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01 January 2021

In Memory of Thomas Emil Homerin 1955 - 2020


Obituary of Thomas Emil Homerin

Thomas Emil Homerin May 19, 1955 – December 26, 2020, after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. Beloved husband of Nora Walter, father of Luke (Kristin Rabb) and Elias, brother of John Homerin. Brother-in-law of John Walter (Sandra VandeKauter) and Steve Walter (Kristen), and uncle of Miles, Claire, Tom and Sam.

Tom was born in Pekin, Illinois to Floyd A Homerin and Miriam Jane Bond, both predeceased. Tom received his undergraduate degrees from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana. While at the University of Illinois, Tom became known by his middle name Emil, and met and fell in love with Nora. They married in 1977, and moved to Chicago. To maintain a happy marriage, Emil converted from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Chicago Cubs and spent many a happy afternoon at Wrigley Field, even though the Cubs usually lost. Living in Chicago was a very good time in their lives, with a circle of close friends, family and delightful colleagues.

Emil completed his PhD with honors at the University of Chicago as a specialist in Arabic Literature and Islam. His study of Arabic took Emil and Nora to Egypt three times, for a year each time. Luke was born in 1987 while Emil and Nora lived in Philadelphia, where Emil was an assistant professor at Temple University for two years. Emil, Nora and Luke moved to Rochester in 1989, where Emil was a professor of religion and sometimes department chair in the Department of Religion and Classics at the University of Rochester. Elias became part of the family in 1991, and in 1993 Emil and Nora bought a house in Irondequoit, where they spent many happy years until Emil’s death.

At UR Emil was known for his excellence in teaching, astute leadership in his department and a variety of University committees, mentorship of students and faculty, and for his collegiality and compassionate treatment of others. He taught courses on Islam, classical Arabic literature, mysticism, and comic books in religion. His class Speaking Stones used Mount Hope Cemetery to help students explore the history of funeral traditions as expressed in gravestones, and taught students the proper research methods which helped many of the students publish their class papers.

Emil was known in the larger Academy for his sensitive and lyrical translations of Arabic Sufi poetry, particularly the poetry of Umar Ibn al-Fārid and Aisha al-Ba’uniyya. Emil’s work on Ibn al-Fārid included exploration and research of Ibn al-Fārid’s tomb and shrine in the City of the Dead in Cairo, Egypt. It was Emil’s work in Cairo’s City of the Dead that led to his using Mount Hope Cemetery as a classroom for undergraduate research for his UR students.

Serendipity brought Emil and Matthew Brown of Eastman School of Music together. Emil, the expert on comic books, and Matthew, the expert on Debussy, met at a UR Celebration Of The Book. Their chance meeting led to Emil becoming a co-producer with Matthew Brown of TableTopOpera’s version of the operas Salome (2014) and Ariane and Blue-beard (2018) using chamber music and the comic book art of P. Craig Russell. And to Emil’s delight, he and Matthew collaborated with Joy Calico on an essay for Opera Quarterly (2015) about their production of Salome and later signed a contract with Indiana University Press for their new book ‘Ariane & Bluebeard: From Fairy Tale to Comic Book Opera.’

Emil was also a devoted family man, and a loving husband and father. He was rarely away on evenings or the weekend. Emil taught his boys how to write well. He encouraged Luke and Elias in all their pursuits, including Luke’s venture into pole vaulting, and Elias’s swim team success in high school and college. Luke and Elias’s friends were always welcome at our house - for play, for food, for overnights. Emil also encouraged and mentored his children’s friends as they made the transitions from high school to college to adulthood. And he was delighted when Kristin joined our family by marriage to Luke.

Through Emil’s work, the family spent a month in Peru during the summer of 1999, and 4 ½ months in Cairo, Egypt and Turkey in 2000. The boys learned a great deal about tolerance and respect for the traditions and religions of other people.

Emil and Nora gardened and cooked together, hiked and traveled together, and entertained many friends in their home and gardens. They had a beautiful life with each other for 45 years.

Emil was a good friend to many, a good neighbor, and a good man. We miss him greatly, and yet, life will go on.

In Emil’s words to those who knew him: Farewell and fare forward. We came from the stars, and as stardust to them we shall return.

A celebration of Emil’s life will be held at a later date, when COVID is no longer a heavy presence in our lives.

In lieu of flowers please donate in Emil’s honor to The Boys and Girls Club of Rochester NY, or to a compassionate and caring organization of your choice.

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