John Reid in the 1970s: the literature teacher had an acerbic wit and a ribald sense of humor

John Louden Reid, 73, died peacefully in his sleep at home in Berkeley, after a brief illness.

John was born to Linnie Louden and Robert Franklin Reid of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He spent his teenaged years running high school track and perfecting his skills as a prankster and handyman. He earned a B.A. in English from Northwestern University in Evanston, where he met his wife, Susan Smith.

The recipient of a prized Woodrow Wilson Scholarship, John entered the English doctoral program at UC Berkeley in 1960, where, as a graduate student instructor, his gift for guiding his students to literary insight blossomed into brilliance.

John Reid was known throughout the Bay Area as an extraordinary teacher of literature.  While he often lectured on the subject of his doctoral thesis, Eugene O’Neill, his greatest fame was as an “explainer” of the works of James Joyce, in particular the fiendishly difficult Finnegans Wake.

In the 1970s, he was a professor of English and American Literature at Reed College (Portland) and New College of California (San Francisco). Thereafter he taught dozens of courses at Holy Names College in Oakland, UC Berkeley Extension and the UC Center for Learning in Retirement.

By popular demand, a group of his Berkeley students created a private class to revel in John’s inspired interpretations of his personal list of literary gems. He taught this class at the home of the late Milly Rosner every Thursday night for nearly 30 years.

John will be deeply missed by his neighbors, students, friends and family, for whom he always had a smile, a quip, and a wave from the latest of his seemingly endless series of conver­tibles. When someone asked how he was holding up, John would likely respond, “I’ve not a complaint in the world.”

He was also an accomplished handyman and carpenter. His stunning lamps, assembled from driftwood he collected on the beaches of Mendocino, were sold by Sue Johnson and grace the homes of fortunate friends.

John Reid is survived by his son, Jason Reid, his brother, Robert Reid, his niece, Elaine Reid, and his nephew, David Franklin Reid, all of Los Angeles.

John also leaves behind an extraordinary circle of friends, fans and devoted students who delighted in his acerbic wit and ribald sense of humor.

There will be a catered memorial gathering on Sunday, April 29, from 1:00-4:00 pm, at “Padre,” a picnic site in Tilden Park, where a portion of his library will be available as a remembrance. Those who knew John are welcome to bring a libation and to share a toast, laughter, and stories about this singular man.

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