An Ashland author has turned to poetry to memorialize a friend killed in the Umpqua Community College mass shooting.
An Ashland author has turned to poetry to express her grief and memorialize a friend who was killed in the Umpqua Community College mass shooting Oct. 1.
Writer Kathy Dunn attended Southern Oregon University when it was called Southern Oregon College with Larry Levine, a writing professor at the community college who was among the nine people slain execution-style by Christopher Harper-Mercer, who then killed himself.
Dunn and Levine developed a friendship based on their love of writing and were boyfriend and girlfriend for a time, she said.
In recent years, they had lost touch. Then Dunn saw a photo of Levine, 67, in a newspaper, listing him as one of those killed on Oct. 1.
"It was pretty hard when I realized it was indeed him teaching the class and he was killed. It was a shock to see his face on the paper," she said.
Levine is survived by a sister living in California and an ex-wife in Oregon. He lived alone in a cabin along the North Umpqua River and was an avid fly fisherman.
Dunn, who taught at McLoughlin Middle School in Medford for 13 years, said she wanted to write a poem about Levine to work through her grief and let the world know more about him.
"I felt like someone needed to speak for him on a more personal level who knew him," Dunn said. "He didn't let a lot of people know him. I felt compelled to speak for him. So many other people who were killed had friends, parents and children who spoke for them very personally."
Her poem touches on Levine's love of the river:
Steady, thoughtful eyes
Focused beneath deep channels
Your roughened hands
Cast feathered flies into sunrise eddies
And crafted words of wisdom's wit
Dunn said Levine was one of the good people, teaching community college students of all ages who were searching for a better life in Roseburg, which has struggled economically since the decline of the timber industry. She said the students were lucky to have a professor like Levine, a brilliant man who had great passion and intensity.
She added, " I can't let his passing go without shedding more light on what a remarkable man he was."
Her poem closes on a hopeful, spiritual note.
If there is life after life
You will run with the steelhead
School the fish
Drink from eternal springs
As pristine as your poetry and prose
Rest not in peace
But in the sweet embrace of rivers
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.