John Horlivy Remembered


John Charles Horlivy passed away peacefully from pancreatic cancer on October 17, 2010 at Hospice of the Foothills Compassionate Care Home in Grass Valley, CA at the age of 68.   He spent his final days under the intimate spiritual care of family and caregivers who brought love and honor to his passing.  

Born on December 17, 1941 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Frank and Margaret (nee Blankenheim), John was charismatic and intellectually curious.  He was Prom King and Student Council President at Don Bosco High (back when it was cool to be), received a B.A. in English at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX and M.A.s in English and Education at Marquette University and Cardinal Stritch College in Milwaukee, WI.

John shared his love of language as a teacher of English in Milwaukee for nearly 40 years at Don Bosco, Marquette High, University School of Milwaukee and Cardinal Stritch, bringing his unique teaching style and verve to generations of Milwaukee’s students.  His family has received an outpouring of “Mr. Horlivy” stories from former students sharing “ah-ha” moments of awakened intellectual curiosity and the discovery of language and literature, and of his offbeat style that occasionally saw him doing Aikido rolls in the classroom.  He raised two beloved daughters, Dorigen and Emily, while pursuing a series of idiosyncratic interests: repairing bicycles in his workshop, creating photographs in his darkroom, obtaining an advanced belt in Aikido, avidly following politics and jamming on his guitar and drums.

After retiring, John moved to the “Tree House” in Nevada City, CA, in the foothills of Tahoe National Forest, near his beloved sister Anne and her husband Bill.  He remained busy “rusticating” and writing about his favorite subject: English words: “I look for words that strike me as somehow curious, odd, or puzzling; more sophisticated than colloquial; and seemingly expressive of more meaning and nuance than I have thus far been able to attach to them.” With his hoard of over 200 dictionaries, John created the "Words Worth" blog:  

John is survived by his daughters Dorigen Horlivy of New York City and Emily Greenquist of Chicago; and sisters Anne Green of Nevada City, CA and Jane Heaven of San Rafael, CA.
There will be a small service for immediate family.  To remember John, and share memories, please visit  We ask that in lieu of flowers, you consider a donation to The Hospice of the Foothills: