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Henry

Henry Gardner Newell

d. March 20, 2024

Madison

Henry Gardner Newell of Madison, Wisconsin, died unexpectedly at his home on March 20, 2024, at the age of 76. 

He was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, on May 6, 1947, the middle child of Alice Henry Newell and Robert Whitfield Newell. He was known by many as “Hank.” He attended Forest Park Elementary, Forest Heights Middle School, and Hall High School (class of 1965) before embarking on his higher education endeavors. 

After spending two years at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville as a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity, Henry transferred to Columbia University in New York City, where he graduated in 1969 with an undergraduate degree in philosophy. Always a thinker with a passion for learning, he continued to earn three master’s degrees: the first in linguistics and literature from Reed College, another in philosophy and linguistics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and yet another in philosophy from Cornell University. He went on to teach at the University of Arizona, Rice University, Ithaca College, Edgewood College and Cornell, where he received an award for his summer teaching. Like Socrates, he was a gadfly, pressing his students with logic and humor to think for themselves. 

His first marriage to Jenny Storthz in 1969 didn’t stick, but it did yield a cherished daughter, Katherine “Katey” Elisabeth. He had the good fortune of meeting Paula Gottlieb in 1983, with whom he promptly fell in love, married, and shared the rest of his life.

Henry had countless interests. He was a lifelong lover of golf, achieving the status of Junior State Golf Champion as a teen and continuing to earn trophies throughout his adult years.  

Henry was fascinated by playing chess and solving chess problems, a passion reignited in 1992 by the Fischer-Spassky rematch. While living in Washington, D.C., at the Center of Hellenic Studies that year, he was welcomed by the area chess club. He was convinced there was a winning line that had been overlooked, which provoked a lot of discussion among the professionals. 

Henry loved words and language, with some of his favorite authors being Franz Kafka, Friedrich Hӧlderlin and Heinreich von Kleist, whom he translated from German into English. Although a confirmed rationalist, Henry believed that “feeling tone” was very important. He was a romantic, choosing as an epitaph – “I sit under clouds” – from Hӧlderlin’s “Ages of Life.” 

Henry enjoyed beer, drinking it and brewing it. A couple of his favorites were New Glarus Moon Man (found only in Wisconsin) and Samuel Adams Boston Lager. He got a kick out of wearing a baseball hat stating, “Beer is the reason I get up every afternoon.”  

His appreciation for music spanned artists ranging from Franz Schubert to Leo Kottke to Bob Dylan to Prince. After being exposed to the movie “Purple Rain” by his daughter, he particularly enjoyed “The Bird” and “Jungle Love” by Morris Day & the Time and even learned some accompanying “choreography.” 

When Henry retired, he invested five years into learning to tune the piano. He loved visiting people in their homes, and he worked out his own system of tuning which he was still perfecting when he died.   

He loved nature, especially walking in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum and, following in his beloved sister Leslie’s footsteps, photographing the nesting cranes. 

And, of course, he was captivated by philosophy. Originally interested in philosophy of language, he became hooked on Aristotle. Throughout his career, he gave lectures, wrote papers and edited books focusing on ancient Greek philosophy. He was also a great admirer of modern-day philosophers Noam Chomsky and Saul Kripke. One of his favorite quotes was Plato’s comment that philosophy is “music and reason mixed together,” “music” in Greek referring to music as well as to the humanities in general. 

Henry was preceded in death by his parents, his treasured uncle and aunt, Frank W. and JoAnn Newell of Little Rock, older brother Frank B. Newell of Little Rock, and a couple of very special feline pets, Bartleby and Iris. He is survived by his beloved British wife of 35 years, Paula Gottlieb of Madison, Wisconsin; younger sister, Leslie Peacock of Little Rock; a daughter, Katey Hobbs; son-in-law Jon Hobbs; and grandsons Andrew and Alex Hobbs (who named him “Peeps,” and whom he affectionately and collectively referred to as “Alexandrew”), all of West Hartford, Connecticut; niece Hannah Peacock of Little Rock; and nephews John Buchanan of Tallin, Estonia, and Asa Newell of Little Rock. He is also missed by his brother-in-law, David Gottlieb; sister-in-law Sarah Howard Gottlieb, and his nephews James and Alex, all of London, England.

He will also be remembered fondly by friends, neighbors, former colleagues and students, and others whose paths he crossed and whose lives he touched. Donations in his memory may be made to the Longenecker Gardens Fund at the UW Arboretum or to the International Crane Foundation

May he peacefully sit under clouds until we meet again.

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