Roy Lisker, a long-term resident of Middletown, died on February 28. Born in Philadelphia, PA, on September 24, 1938, Roy had lived in New York, Boston, Berkeley, St. Louis, Paris, San Juan, Toronto, and Boulder before relocating to Middletown in the mid-'90s. As a child, he was deemed a mathematical genius and started graduate studies in mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania at the age of 16. Over the years, he became a true Renaissance man, delving into literature, music, physics, politics, and art. He created novels, poetry, essays, music, and musical arrangements. He founded a newspaper in the 1970s entitled New Universe Weekly, using a typewriter, a photocopy machine, and the US Mail to distribute it to friends and eminent academic personalities. Later, he changed its title to Ferment Magazine, and published regularly for several decades, moving to an on-line format in the early 2000's.
In November 1965, along with five others, Roy burned his draft card at an anti-Vietnam-War demonstration in Union Square, New York. Although he was ineligible for the draft, he chose to make a statement about the war and the draft in this fashion, and he was later arrested and served six months at Allenwood Prison.
Roy was always ready for an intellectual adventure, as long as it was one of his own making. Prior to his illness, he lived life entirely on his own terms, every single day. In May 1977, demonstrating his playful and unique sense of humor, Roy staged a one-man celebration on the steps of New York's Museum of Natural History to commemorate the Big Bang Moment when the universe came into being. He provided balloons, buttons and flyers, recited poetry and sang, and offered 10 to the -14 seconds of silent prayer in recognition that the Big Bang supposedly lasted 10 to the -14 seconds. He participated in several Einstein celebrations, including two at Wesleyan, in 2005 and 2017, and several in Europe. One year he surprised people at Wesleyan by joining the faculty procession at graduation donning an Einstein wig.
Roy translated several works from French to English, including writings of the European mathematicians René Thom and Alexander Grothendieck. He sought out and found Grothendieck, who had become a recluse, in the Pyrenees in the early 1990s, and interviewed him for Ferment Magazine. Roy published several novels, essay collections, and books and CDs of poetry and short stories. Among his novels is a semi-autobiographical one called "Getting That Meal Ticket" that was published in French. (The title in French is "Je Suis Trop Intelligent, Moi".) He also published several articles in "Les Temps Modernes", Jean-Paul Sartre's magazine. Although he never earned a traditional PhD, in the 1980s through the 2000s, Roy referred to himself as Dr. Roy Lisker. The degree was granted by an organization he created called the Council of Autonomous Scholarly Support. Using this credential, he presented papers at several national and international scientific and mathematical conferences all over the world. The Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris hosted him on many occasions, providing him with an office and an apartment. He played violin on street corners all over Europe and the United States. Sometimes he would present listeners with an imaginative little calling card: one such card announced "I am an alien from another planet."
With the help of his publisher, Jacob Smullyan, Roy created an online blog that is still active, at https://www.fermentmagazine.org. There is also a Roy Lisker Archive at Olin Library at Wesleyan University.
Roy is survived by two sisters, Carol Kennedy and Lisa Lisker; a brother-in-law, Donald Kennedy; a niece, Susan Kennedy; and a nephew, Daniel Kennedy.
Services will be private and at the convenience of the family. Donations in Roy's memory can be made to St. Vincent de Paul Society of Middletown or the Russell Library in Middletown. To share memories or send condolences to the family, please visit www.doolittlefuneralservice.com.
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