Donald Larmouth, 1940-2014
A remembrance gathering is planned on the UW-Green Bay campus next week for Donald W. Larmouth, a longtime faculty member and former academic dean who died Thursday in Green Bay after a lengthy illness. He was 73.
A graveside service will take place 12:30 p.m. Monday (June 16) at the Poplar Grove Cemetery in the Lake Superior community of Grand Marais, Minn. In Green Bay, “A Celebration of Don Larmouth’s Life” is planned for 2:30 p.m. Friday (June 20) in the Phoenix Room of the University Union. Jerry Kuehn of Union Congregational Church will officiate.
Larmouth joined the UW-Green Bay faculty in 1970, teaching courses as diverse as Linguistics, Scientific and Technical Writing, and Chaucer. He was promoted to associate professor in 1973 and full professor in 1985.
Chair of the Communication and the Arts academic program for nearly a decade and former chair of the faculty University Committee, Larmouth accepted appointment in 1988 as UW-Green Bay’s dean of Arts, Sciences and Graduate programs, serving through 1993. As academic dean, he distinguished himself as an advocate for interdisciplinarity and new University offerings spanning the range from pre-engineering to arts management.
Larmouth’s name turns up often in periodic surveys of UW-Green Bay alumni involving favorite and memorable professors. Some also recall he was a loyal supporter of the Phoenix women’s basketball program from its earliest days, even before the team reached national and NCAA Division I prominence.
A student’s 1997 feature story on Larmouth for the Fourth Estate student newsweekly described him as a devoted teacher with the look of an old-English headmaster but a vibrant sense of humor and a penchant for pithy, current analogies.
“His white hair, full beard and glasses. His sport coats with the leather patches on the elbows. His distinguished appearance. Donald Larmouth, professor of linguistics at UWGB, is everything you would expect a typical college professor to look like. But although Larmouth looks like the conventional professor, his style and teaching methods are a refreshing change from the ordinary.”
“He comes up with these one-liners that just make you laugh,” one student was quoted. “His classes are very interesting and enjoyable because of it.”
Larmouth was a prolific author and scholar. His research interests included dialects and language variations. Local topics of inquiry included the persistence of “Kentuck” English in Wisconsin’s cutover region, which developed with the influx of Southerners to Forest County and other locales during and after the early 1900s lumber boom. He also wrote about remnants of Belgian accents and vocabulary in southern Door County, and early in his UW-Green Bay career he helped develop curriculum materials for the study of the native Menominee language and culture.
Larmouth also wrote and spoke often of the conflict and politics inherent in attempts to pass “official language” legislation, both present-day and historic. Pointing to the experience of German immigrants to Wisconsin and more recent examples, he said American society has always resolved such issues in effective fashion without government intervention. He was elected and re-elected chief officer of the American Dialect Society’s Midwest Region.
Larmouth was born Nov. 24, 1940 in Chicago, and moved with his family to northern Minnesota as a child. He said his interest in linguistics dates at least in part to exposure to his Finn-speaking neighbors.
His Northwoods upbringing also contributed to his lifelong passion for fishing and frequent outings in Canada, the Midwest and Florida. He was an accomplished outdoors writer, the author of the books Tarpon on Fly, and Riffles and Back Eddies, and Days and Nights in the Northwoods. He contributed many articles to fishing magazines and journals, and was a member of the Federation of Flyfishers, Classic Anglers of Wisconsin and Trout Unlimited.
Larmouth earned his bachelor’s in English from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and went on for a master’s degree and Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of Chicago.
He returned to UM-Duluth in 1965 to begin his academic career, teaching English, Linguistics and Computer Assisted Composition (the Socrates Program) before being lured by the interdisciplinary communication and linguistic opportunities at the new UW-Green Bay.
In 1980, Larmouth received the UW-Green Bay Founders Association Award for Excellence in Institutional Development. The award recognized his work advancing the graduate program, faculty development, the major in information and computing science, undergraduate communication tracks in graphic design and English as a second language, and more.
Following his time as academic dean, Larmouth returned to the classroom and eventually retired as professor emeritus in 2000. He remained an active citizen of the University community and returned often to campus — including last fall’s Alumni Reunion Days — even as he fought Parkinson’s Disease in the final years of his life.
Larmouth is survived by his wife of 45 years, Judy Ann, and their two children, Mary-Margaret Zindren, St. Paul, Minn., and David Larmouth, McMinnville, Ore., and other family.
In lieu of floral expressions a memorial fund has been established in Donald Larmouth’s name. Proko-Wall Funeral Home is assisting the family. To view the obituary or send an online condolence, visit the Proko-Wall website.