Frederick Wilfrid “Poppa Wills” “Stinky Cheese Grandpa” Lancaster, 79, of Urbana, passed away on Sunday, August 25, 2013 in his home.
Wilf was born September 4, 1933, in Stanley, County Durham, England to Frederick and Mary (Blackburn) Lancaster.
Wilf was preceded in death by his parents Frederick and Mary, his three sisters, Alma, Freda and Cecilia, his son Michael and his grandson Alex. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Cesaria, his children Miriam, Owen, Jude, Aaron, Lakshmi and Raji, and his 13 grandchildren, Shane, Aaron, Rachael, Madeline, Joshua, Evan, Emma, Gabrielle, Ava, Mason, Emilia, Ravi and Francesca. Some of his happiest moments occurred in the last few years of his life, including when he celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary in the Outer Banks of North Carolina with his entire family. He also took great pleasure in spending time with his children and grandchildren, taking them to zoos and carousels throughout the world. His saddest moment also occurred near the end of his life, when he lost his grandson Alex in a tragic accident.
Like many people in this area, he was a long-suffering fan of a sports team, but unlike most, his team was the Newcastle United Football Club, which last won a league championship in 1927. He also enjoyed following tennis and boxing and sampling with friends his collection of liquor from around the world, with bottles too numerous to count.
Wilf graduated as an associate of the British Library Association from the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, England in 1955 and was named a Fellow of the Library Association of Great Britain in 1969. He began his professional career as a senior assistant at the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Public Libraries, the last closed access public library in the United Kingdom. He immigrated in 1959 to Akron, Ohio to become the Senior Librarian for Science and Technology at the Akron Public Library. It was in Akron where he met and married Maria Cesaria Volpe, in 1961. He worked as the technical librarian for the Babcock and Wilcox Company from 1960 until he returned to the U.K. in 1962 with his wife and young daughter to become a Senior Research Assistant at ASLIB in London. In 1964, he returned to the U.S., where he was integrally involved in the design and management of MEDLARS, the National Library of Medicine’s computerized bibliographic retrieval system for articles in academic journals in medicine and allied health professions. In 1970, he became an associate professor in the University of Illinois’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science and was named a full professor in 1972, a position he held until his retirement in 1992. He also was the editor of Library Trends, the academic journal of the GSLIS.
He was the author of 15 books, numerous of which were named book of the year by the American Society for Information Science or the American Library Association. He consulted on information storage and retrieval with organizations around the world as diverse as the Army Corp of Engineers, Standard Oil, UNESCO and the American Film Institute. He presented courses or guest lectures at more than 50 colleges and universities across the globe, from Brazil to Norway to China and was a keynote speaker or presenter at countless conferences. Thrice he was awarded Fulbright teaching fellowships (an honor usually awarded only twice), was named a University of Illinois University Scholar for the final three years of his professorial career and he was an early predictor of electronic media and storage systems, coining the term the “paperless society” in 1977. Visitation will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, August 30 at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Urbana with funeral mass to follow at 11:00 a.m. Interment will occur immediately thereafter at Clements Cemetery on Highcross Road, Urbana. Funeral lunch will follow at St. Patrick’s. In lieu of flowers, please make contributions to Save the Children or the World Wildlife Fund.
Husband, father, grandfather, author, mentor, educator, friend, curmudgeon. He will be missed.