larry was born in 1923 to Robert and Harriet (Lasher) Payne in a rural farming community in southern Illinois, one of 5 children. Though his family was poor, he always described his childhood as a happy time - one in which he learned the value of small things. He attended a one-room school house, followed by St. Henry Preparatory Seminary. He entered the U.S. Navy in 1943 and earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering and an MS and PhD in Applied Mathematics from Iowa State, where he met his beloved wife, Ruth.

Larry began his academic career as an Asst. Professor at the Univ. of AZ. From there he joined the faculty at the Univ. of MD. 14 years later, he became Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University, where he worked until his retirement in 1994. An author of 2 books and 300 papers, Larry had an international reputation as an innovative applied mathematician, especially in the area of partial differential equations as applied to civil and mechanical engineering. He was awarded the prestigious Steele prize of the American Mathematical Society in 1972. Larry was invited to lecture and teach around the world, and in 1990 he received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the National University of Ireland. He was respected and well-liked by those in his field, and as one colleague and former student noted, he "never heard an unkind word about Larry's work or about him personally."

Larry was a passionate genealogist, enjoyed a challenging Scrabble game, completed The New York Times crossword puzzle in a flash and in pen, loved the great outdoors, and grew, picked and preserved various fruits, vegetables and berries. He was a loving husband, father and friend who greatly enjoyed his weekly get-togethers with his "Old Codgers" buddies. A devout Catholic, he was an active member of St. Catherine of Siena's parish since 1965.

Larry is predeceased by his dear wife, Ruth (Winterstein) Payne, and their son, John Payne. He will be greatly missed by their surviving children: Fr. Steven Payne, OCD, of Nairobi, Kenya, Marcia McKenzie and her husband, Woody, of Lynchburg, VA, Christopher Payne and his wife, Nicola, of Bloomington, IN, and Michele Koch and her husband, Bill, of Louisville, KY; their four cherished grandchildren (Keenan and Kara McKenzie, Sarah Payne and Natalie Koch); and his brother, Richard Payne of Walhalla, SC.

The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Fr. Steven Payne at St. Catherine of Siena Church on Sun., August 14, at 3 p.m. with a reception to follow. A private burial will take place at the Pleasant Grove Road Cemetery at a later time. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Larry's memory may be made to Hospicare or St. Catherine of Siena Church. Bangs Funeral Home will be in charge of arrangements.

Published in Ithaca Journal on Aug. 12, 2011
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