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Famed Delaware historian Munroe dies

Posted Thursday, September 7, 2006
John A. Munroe was born in Wilmington in 1914. He died Wednesday.

Delaware lost its best-known native historian Wednesday with the death of John A. Munroe. He was 92.

He had fallen ill with heart trouble last month.

The fifth edition of his most popular book, "The History of Delaware," was published this summer. His 2004 book, "The Philadelawareans and Other Essays Relating to Delaware," detailed interstate ties and his personal life reflections.

Munroe, born in Wilmington in 1914, wrote on many topics, including the University of Delaware, where he attended college, became an instructor in 1942, served as history chair and had a building named for him.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Newark Methodist Church on Main Street, with a memorial to be held this fall at the University of Delaware, family members said.

His wife, Dorothy, said her husband, who had used a wheelchair in recent years, fell ill July 21 at their Cape Cod, Mass., summer home.

She took him to an emergency room and he later received temporary and permanent pacemakers. But Munroe, who had a lifelong blood disorder that kept him from Army service in World War II, had complications and transfusions.

He returned to his beloved state by medical transport a week ago Wednesday, staying at the Franciscan Nursing Home off Limestone Road near the couple's condo in Limestone Hills in the Mermaid area of Pike Creek. They moved there about 2 1/2 years ago after being longtime Newark residents.

Wednesday morning, his wife stopped at the nursing home after breakfast to remind him she would visit after lunch.

In a few minutes, she alerted a nurse that he was having problems. He died 10 minutes later.

"I'm just glad I could be there when he died," she said. "I hadn't planned to be. It's just a miracle that I was."

The Munroes were married 61 years. They met at UD in 1944. She was doing graduate work in chemistry. He was a history instructor. "My sister's husband-to-be turned up as his office-mate in Hullihen Hall," she said.

After earning his bachelor's and master's degrees at UD, Munroe earned his Ph.D. at University of Pennsylva-nia, but commuted from Newark.

UD, which published many of his books, named the history and anthropology building for Munroe in 1997. He retired in 1982 but was H. Rodney Sharp Professor Emeritus of History.

At the dedication, he was praised as "Delaware's foremost historian," a nationally known scholar honored for integrity, accuracy and research.

Despite failing health in recent years, his wife said, "he was always in good spirits and never complained."

He loved all things Delaware, his house on Cape Cod and sharing his love of history with their children -- J. Michael of Virginia, Stephen of Wisconsin and Carol of Boston. "He was so proud of all three of his children," his wife said, "and he was a wonderful father."

Contact robin brown at 324-2856 or rbrown@delawareonline.com.

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