Howard Canaan (1942-2020)

Howard Lionel Canaan, 77, of Cold Spring, died April 1, following a heart attack.

Howard Canaan

Howard Canaan

He was born in 1942 in Forest Hills, Queens, to Dr. Robert and Evelyn (Blum) Canaan. He grew up in Fairlawn, New Jersey. After graduating from Middlebury College in 1964 with a degree in English literature, he earned his master’s degree and doctorate from Columbia University in 1965 and 1972.

Howard married Sibyl Heim on April 1, 1970, in New York City, where she was a student at Barnard, and they moved to North Woodstock, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where Howard taught English literature at Plymouth State College and learned to farm biodynamically.

After the birth of their first son, Nicholas, in 1979, Howard and Sibyl returned to New York and settled in Cold Spring, where their second son, Alexander, was born in 1983.

Howard was a distinguished professor of English Literature at Mercy College for 31 years. He served as president of the faculty association, as well as chair for Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society, and he was engaged in Mercy’s first online teaching. He received an honorary master’s degree in pedagogy from the college in 2002 and retired in 2012. His family said Howard was a quiet but effective leader whose ideas were valued and sought out by colleagues.

His family said he was known for his wit, as well as his plays, epic poems and Christmas newsletters. Despite living with diabetes for 56 years, he enjoyed a vigorous and full life. His hobbies included gardening, playing bridge, reading, and film; he was known to enjoy competitive games of Go, chess, and Monopoly.

He was a passionate baseball fan, rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers and later the Mets, and his tenacity for the underdog permeated all aspects of his life. In their retirement, Howard and Sibyl enjoyed a vacation home in Chinon, France, as well as fondly watching their grandchildrens’ upbringing stateside.

Howard is survived by his wife of 50 years, Sibyl, who resides at the family home, his sons, a brother, Harvey Canaan, and his grandchildren: Benjamin, Theodore, Annastasia and Margaret.

He will be laid to rest on April 6 in a private service at Cold Spring Cemetery. A memorial with family and friends will be held at a later date. Memorial donations may be made to the charity of your choice.

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