Norman Taylor Harrington II, a former English professor at Brooklyn College, died of cancer last Thursday at home in Manhattan. He was 86 and had been ill for 18 months.
A part-time resident of Amagansett, he loved Fresh Pond, Louse Point, reading in the Amagansett Library, visiting the proprietor of Amagansett Hardware, having clams at Gosman’s Dock in Montauk, and conferring with his favorite plumber, Phil Gamble, his family said.
His Amagansett house, which he bought with his wife, Delphi Irene Nikopoulos, in 1972, was his labor of love. As late as last August, while already suffering from cancer, he worked at reshingling the roof — his favorite perch — and tended his garden and his cherry trees.
Mr. Harrington was an assistant professor in the English department at Northwestern University in 1958 and 1959, and it was there he first saw his future wife, who was a student and budding actress. After they became engaged, he followed her to New York, where she pursued her acting career and he taught from 1960 to 2000 in the English department at Brooklyn College. He eventually became a professor emeritus there. The couple were married on June 26, 1960.
A Medieval and Renaissance scholar, he specialized in Chaucer, and retraced Chaucer’s pilgrimage to Canterbury, as recounted in “The Canterbury Tales,” by bicycle in his 60s.
He was born in Denver on May 6, 1926, the son of Norman Spencer Harrington and the former Helen Romaine McIntyre, and grew up around Cleveland and Milwaukee.
Mr. Harrington was a 12th-generation American, with an ancestor who arrived in Massachusetts in 1642. In 1944 and 1945, he served in the Navy and was stationed in California.
In 1948, Mr. Harrington received a bachelor’s degree from Hobart College, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In 1960, he was awarded a doctorate from Harvard.
He was a keen student of French, having studied the language at the Sorbonne in Paris and at the University of Grenoble from 1948 to 1950. In the spring of 1949, he worked on a farm in the Dordogne, and then made puppets for a Paris puppeteer who was using puppet theater to promote the Marshall Plan to the French.
Mr. Harrington was a “voracious and ambitious reader,” his family said, an amateur painter who studied at the Art Students League in New York City, and a lover of music and theater. Until recently he played tennis, maintaining an “elegant serve,” and was a runner.
He was also an accomplished cook who loved nothing better than gathering with his family and a wide circle of friends over wine and a good dinner.
“He was besotted with his family; his three children were everything to him,” his wife said. Besides Ms. Nikopolous, of Manhattan and Amagansett, Mr. Harrington is survived by his children, Spencer, Alexander, and Persephone Harrington, all of New York City, and by five grandchildren. A sibling, Romaine Wasserman of Troy, N.Y., also survives.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on April 13 at West End Collegiate Church in New York City.