Luke Hallenbeck, professor, familiar Village figure


Luke Hallenbeck, a retired professor of physiology at New York University’s School of Education and a beloved Village resident for nearly 50 years, died at home of A.L.S., formerly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, on Tues. Sept. 2 at the age of 80.

A genial host known for giving parties in the rose garden of his home on Barrow St. for the benefit of the Washington Sq. Music Festival, he was a familiar presence on the block where he would sit on the stoop with his two dogs, a schnauzer and a Pekinese, chatting with neighbors and passersby. He was a longtime member of the Manhattan chapter of the American Rose Society.

“There’s such a void in the house — and on the block — now that he’s gone,” said Tom Pitcock, his housemate and partner for the past five years. “He used to ride around the neighborhood on what I used to call the horse cycle, a bicycle with a basket on the back and a toy horse’s head on the handlebars.”

Peggy Friedman, president of the Washington Sq. Music Festival, which sponsors free summertime concerts in Washington Sq. Park, recalled a colleague with “a great appetite for life” who loved music and loved the Village.

“He was a gourmet cook, a great dancer and he traveled everywhere,” she said. He was also a generous supporter of the Gay Men’s Chorus and a stalwart of the Barrow St. Block Association.

Born on Dec. 19, 1922, in Guthrie, Okla., to Robert Alexander and Ninon Rose Hallenbeck, he attended Oklahoma University where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He was quoted in a New York University magazine as saying that he developed an early interest in anatomy and spent hours during his boyhood in “cutting open a lot of dead things to see what was inside.”

He was also deeply religious and in the 1940s joined the Benedictine order, teaching biology at a high school affiliated with his abbey in California. Drawn increasingly to the teaching profession, he came to New York in the 1950s, earned a master’s degree in physiology from N.Y.U. and left the Benedictine order. He taught science courses in N.Y.U.’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and joined the Science Education faculty in 1978. For many years he directed the school’s anatomy and physiology lab. He retired from N.Y.U. in 1997.

The funeral was on Fri. Sept. 5 at Our Lady of Pompeii. Perazzo Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.s