Earl Lee (1954 – 2015) Obituary

Posted: March 15, 2015 in Livin' in the USA, Writing
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(A few weeks ago, we ran a brief obit for our good friend Earl Lee, who died last month. The following is a more complete obituary written by Earl’s son Nathan.)

EarlAuthor, librarian, and free thinker Earl Wayne Lee passed away at home in Pittsburg, Kansas on February 19th, 2015 at the age of 60 after a year-long struggle with pancreatic cancer. Earl was born November 8th, 1954 in Rockford, Illinois. After several years of moving every few years, his family settled in Calamine, Arkansas. Watching the local ABC channel, he developed his lifelong love of cheesy horror movies. He had a devotion to learning, and as a child he asked to be bussed a half hour away to a larger school in Cave City, Arkansas, so that he could better prepare himself for the future. In 1972, he went to Lyon College to study Western Literature, where he wrote columns for the college newspaper. In 1975, he went to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas to begin work on his masters in English literature. In the master’s program, he met his future wife, Kathy De Grave. He graduated from the U of A in 1978 with his Master of Arts, and in the same year he married Kathy. Earl went on to get his high school teaching certification in 1982, but ultimately decided that his true calling lay in working with books. In 1985, he graduated with his Masters of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. After graduating with his MLS he took his first library job at Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma in 1986. In 1987 he took a new job as acquisitions librarian at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas. He was an active faculty member at Pitt State for over 25 years, including involvement in the faculty senate, and he eventually reached the rank of University Professor. He worked tirelessly to curate the book collection at Pitt State, always seeking to find balance within the collection.

Although he thoroughly enjoyed his work in the library, his true passion was always writing. Over the course of his career he wrote many articles on religion and censorship that have appeared in The Humanist, Religious Humanism, Freethought Today, Truth Seeker, The Match! American Libraries, You Are Being Lied to, and Counterpoise. He has also written a number of books, including the novels Drakulya and Raptured: The Final Daze of the Late, Great Planet Earth, and the nonfiction Libraries Betrayed, Libraries in the Age of Mediocrity, and his most recent book from Park Street Press, From the Bodies of the Gods. He also turned his novel Drakulya into a play that was staged by the Pitt State communications department in 2001. He was also well known for his foreword to Upton Sinclair’s  The Jungle: the Uncensored Original Edition. Before he died, Earl had just finished writing a new novel, The Unkindness of Ravens: A Romance of the Late War, which will be published by See Sharp Press in the Spring of 2016.

Earl was well known for his unique sense of humor, his kindness, and his generosity. For all his academic achievements, when asked what he valued most in life, he said it was his family. He was preceded in death by his father Early Ray Lee. He is survived by his wife Kathy De Grave, and their three children, Nathan, Cambria, and Erin De Lee, his mother Opal Lee, and his siblings, Brian Lee, Cara Dickison, and Andy Lee. His wife, mother, siblings, children, and friends all miss him dearly. A memorial service for Earl was held at Pitt State’s Leonard H. Axe Library on Friday, February 27th.

Earl was always been a defender of the First Amendment. If you’d like to support that cause, please donate in his name to the Freedom to Read Foundation.

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We recently reposted a number of Earl’s blog posts. They’re well worth reading and provide good examples of Earl’s sense of humor.

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