Harry Paul Houff Jr.
October 20, 1939 – January 9, 2020
Harry Houff, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Tennessee at Martin (UTM), recently of Richmond, Virginia, passed away peacefully on January 9, 2020. His gentle manner and dry wit will be missed by all who knew him. Harry, a long-time resident of Martin, Tennessee, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1939. As a young child, Harry moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where he graduated from Cathedral High School. After graduation in 1958, he studied physics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where he earned a PhD. In 1969, he moved his young family – wife Alice, children Kathleen, David, and Joanne – to Martin. He was appointed chair of the newly-formed Geosciences and Physics Department at UT Martin where he was instrumental in the creation of the department and the hiring of its initial faculty. He chaired the department for many years and taught physics until his retirement in 2000. Harry and Alice made Martin their home. While at UTM, Harry pioneered science education programs for local high school science teachers, including summer water studies at Reelfoot Lake. Harry was active in the community and his church. He coached little league, was president of the Westview High School band boosters, and was an active member of the Kiwanis Club. Harry and Alice were founding members of St. Jude the Apostle Parish, the first and only Catholic Church in Weakley County. As St. Jude’s finance chairman, Harry worked tirelessly with others to raise funds to build St. Jude’s, now standing on Hannings Lane in Martin. Harry was an avid outdoorsman, camper, hiker, and traveler. His adventures took him to many national parks, including Yellowstone, Glacier, and Grand Teton National Parks, as well as countless state parks across the country. He took his family hiking on portions of the Appalachian Trail, down the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and numerous other trails. He and Alice enjoyed international travel, especially to Europe, where Harry’s fascination with the ancient world led them to Greece, Italy, Turkey, and beyond. Being outside was one of Harry’s greatest pleasures. Even in the last years of his life, when hiking was no longer possible, he enjoyed sitting on the patio with a cup of coffee in the morning, watching the birds and the deer. Harry was an avid reader. His bedside table often held four or five books he was actively reading. He could be seen reading everything from spy novels to ancient history to quantum physics. He enjoyed time with his friends, largely fellow professors at UTM. This fun-loving group, “The Science Club,” met regularly to share jokes and play poker. All who knew Harry knew that he was a man who appreciated the merits of a fine dirty martini, ideally with Beefeater Gin, a whiff of vermouth, and extra olives. During his travels, he often rated hotels by their ability to make a martini to his liking. After lugging a thermos of martini fixings into the Grand Canyon, he noted that watching the sunset with a drink in his hand was very civilized indeed. Harry and his wife took up golf later in life. On a whim in 1996, they built a small putting green in their back yard. Soon, they expanded that single green to a par-3 golf course that crisscrossed their property, which they dubbed Houff Hills. They mowed grass all morning, and then played a round in the evening. They enjoyed hosting their friends in the afternoons for informal gatherings and for an annual New Year’s Day Scramble. Houff Hills saw the celebration of Alice and Harry’s 50th wedding anniversary on July 4, 2013. Harry and Alice, along with family and friends, celebrated with dinner, drinks, and a round of golf. The family would like to thank the kind staff at Sunrise Memory Care in Midlothian, Virginia, for their kindness to Harry over the last six months. Thanks, too, to the kind assistants at Care Advantage health care. Special thanks go to Yvette Welch, whose kind, gentle manner was a gift to Harry’s family. Harry is preceded in death by his parents, Dorothy and Harry, and his brother John. He is survived by his wife Alice, his children Kathleen (Christopher), David (Martha), and Joanne (Alva), and his grandchildren Elizabeth, Ellen, Alexander, William, Dagyn, and Thomas. Funeral Mass will be held at Christ the King Catholic Church, 5884 Crittenden Ave., Indianapolis, Indiana, at 10 am on Friday, January 17, with visitation at Feeny-Hornak Keystone Mortuary (2126 East 71st St., Indianapolis, Indiana, 46220) on Thursday, January 16, from 5-8 pm. Internment will follow at Calvary Cemetery in Indianapolis. The family welcomes all friends and well-wishers to the funeral mass in Indianapolis but realizes that this trip is a distance from Martin and so may be difficult in the winter season. A remembrance service in Martin is planned for a later date. In lieu of flowers, a memorial gift is requested to the Harry P. Houff Scholarship Endowment Fund, at the University of Tennessee at Martin. Send gifts to Office of Development, 329 Administration Bldg., 554 University Street, Martin, TN 38238.
- Visitation Thursday, January 16, 2020
- Visitation Friday, January 17, 2020
- Funeral Mass Friday, January 17, 2020
Harry Paul Houff Jr.
J. Michael Schmitt
January 16, 2020
Harry was a neighborhood boy who was blessed with a wonderful sense of
humor and a brilliant mind. I remember growing up with all the kids from Christ the King Catholic parish and the many basketball games in the school
playground. Holiday seasons were always exciting with a visit from Harry and Alice and their young family to visit Uncle Dick Schmitt. Harry was convinced because of his PhD in Physics he had insider knowledge about the many pool tournaments in Dads basement as well as ping pong battles! Truly, he was very competitive!
My daughters Erin and Debbie will miss Dr. Harry and we all will pray for his
Soul. Rest In Peace old friend and say hello to Nannette for me in Heaven.
January 16, 2020
Judy and I were sad to hear of Harry’s death. I have a lot of fond memories since we were close friends during elementary school at Christ the King and high school at Cathedral, - and both of us got our Ph.D degrees in physics in the same year. Along with Johnny Hiatt, we often took bicycle excursions to what then seemed like distant places (Giest reservoir). In 6th grade Harry and I started and edited a class newspaper. Our fast-pitch softball team made it to the CYO championship in 8th grade with Harry at 2nd base, Johnny at 3rd base and me at shortstop or catcher. Part of my interest in physics was triggered by Harry’s interest, and- together with Neil Chloupek- another friend- built an aluminum rocket complete with combustion chamber and fuel. We were lucky and probably could have killed ourselves except we could never get it to ignite. Many, many poker games come to mind during high school, as well as hitch-hiking home from Cathedral together.
We lived in Wash DC for 37 years after completing the Ph.D in 1969, and worked at RAND Corporation most of that time. We moved to Charlottesville around 2007 where I am still on the faculty at the University of Virginia- Curry School of Education. Judy is retired from being a marriage and family therapist. We would have loved to come to the funeral, but commitments and some health concerns made it impossible. My brother Tom and Alma – who were good friends of Jackson – will be there. We would very much like to get together with you, Alice, (firstname.lastname@example.org). Our condolences and best wishes.
Dave and Judy
January 13, 2020
So sorry to hear about Harry. I have so wonderful memories of Harry and all the good times in the EPS Building. Harry was always easy to talk with and willing to help with an problems I had. Of course he was Gloria's boss and she thought very highly of him. Great memories of our families together. Will keep you in my prayers.
January 9, 2020