Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Professor remembered for wittiness, sense of humor

May 24, 2001

Although Paul Somers’ life came to a sudden halt, those who knew the American Thought and Language professor best say there is a lot to remember, admire and even laugh about.

“He could always find a way to make things less serious,” said Douglas Noverr, chairman of the Department of American Thought and Language. “Professors tend to be serious by nature. He always had this way to introduce something in a funny or witty way that made you take another look at things. Things were never as bad as we seemed to think.”

As a writer, Somers contributed humorous pieces to magazines like National Lampoon and Playboy. He also has been published in Harper’s and is listed in “Who’s Who in Midwestern Literature.”

Somers, 58, died Sunday of a dissecting aortic aneurysm - an undetectable weakened area of the heart that suddenly prevented blood flow through the organ.

He had worked with the American Thought and Language department since 1967, when he moved to East Lansing.

“He was kind of eternally youthful,” Noverr said. “Everybody thought of him in that way. He had a very young outlook. He understood how freshman students thought and how they thought at age 18.”

Somers’ wife, Maribeth, said she was lucky to have 37 years with him, even if it ended before she expected it to.

“He made me laugh every day,” she said. “I remember looking at this study about laughing, saying if you laughed five times a day you would live longer. He would say, ‘Five times? We do that before we get up in the morning.’

“We were best friends. It was us against the world.”

The Somers’ children, Keith and Sarah, returned from their homes outside Michigan to remember their father and prepare for his Friday funeral.

The Somers’ first grandchild, who was born May 13, is meeting many family members for the first time.

“You have to laugh,” Sarah Somers said. “Otherwise, you’ll just lose it. My father would be the first one to make the most ridiculous jokes.”

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