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Published: Tuesday, 2/11/2014

Harry W. Hoemann [1932-2013]; BGSU professor a leader for deaf

Hoemann Hoemann

BOWLING GREEN — Harry W. Hoemann, 82, a development psychologist and professor at Bowling Green State University who became a leading educator in American Sign Language, especially to those with hearing, died Saturday in Bowing Green Manor.

He had atrial fibrillation and Parkinson’s disease, his wife, Shirley, said.

Mr. Hoemann retired in 2000 from BGSU as a psychology professor emeritus.

He wrote several texts, including Introduction to American Sign Language, and created videos and other aids. He and his wife, an illustrator, created flash cards in American Sign Language, and in the mid-1970s taught sign language to a computer with a plasma screen to study the language’s structure.

“He wanted to help prove that sign language is a language, not just pidgin something,” his wife said. “When he started here, sign language was almost a forbidden language. No school would teach it. They were insisting on lip reading.”

His American Sign Language courses drew dozens each term. His scholarship focused on communication skills in deaf children.

“He made unique contributions. He had not only the theoretical, but the practical — teaching sign language — as well,” said Michael Doherty, a professor of psychology emeritus. “What Harry did mattered in people’s lives.”

Born Jan. 10, 1932, in Port Hudson, Mo., he grew up in Washington, Mo., and was a graduate of St. Paul’s Academy in Concordia.

He was drawn to the Lutheran ministry and received bachelor of arts and bachelor of divinity degrees from Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis. While a seminary student, he took sign language courses. He later served deaf congregations in Pittsburgh and Washington.

He had a master’s degree in deaf education from Gallaudet University in Washington and a master’s and doctorate in developmental psychology from Catholic University in Washington. He was hired by BGSU in 1969. He’d been on the board of the Sign Instructors’ Guidance Network.

Surviving are his wife, Shirley, whom he married in 1956; daughters, Katherine Marsh and Caroline Hoemann; son, Michael, and five grandchildren.

Visitation is 5-8 p.m. today and services are at 11 a.m. Thursday in the Dunn Funeral Home, Bowling Green. The family suggests tributes to the Wood County Humane Society.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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