Remarks from George Levenson's memorial service, Santa Cruz, CA, March 31, 2007.
My name's Dave L*****. I'm Vicki's older brother. And I'm George's brother. Technically, I am his brother-in-law. But George has been calling me his brother for some time, and I agree.
My wife Katja and I met George in Ann Arbor in 1967, or maybe 1968. Vicki was completing her undergraduate Psychology major, and George was a doctoral student in Political Science. He and Vicki had been dating for some time, and we had come up for the weekend. We went out to dinner together at a local bar and restaurant, and afterward they had dancing. Some of you have probably danced with George, and many of you have seen him dancing. You can imagine our impression, with George flailing about in his unique, uninhibited style. I decided then and there that we had a handful in our hands. And we all hit it off from the beginning.
In 1973 we visited George and Vicki in Toronto, where George had taken a job as Assistant Professor of Political Science at York University. They had bought a ramshackle house in the middle of the city, and George was busy learning carpentry, plumbing, and electricity to rebuild the building from scratch. Jacob Oliver was still in his mother's womb, and they asked me to paint a mural on and outside his bedroom walls.
My impression from talking with him is that George was a wonderful college teacher -- bright, articulate, funny, warm, knowledgeable, and socially conscious. However, he disliked the pretense, stuffiness, and competitiveness of academia, and after six years he gave it up. He and Vicki bought a van and they headed west for the New World.
Our paths crossed then each year when our parents, Vic and Doris L******, organized annual family reunions at our family home in Menominee, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula. My brothers Steve and Peter and their families would be there, and George and Vicki would fly in with their beautiful children, Abra, Rhys, and Jacob. The first question on everybody's mind each year was "Is George coming?" My son J**** has always said that these were the happiest times in his parents' lives. George brought such warmth and fun and was totally loved in our family. We would go around to the yard sales and thrifts shops in Menominee and acquire treasures. At midnight George would lead an expedition to go swimming naked in the frigid waters of Green Bay, though he was usually the only one to take off his suit. We would spend hours talking together in the front yard gazebo, and it was here that George learned to bake bread from my father.
These were not occasions without strain. My mother was a member of the D.A.R., and my father's mother was chairwoman of the Wisconsin state Republican party. Vicki and George, on the other hand, were at the forefront of the counter-culture revolution. They rejected marriage as an option; they were wary of traditional medicine. They home schooled their children. My father was convinced that Jacob would never learn to read or write. They had sold their house in Toronto for a good profit, and they didn't worry about paid employment for a number of years. George would have long philosophical talks with my Dad, and, despite vast differences in ideology, they grew to love and respect one another deeply.
In recent years I've taken to visiting George and Vicki in Santa Cruz on an annual basis. You know all about that, so I won't go into it. I did go this morning, though, to the Skyview Flea Market, and it brought back happy memories of the many visits that George and I had made there.
For at least the last ten years George also has been my most faithful e-mail correspondent. Whenever I've sent a message to family members, George inevitably has been the first to respond, usually within the next 5 to 10 minutes. I've often thought he must be on the computer 24 hours a day. I'd like to read a passage from an e-mail that George sent my on December 19th, probably a very difficult time for him. I had complained to him about my job and my thinking about retirement in the near future. George wrote to me:
It's kind of like looking into the contents of a dinosaur's
stomach -- filled with baffling and fascinating predigested roughage that is
both disgusting and interesting -- in the end probably irrelevant but still
I'm contemplating what to do next as well -- perhaps let another
distribution company handle the videos and receive semi-annual royalties
rather than keep it going as a small enterprise. I'm inclined to let it go
and create a nice fresh meadow to think on what is next. It's refreshing;
and as much as I enjoy sending out the materials and speaking with teachers,
it really is quite repetitive and makes me a little lazy. I'm not thinking
of retirement as much as refreshment. We should have enough money to get by
-- certainly more than we've had in the past when I've been at a similar
Yup, I got an email from J***. It will be good to see him and K***.
Abra arrives on Friday for a week, Jacob, Kazandra and August are going to
San Diego for a week (though there will be some overlap with Abra) and Rhys,
Tim and Oskar will be back and forth a few times. Vicki's in the Xmas
spirit with a lot less frenzy -- she loves the holiday and this year, she
will host an Xmas eve party for about 50. It's what she wants to do.
All is going well here. I'm moving ahead with my own course of study --
trusting my body will follow suit. Hope you get out on a few adventures over
the next few weeks ... Like maybe driving to NYC at the last minute ...
Love to Katja and you,
That's my brother...