Don Babcock had done his research, and decided the best place to get his doctorate degree in psychology was the University of Tubingen, in Germany.
The only problem was, he barely spoke any German. But he got a tutor and mastered the language well enough that he could deliver his doctoral dissertation in German.
To his family, that story tells a lot about Babcock, who lived about 55 years in Vineland. It captures his preparation — he found the right place for him, no matter where it was. It speaks to his work ethic, that he could learn a new language as he studied difficult material in a specialized field.
And it shows the willingness to take risks of a guy who spent his professional life in Vineland, but had a second home in the mountains of Quebec. And he didn’t let either a busy career or a beloved vacation spot stop him from traveling the world before he died last month, at 85.
“He went to Belize in his 80s,” says Ann Bender, 54, of Upper Township, the younger of Don and Myrna Babcock’s two daughters. “He was very adventurous, and so is my mother. ... They went squeezing through caves. canoeing on the Amazon, whitewater rafting in Mexico. ... They went to Russia, Turkey, rode a camel in Egypt. His last trip was the Panama Canal.”
Myrna joined him on his long adventure as a student in Germany, and she too learned the language. So did their older girl, now Lyn Murray, of Washington Towship, Burlington County. She was born in Germany in 1954 and spent her first 18 months there — and came home to New Jersey understanding only German, not English.
Don and Myrna went to the same high school in Passaic County, but didn’t get married until years later. Don spent part of World War II as a corpsman on a U.S. Navy hospital ship, then was a Marine Corps psychologist in the Korean War.
The family moved to Vineland, where Don was still in private practice until he died — Myrna says he was planning to finally retire when his health started failing a few months ago. But he was also a psychologist and administrator at the state’s Vineland Developmental Center from 1956 to 1984.
For most of those years, Bender remembers her dad getting home from the state job by 4:30 p.m., eating dinner, catching a nap and then working in his private practice from 6 to 11 p.m.
In his spare time, he loved playing the bagpipes — an instrument recommended to him by a doctor as therapy for a collapsed lung. For years, Don led the Armadale Bagpipe Band, which was based in Vineland and included his daughter, Lyn. They went all over the Philadelphia area and New Jersey to play.
Sure, he was busy with work and family. But Don Babcock never minded a little travel, or a little adventure.
Contact Martin DeAngelis: