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Lin Humphrey

Professor extraordinaire, friend of many
She was described in author Sue Grafton’s first novel as Nell, “a creature of high intellect and wry humor.” The author was describing a visit to Claremont when she sat in Lin Humphrey’s kitchen and watched her making soup, and later— soaking in a hot tub with a glass of wine—shared recollections of days since college, all incorporated in A is for Alibi.

Linda “Lin” Tufts Humphrey, a Claremont resident for over four decades, who died at her home here on August 14, 2014, met the qualifications of intellect and humor and many more. She was described by a family member as a “teacher writer soup maker mother grandmother friend.” She graduated from Ashland High School in 1957 and attended what was then Western Kentucky State College in Bowling Green, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature. And over the years, those qualities were a magnet for many friendships across a wide spectrum of people.

The daughter of William and Dorothy Tufts, Linda Kay Tufts was born in Ashland, Kentucky on January 23, 1940. While completing a Master of Arts degree in English from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, she was married to Theodore “Ted” Humphrey. They subsequently lived in Cincinnati, Ohio and Fayetteville before moving to southern California in 1968 and to Claremont the following year.  

In 1972, Ms. Humphrey began a 32-year teaching career at Citrus College, teaching English composition and literature. She served as chairwoman of the Curriculum Committee for a number of years and held a gamut of offices for the faculty Academic Senate at Citrus. She received the Distinguished Faculty Award from the college on her retirement in 2004.  

A longtime interest in folklore led Ms. Humphrey to teach “Introduction to Folklore,” a class she created, at Citrus during her retirement, and to authorship of two books, We Gather Together: Food and Festival in American Life, with her former husband Ted Humphrey, and Soup Night, a collection of recipes from the gatherings that she hosted at her Claremont home.

Her varied interests continued during her retirement years. She was involved in a writers’ group through the Claremont Joslyn Senior Center and was a regular volunteer at the Claremont Economy Shop on First Street, an enterprise that has given to local causes for more than 80 years. A longtime member of the Monte Vista Unitarian Universalist Congregation, she also became an attender at the Friends Meeting in Claremont where she was active on many committees.

Family members recall that she loved to travel, as long as “she didn’t have to do the driving or planning. She was an excellent traveling companion, content to ‘ride shotgun.’” Travels included cross-country road trips, a cruise to Alaska, trips to Hawaii, Costa Rica, Mexico, England and Scotland and to France for an academic conference. “Not bad for a poor girl from coal mining Kentucky.”

Many friends have fond recollections of the woman sometimes referred to as “Wacky Lin.”

“Almost as soon as they arrived a couple of blocks away from us (in a former home on San Jose), I became aware of the Humphrey family, in part because of their unique, colorful, diagonally-striped front door,” says Claremonter Anne Davenport. “I knew her daughter Merritt during my stints as a sub at Oakmont School, and in recent years became more closely acquainted with Lin through Claremont Friends meeting where she has given valiant service to this almost entirely volunteer organization—as a calendar manager and as a first-rate organizer of events involving food, including producing huge pots of homemade soup when the need arose. Her “souplady” e-mail address was well-chosen. Lin and I shared a fondness for the Economy Shop, where we each enjoyed not only volunteering but also ‘shopping’ for unusual items of clothing. It is sad to lose such a dear friend—especially one who is so much younger.”

Patrick Culbertson recalls of Ms. Humphrey, “Lin was the most open-minded person I’ve ever met. She took people as they were and expected them to do the same for her. She was completely genuine; she made no pretenses. She grew up in a harsh environment—a coal-mining town in Appalachia—which taught her to be a survivor. She didn’t believe in self-pity, she was one to pick herself up and keep going, and she knew how to value a friend.”
Mikey Rhein commented, “Many years ago, I met Lin Humphrey at her home during Soup. The first and lasting impression that I had of Lin was her welcoming hospitality. Later, years after Soup stopped, she kept in touch with many of the people who crossed her path during her lifetime.”
Terri Shaw, a friend of more than 35 years, remembers, “Lin valued friends and a sense of community among friends and a camaraderie among teaching associates and among different communities. We started having breakfast on Saturday mornings many years ago. She was an integral part of my life, and the loss of her has left a big hole in the world and in my world.”

Katie Selke, also a friend of long-standing, commented, “She was very witty, independent and had many friends in an evolving group. She was very giving and just did things.”

Georgeann Andrus contributed, “Lin enjoyed people, being with them, hearing their stories and relating to their experiences and problems. To that end, she created opportunities for folks to be together, like her soup night—and then her ‘Hoppin’ John’ event on New Year’s Day when she provided the black-eyed pea dish for friends to have good luck throughout the year. Her Folklore class at Citrus College was a favorite, for there she gave students a chance to share some of their own stories and to hear those handed down over the many years. A good listener and good friend will be missed.”

Ms. Humphrey was predeceased by her brother, Michael Reid Tufts; her sister, Mary Frances “Kate” Foti; her parents, William Wirtz and Dorothy Tufts; and by her former husband Theodore ‘Ted” Humphrey and his mother, Jewel Lucille Humphrey. She is survived, in addition to her beloved West Highland Terrier “Brodie,” by her daughter Merritt and her fiancée Charles Verrill of Claremont; by her son Carter Humphrey and his wife Meg of Pomona; by her granddaughter Jocelyn Tuchon of Claremont; by her niece  Chanah Reid LeMere and her husband Pierre of Long Beach; by her brother-in-law and his wife, Michael and Billie Humphrey of Harrington, Delaware, and her former brother-in-law, Jim Foti of Long Beach, along with many dear friends.

A memorial service for Ms. Humphrey is planned for Saturday, November 1, 2014 at 2 p.m. at the Monte Vista Unitarian/Universalist Church, 9185 Monte Vista Ave., Montclair. Donations in memory of Lin may be made to Claremont Friends Meeting, 727 W. Harrison Ave., Claremont, CA 91711.
—Pat Yarborough

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