Dr. H.R. Stoneback, 80, died Wednesday, December 22 at his home in Highland, N Y. A Distinguished Professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, he was a beloved teacher, prolific writer, and accomplished musician. Born in Philadelphia on July 14, 1941, “Stoney” was preceded in death by his wife, Jane Arden Stoneback, who Stoney affectionately called “Sparrow,” a daughter, Mary Renee Neikirk, and his close brother, Dave Stoneback. He is survived by sons Rick (Robin) Neikirk and Dr. Gregg (Nancy) Neikirk; four grandchildren: Lee Neikirk, Adam Neikirk, Richard Neikirk, and Rachel Neikirk. He also leaves a sister, Carolyn Heiser; a beloved sister-in-law, Joyce (Dave) Stoneback; and several nephews and nieces, grand-nephews and a grand-niece. A Marine veteran, he earned degrees from Rutgers University, the University of Hawaii/Manoa, and Vanderbilt University (PhD 1970).
As a popular professor of Hemingway and Modernism at SUNY New Paltz for over 50 years, Professor Stoneback had a large and vibrant following of students—he called these graduate students his “posse”—and many went on to receive their PhD’s. Stoney mentored hundreds of students over his long teaching career, and his accomplishments as a university professor are long and widely varied. He was a Fulbright Scholar guest lecturer in various locations, including China, Paris, and southern France. He published over 100 academic essays and books during his tenure, including a seminal text on Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Professor Stoneback was as active a teacher outside the classroom as he was within: he served as president of The Hemingway Society for several years, and was director of international conferences including a recent one at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. He was a founder, director, and member of a number of other literary societies during his academic life, including the Elizabeth Madox Roberts Society, where he served as founder and Honorary President.
Stoney was also a prolific and active poet, and an extensive world traveler: he has published 10 books of poetry, many of which were generated by his frequent visits to distant lands and cultures, including China, all parts of Europe, the Middle East—in fact Stoney’s long list of locations stamped in his passport even include two trips to Antarctica. Images and impressions from traditions and far-away lands he visited appear in and between the lines of his books of poetry.
Stoney was also an accomplished musician. He and Sparrow had a very active career as a folk and country singing duo. “Stoney and Sparrow” played all over the United States, and they have the distinction of having the first English language album to sell over 1 million copies in China. Stoney and Sparrow lived in Nashville during his years as a PhD student at Vanderbilt, and they were very active in the Nashville music scene. Stoney often included original song performances at the poetry readings he gave across the country.
Funeral services for Dr. Stoneback will be held at the Michael Torsone Memorial Funeral Home Inc., 38 Main St. Highland, NY at 10 a.m., Tuesday, December 28. Per NYS mandate, everyone attending will be required to wear a face mask regardless of vaccination status. Following the visitation, a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 12:30pm, at the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Port Ewen, New York, presided over by Fr. Peter Vianney. Pall bearers are Joseph Curra, Brad McDuffie, Gregory Bruno, Peter Camilleri, Nathan Lee, Christopher Paolini, Dennis Doherty, and Alex Pennisi. Honorary pall bearers include his colleagues at the SUNY New Paltz English Department, and members of the Elizabeth Madox Roberts Society. Donations should be made to The Hemingway Society.