Volume 73, Number 45 | March 10 -16, 2004

Obituary


Alex deJoia, 77, linguist, early V.I.D. club member

By Ed Gold

Alex deJoia, an active early member in Village Independent Democrats, an assistant professor at New York University and a linguistic specialist, died in London on Feb. 20 at the age of 77. The cause of death was cancer.

DeJoia, who lived in Greenwich Village in the 1950s and ’60s, balanced his political activities with intellectual pursuit.

He and his wife, Roberta — better known as Bobby — joined the fledging reform V.I.D. club in the late ’50s at the outset of an insurgent effort against the Tammany leader, Carmine DeSapio.

DeJoia became one of the club’s first campaign treasurers, served on its executive committee, joined other V.I.D.’ers in the March on Washington in 1963, and was unofficial maintenance supervisor at V.I.D.’s cluttered W. Fourth St. headquarters during the bitter primary battles against the old-line organization.

The deJoias became fast friends of several V.I.D. leaders of that day and maintained close relationships after he accepted a teaching position in England in the late ’60s. Perhaps closest to the deJoias were former V.I.D. president and Councilmember Carol Greitzer and Sarah Kovner, once state committeewoman and campaign manager at V.I.D., who later served in the Clinton administration as assistant to the secretary of Health and Human Services.

Greitzer and Kovner saw the deJoias frequently in England, and Greitzer recalls they spent much of their visits talking about shared Greenwich Village experiences. She also remembers that a relative of hers had studied linguistics with deJoia and was so impressed that she entered the field herself.

While living in the states, deJoia had received a bachelor’s degree at Hunter College where he graduated cum laude. At Columbia, he got his master’s degree in his career subject, linguistics.

At that time he was one of the few Americans who had mastered the Mongolian language, and did work for the U.S. government on that subject. He later would author an English-Mongolian dictionary.

DeJoia was born in Meadville, Penn., in 1926. He served in the U.S. Army between 1944 and 1946, then lived in France before coming to the Village where he began his teaching career. He taught French at the Allen Stevenson School in New York, then became an assistant professor at N.Y.U. where he taught English as a second language. He later became founding editor of a journal on the same subject.

The opportunity to teach linguistics took him to England where he and his family settled. He taught the subject into the ’90s at Hatfield Polytech.

Besides Roberta, his wife of 51 years, he is survived by a daughter, Amy, two grandsons and two sisters. A memorial service is planned for April 8 at Kenmore House, Hampstead, England.


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