We regret to inform you of the unexpected death of Dr. Donald Lance, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and for many years a supporting pillar of the society. This teacher and friend was much loved and will be sorely missed.
Don’s memorial service was well attended, with his sister, Emma Lou LaForge, and brothers Dempsey and Frank, arriving from Texas, along with the many nieces and nephews of whom he was so fond. Win Grace accompanied herself on the autoharp in singing a song of thanksgiving, and her mother, Professor Win Horner, shared reminiscences of Don’s life and career, as did Professor Gilbert Youmans. Many of us were struck by the number of people who had known Don for years as a dedicated member of a given organization, only to learn suddenly that he had been a crucial figure in some entirely different enterprise, the cherished colleague of people we’d never met before. Such was Don. Against his expressed wishes, but nonetheless appropriately, the story was told of how he once used his expertise in dialects to help the Columbia police identify the hometown of a total amnesiac. Don’s niece shared many of the messages that had arrived, from all over the world, expressing shock and sadness over our shared loss, and remembering the many quiet kindnesses Don has done. Don’s nephew closed with a moving prayer and recitation of the twenty-third psalm. Mourners then adjourned to graveside, where the VFW honored the Korean-war lieutenant with a twenty-one gun salute and the presentation of a flag to Don’s sister.
Here’s Don holding a sack of cotton picked with his partner (Carol Kersting of Macomb IL) to tie for 4th place in the cotton-pickin’ contest at the 1999 MFS meeting in Sikeston (6 lbs in 15 minutes). Photo by Jeanelle Ash, College of the Ozarks.
Don was one of the charter members of the re-activated Missouri Folklore Society, and for decades served us at various times as president, secretary, treasurer, editor of the annual Journal and the quarterly Newsletter. Don’s interests included dialects, place-names, phonetics — and language in general. A powerful service-ethic led him to lend his talents far outside his field, not only to folklore, but to the Trail of Tears Association. His publications include one of the standard works on dialect, Variation in North American English: Research and Teaching. Ed. A. Wayne Glowka and Donald M. Lance. New York: Modern Language Association, 1993. He was perhaps the only person who completely understood the vexed issue of how the final syllable of our fair state’s name is pronounced.
In addition to all the Society owes Don, the editor has a personal debt. Don was my teacher for two courses in linguistics, required classes which I first approached with resentment. It’s amazing what strong opinions we can have concerning things we know nothing about. Don’s intelligence, insight, learning and enthusiasm led me to see the beauty of a scientific approach to language, a view which, to my surprise, deepened my admiration and wonder for words and what we do with them. If I ever did anything worthwhile for my students of linguistics, they have Don to thank. I will always be glad that in my last face-to-face chat with him, I took the opportunity to express my thanks for his life- and career-changing example.
[Thanks to all for their] generous donations to the department’s memorial fund for Don Lance…[these contributions] ensure that this fund will provide co-sponsorship for MU’s annual Tamony Lecture on American Language for years to come. Thus, Don will be remembered each year when the Tamony lecturer is introduced.
In addition, this year, the memorial fund will help defray the travel expenses of one of Don’s former students, Xingzhong Li, who is presenting a paper at MU’s “Words and Music” conference, scheduled for March 14 & 15. Li’s paper is titled “Text-Music Interactions in Chinese Songs.” An abstract for Li’s paper, along with other information about the conference can be found at the conference web site: http://rcp.missouri.edu/wordsmusic/index.html
Thanks to everyone who contributed to the memorial fund for Don. The fund will help support exactly the kinds of events Don loved most.
Chair of English
University of Missouri-Columbia
Below is the obituary from the Columbia Daily Tribune:
Donald M. Lance, 71, of Columbia died Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2002, in Columbia.
Services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at Memorial Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70 W. Burial will be in Memorial Park Cemetery. Visitation will be from 12:30 p.m. to time of services Saturday at the funeral home.
Dr. Lance was born July 10, 1931, in Gainesville, Texas, to Calvin and Ola Miller Lance.
He graduated from high school in 1948 in Mission, Texas, and from Texas A&M University in 1952 with a bachelor’ s degree in English education. He received a master’ s degree in English and Spanish in 1962 and a doctorate in English language and linguistics in 1968 from the University of Texas-Austin.
He served in the Army as a first lieutenant during the Korean War.
He taught English and Spanish at high schools and colleges in Texas before coming to the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he had served since 1969 as a professor of linguistics.
He was a member of the American Dialect Society and served as regional secretary from 1976-82 and as chairman of the teaching committee from 1982-1991. He was a member of the Board of Managers with the American Name Society and a member of Missouri Folklore Society, where he served as president and secretary and on the board of directors. He also was a member of the Mid-America Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages and of the Trail of Tears Organization.
Survivors include a sister, Emma Lou LaForge of New Braunfels Texas; and two brothers, Dempsey Lance of Mission, Texas, and Frank Lance of Queen City, Texas.
He was preceded in death by his parents and a brother, Barney Ross Lance.
Memorials are suggested to the charity of the donor’s choice.
Reproduced by permission, with thanks to Jim Robertson.