Michael Mathias Homan, a theologian, archaeologist and author with wide-ranging interests including gourmet cooking, punk rock, blogging, the Krewe du Vieux and all things Elvis Presley, died Thursday of cirrhosis at Ochsner Medical Center, his wife Therese said Fitzpatrick. He was 56.
Homan, who had a tattoo of Presley on his right shoulder, conducted archaeological research in the Middle East and was head of the theology department at Xavier University. His books included The Bible for Dummies (he co-authored) and Grendel Gander The Sinister Goose: The Fowl Fable of a Low-Down Stinking Bird.
“He was a man of boundless energy and curiosity and a great sense of humor,” said his friend Peter Athas. “On the surface he was very tough and gruff, but he was an incredibly sweet person.”
Fitzpatrick said her husband shows his humor in the kitchen when preparing maqluba because the Palestinian dish of meat, rice and roasted vegetables is served upside down.
“He thought humor was the bottom line,” she said.
Homan is from Omaha, Nebraska and has lived in New Orleans since 2001. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a master’s and doctorate from the University of California, San Diego, where he focused on the Hebrew Bible and Near Eastern archeology and ancient Near Eastern history and religion. Among other things, he taught Xavier one about cemeteries in New Orleans.
Homan was area leader on archaeological expeditions in Jordan and Israel before moving to New Orleans. As a Fulbright Fellow, he conducted research at the Cyprus American Archeology Research Institute in Nicosia.
His book To Your Tents, Israel! The Terminology, Function, Form and Symbolism of Tents in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East” received the Frank Moore Cross Publications Award from the American Schools of Oriental Research. The Southwest Commission on Religious Studies presented Homan with the 2010-11 Junior Scholar Award.
In addition to his academic pursuits, Homan played guitar and sang in punk bands — No Heroes in Omaha and Half Pagan in New Orleans — and he was an avid participant in the Seeds of Decline, a sub-group of the Krewe du Vieux, Athas said, adding, ” He was a very flamboyant man.”
Homan and his family lived in Mid-City. When Hurricane Katrina threatened in August 2005, his wife and children left town, but he weathered the storm with his dogs and moved to the second floor of the windswept building when the lower floor took in four feet of water.
He had blogged for a long time, but his communiqués were harrowing as he described life after the storm, how he swam to his Xavier office and eventually set off with his pets and an assortment of strangers on a random odyssey that ended when he found his wife and she met children in Jackson, Mississippi. They drove to Omaha until they could return after Christmas to live in a FEMA trailer.
“I survived Hurricane Katrina, but it changed me,” he wrote on September 6, 2005, eight days after the storm. “I feel more loved than I did a week ago and I really appreciate all the friends and family and even strangers who have both helped me directly and reached out to say they are concerned and thinking of me and my family . The world clearly has a lot of empathy and compassion left.”
RUSTY COSTANZA/THE TIMES-PICAYUNE Memorial Flags are unfurled on the grounds of the Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home and Cemeteries in New Orle…
Homan died on the third anniversary of the death of his son, Gilgamesh Atticus Alexander Homan, who was fatally injured in a skateboarding accident at the age of 18.
In addition to Fitzpatrick, survivors include a daughter, Kalypso, of Oakland, California.
On Saturday at 11 a.m. there will be a service in the Katharine Drexel Chapel on the Xavier Campus. The visit starts at 10 am