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Originally published: 2012-12-20 09:23:00
Last modified: 2012-12-24 08:35:01

Maynard John Higby

Maynard John Higby, Professor Emeritus of English at Appalachian State University, died at his home on Dec. 18, 2012.

Born in Utica, New York, on Dec. 30, 1936, to the late Maynard Willard and Lucille Hanley Higby, he began a new life at the age of fifteen when J. P. Stevens and Co. transferred his father to South Carolina. Following his graduation from Clemson College in 1958, service in U.S. Army Intelligence took him to South Korea and Fort Devens, Mass., where he was stationed when he met and married Constance Bentley. Upon discharge he entered graduate study at the University of South Carolina, receiving the Ph.D. in 1970. Following a temporary appointment at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, he joined Appalachian's department of English in 1967, where he performed with distinction until his retirement.

Throughout his professional career, John maintained a reputation as an honored colleague and teacher. A scholar of 17th- and 18th- century British literature, he took particular satisfaction in introducing students to the processes and pleasures of conducting research. That calling took him and his classes to the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library, among other world-class repositories of scarce or unique literary materials and, finally, led him to spend his post-retirement days in cataloging and publicizing Belk Library's Rhinehart Collection of rare volumes. If it sometimes seemed to his acquaintances that he knew everything, it was because he seemed to have read everything.

Many of John's pursuits outside academia reflected his abiding delight in the natural world. Though his appetites for travel and fly-fishing were robust in any circumstances, they became especially keen when he persuaded others to go north with him on expeditions to the Adirondack woods of his early youth. And it was possible to have known him for years before realizing that he was a birder of remarkable knowledge, skill, and dedication. His talent on piano won him a place in a Clemson dance band while still in his teens and later made him a familiar figure at Boone/Blowing Rock jazz venues. But his chief interest, the primary objects of his unfailing love and loyalty and generosity, remained his family and his friends. He lived a life worth admiring and emulating. He was one of God's gentlemen.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children, Suzannah Bentley Higby of Raleigh, and Maynard Mark Higby (Jennifer) of Banner Elk; his brother, Robert Higby (Betty) of Clemson; and his granddaughter, Bentley Grace Higby of Huntersville.

A memorial service for John will be conducted at St. Luke's Episcopal Church 3 p.m. Dec. 30, 2012, his 76th birthday.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Belk Library of Appalachian State University, or Watauga Humane Society.