George Livesay

Obituary of George Roger Livesay

George Roger Livesay died peacefully at home on August 1st, 2020, after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. He was a professor emeritus in Mathematics at Cornell University. Born on December 9, 1924, Roger grew up in Elgin, Illinois with his loving parents and two older sisters. Roger interrupted his studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to enlist in the Navy during World War II. After the war, he returned to Illinois and received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate in mathematics. While completing his studies, he took a position at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he met Beverly Howard in 1952. For him, it was love at first sight, but she took a little persuading. He soon won her over, and the two were steadfast in their devotion to each other for 68 years. Together they built a rich, full life, moving to Ithaca in 1956 so Roger could take a position at Cornell. As their family grew, they designed and built the house they would call home for the rest of his life. Roger excelled at building things, and he wired the house and built several pieces of furniture the family still enjoys using. He loved teaching and research, especially in topology, and enjoyed working with his colleagues. Years after he retired, he had students contacting him to express what a difference his teaching had made for them. When he wasn’t engaged in mathematical pursuits, supporting his wife in her career, and caring for his growing family, Roger had a number of other passions. There was his lifelong devotion to tennis that led him to build a clay court in the yard where he spent many weekend hours playing other local tennis notables, including his good friend and former Cornell tennis coach, Eddie Moylan. Roger worked as an assistant tennis and squash coach as well as math professor when he first came to Cornell. He played in regional tournaments and qualified for the US Clay Court Nationals, where he had the misfortune to draw Rod Laver in the first round, but proved himself a very able adversary in defeat. There was his love of nature and landscape photography, which led him out regularly into the wild spaces around the Finger Lakes and occasionally across the country to the national parks, and then into his darkroom in search of the perfect prints of those images. There was his love of music, which led him to teach himself to play the violin and to build his own speakers when nothing less could give him full enjoyment of the classical recordings he loved to listen to after the kids were in bed. He also enjoyed simple pleasures: gardening, following the Yankees, playing catch or a board game with his kids, eating a good brownie sundae, or laughing at cartoons with his grandson. Many and happy are the memories he leaves behind. Roger is survived (and dearly missed) by his wife Beverly, his sister Elizabeth Ann Sutton, brother-in-law DeLos DeTar, children Jonathan, Christopher (Mary), David (Linda), Jennifer (Ken) and Elizabeth; grandchildren Seth (Brenda), Alex (Bradley), Barret, Charlotte, Gwen and Vivian Livesay, and Madeleine, Eleanor and Owen Glahn; great-grandsons Aedan and Henry Livesay, and many nieces, nephews and cousins, as well as by his friend David and caregivers Zakkiyyah, Jewia, Linette, Mishi, Haakon, and many others. He was preceded in death by his parents, George Monroe and Jennie Marie Smith Livesay, his sister Frances Patty DeTar and his brother-in-law Myron Sutton. A celebration of his life will be held on Sunday, August 1st at 3:00 pm at the Tutelo Park pavilion on Bostwick Rd. Contributions may be made in his memory to The Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), the Southern Poverty Law Center, or the Sierra Club; or to Hospicare, for whose services the family is very grateful.
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