Lynn Naibert’s life forever changed the day of his freshman orientation at the University of Iowa. It was 1954, and the young, intellectually minded student was prepared for a rigorous course of academic study. What he wasn’t prepared for was what happened next: He spotted a young blonde woman in high heels leaving a building, and he learned her name, Penelope Prentiss. Six months later, the two married.
“They were the best couple,” said his daughter, Pamela Reeb. “She was like Hollywood to him.”
Lynn and Penelope were together for 60 years until her death in 2015, and their love story is one of many achievements in a life well-lived. A beloved teacher, father, mentor and friend, Naibert died on April 20 due to complications of COVID-19. He was 83.
After their wedding, Lynn and Penelope (or Penny, as she was known) lived for five years in Quonset huts designated for married couples on the school’s campus. Naibert’s daughters, Pamela and Beverly, were both born during that period.
“They were freezing in the wintertime and so hot in the summer,” Reeb recalled, “but my mom and dad had the best time there.”
In 1959, the young family moved to San Diego, where Naibert taught English and history at Lincoln High School. He became an advocate for the school’s Latino students, who later honored him for his tireless commitment to securing scholarships and admissions to colleges and universities.
In the late 1960s, Naibert became associate dean of student affairs and financial aid at UC-San Diego, but he soon returned to his passion for teaching at city schools and working in district counseling. He retired in 1996.
Naibert read deeply and vastly on all kinds of subjects. He subscribed to the New York Times Book Review, and he loved going to the corner market on Sundays to purchase the Los Angeles Times, his daughter said. He had a particular passion for books about the Middle East, and he enjoyed bocce, golf and growing roses.
He was also a spiritual person. In 1980, Naibert visited St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown San Diego after losing a friendly handball bet to the dean of its cathedral — and he loved it so much that he never left. He found kinship in Alcoholics Anonymous, where he was a mentor and sponsor and, for a time, a meeting leader at Donovan State Prison. He also cherished his time volunteering at the San Diego Czech House, a gathering place for people of Czech and Slovak heritage.
“He was just a really thoughtful person,” Reeb said. “He was very cerebral, he had a really great sense of humor, and he was really sweet.”
Later in life, Naibert was moved by the Buddhist teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Ever curious about the world, he visited Buddhist temples and relayed his learnings to his family. His daughter said he will live on through his favorite meditative mantra: “Breathe in, breathe out.”
Naibert is survived by his children, Beverly, Pamela, Paul and Jay, as well as his seven grandchildren.