14 September 2011

Two Years Ago

Roger Walter Veinus died suddenly on 14 September 2009 after a long struggle with a multitude of health problems. Roger, born 3 July 1948, was the adopted son of Abraham and Julia Veinus. Although he lived for more than 40 years in Seattle, Roger always considered himself one of the “Boys from Syracuse.” He lived in Syracuse, New York, during his childhood and most of his adolescence, with a very significant year spent living abroad with his family in Italy. Roger moved to Seattle in the late 1960s to teach French at the University of Washington. During that time, which was also the era of the Vietnam War, Roger thought deeply about peace and compassion. He realized the only way he could live with self-integrity would be to become a conscientious objector to the war. Instead of joining the military, Roger provided  volunteer community service in a mental hospital in Seattle. The experiences he had there deepened his compassion and helped him to see all people as the unique, beautiful, and sometimes prickly characters we all are.

Certainly everyone who knew Roger was charmed first by his kindness, next by his humor, and then by his ability to appreciate all the music of life. Roger did love music. He sensed it in the swaying of trees in the wind, in the rhythm of a pen moving across paper, and especially in the beautiful and moving passages of his beloved Schubert and Beethoven works. He found deep solace in Beethoven’s Late Quartets, particularly the “Heiliger Dankgesang,” or Holy Song of Thanks, in opus 132. One reason that particular passage meant so much to Roger was that he himself personified gratitude, sometimes even to a fault.

Roger also loved poetry. He loved it, and he lived it. Though in recent years he hobbled more than he ran, he was always taking part in the dance of life. Many times he repeated the phrase from T. S. Eliot’s “Burnt Norton”: “Except for the point, the still point,/ There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.” The dance, being the interplay between people, holiness, gratitude, and exploration of the inner soul, was Roger’s life work. From another of his favorite poems is this stanza from Robert Frost’s “Two Tramps in Mud Time”:

“My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.”

Roger achieved that difficult object, and set a bright example of love, communication, and compassion for all who knew him.

Roger is survived by his brother, Peter, Peter’s family, and by the large corps of his friends who became his family as well. He was preceded in death by his mother, Julia, with whom he shared a particularly close relationship, and his father, Abraham. All of us will miss him tremendously.

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