Neil M. Palmer

Neil M. Palmer Neil Meredith Palmer, 83, of Moscow, ID, passed away Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009. He lived a full and meaningful life, even years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. His biographical and personal details both reveal a man who was fully present in and to the world. Even toward the end of his life, Alzheimer's could not erase Neil's mastery as a punster, nor could it take away his love of music. Music was his lifeblood to the end. His last days were marked by toes and fingers dancing to the music playing on the CD player. Neil was born Dec. 20, 1925 in Austin, MN, to Alice Jasper Robinson and Orrie Kenelm Palmer. He grew up in Lanesboro, MN, a place he loved all his life, though he moved away following high school, when he entered the Navy ROTC program. He attended the University of Texas – Austin until graduation in February 1946. Neil married his soulmate, Evelyn Chaudoin (Palmer) in Harlingen, TX, in 1946. With her at his side, he continued another of his passions: education. He earned his bachelor's in Naval Science and Tactics, and his B.A. in sociology in 1947, followed by a M.A. in sociology in August of 1948. In the fall of 1948 he began the doctoral program in sociology with a teaching assistantship at the University of Iowa, receiving his Ph.D. in 1954. His first teaching position was at The University of South Dakota. He later became chairman of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work. While in Vermillion, he served on the State Civil Rights Commission and was instrumental in organizing Indian Youth Conferences. He served as Democratic County Chairman for Clay County and was proud of his lifelong acquaintance with and early role in the political rise of George McGovern. He was hired in 1967 to chair the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work at the University of Toledo (Ohio). He taught there for 28 years and established the Opinion Research Institute (ORI). Neil was passionate about sociology and students – successfully teaching statistics to math-shy students, advocating for and exemplifying "positive affect" and "meaningful social participation," and creating a unique Likert-type scale called SCALPAL (for Palmer Scale). Countless graduate students employed SCALPAL in their master's theses. The instrument allowed complex social relationships to be understood by examining multiple dimensions in a single scale. The Palmers enjoyed opportunities to travel – his and Evelyn's adventures took them to the former Soviet Union, Germany, England, New Zealand, Mexico, and all 50 states, including several small cruises to Alaska. In September 1997, they moved to Moscow, ID to be closer to family. He was a lifelong avid bowler and golfer (with a certified hole-in-one) until he could no longer lift a bowling ball or swing a golf club. It is hard to "sum up" the life of one who is so notable for being a loving, diverse, and engaging human being. He loved the family he raised, taught thousands of students he saw potential in, and had a rich inner life he was true to as well. Neil was preceded in death by his parents; brothers, Lorimer and David; and first-born daughter, Cynthia. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Evelyn in Moscow, ID, daughters, Pamela Palmer of Moscow, ID and Susan Palmer and spouse, Kurt Othberg, of Walla Walla, WA; son-in-law, Mark Sinner of Moorhead, MN; sister, Patricia and spouse, Dick Wickett, of Iron Mountain, MN; sister-in-law, Phyllis Palmer of Minneapolis, MN; as well as grandchildren Scott McCormick and spouse, Caprice, of Wheeling, WV, Alina Othberg and spouse, Marco Pinheiro, of Seattle, Miranda Othberg of Seattle, Penny Tatmun and spouse, Torger, of Minneapolis, Jill Sinner of Fargo, MN, Erin Meredith Palmer and spouse, Julio Esteban, of Renton, WA, Seth Palmer Harris of Boulder, CO, Teva Hopper and spouse, Joseph, of Moscow, Clare Harris Palmer of Moorhead, MN, Brya Lamar Palmer of Moscow, ID. He is also survived by cherished nieces, nephews (particularly Mark Palmer of Monticello, MN), and great grandchildren.  Other loved ones include Tom and Aly Lamar of Moscow, ID, and fellow progressives, Mike Ferner and Sue Carter of Toledo, OH. At Neil's request, there will be no memorial service. In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to the University of Toledo Sociology Department, Gritman Medical Adult Day Health Care, or charity of your choice. Short's Funeral Chapel of Moscow has been entrusted with arrangements and online condolences can be left at

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