Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Glen O. Reeser, RIP

My friend Glen passed away yesterday. Here is his obituary. I'm not ashamed to say I got teary-eyed reading it. This is the second friend I've lost to cancer, and it's never gets easy.

In May of 2013, he announced he had Stage Four lung cancer, and tumors in his head. After consideration and debate with his family (his sister had gone through a nightmarish treatment of cancer and died miserably), he opted for treatment. That was a good thing, as he gained an extra year and a half from it, and after treatment when he was feeling OK, he had good year. He went on trips with his wife to places they wanted to go, he got visits from his many friends and family, and visits from his "kids", international students he had hosted over the years.

I actually didn't know Glen all that well. Glen was always was a little restrained. Always had a little formality in his relationships with me (well, so I perceived). It may be because he was a little Scandinavian? (I'm reminded of the joke about the Norwegian husband who loved his wife so much he almost told her).  My grandfather was the same way. There was always, despite some informal events, always a distance in there. Not surprisingly, like my grandfather, I found out after the fact that he was extremely charitable and altruistic and helped out a lot people without their knowing. That's a very high bar for me to work at.

I transported Glen to and from chemo and radiation treatments when my schedule allowed. I also drove him to and from the bar on Thursday nights this spring and summer. (Harper College ceramics night class had a long tradition of after-class drinks and pizza on Thursday night).

I think as a thank you, he built a hot wire device for cutting shapes out of plastic foam. I've never used it, and didn't have the heart to tell him. I guess I'll have to use it. It's really slick.
Glen's Hot Wire Foam Cutter

Glen was a heavy smoker. Since I smoked for thirty-five years, I kind of have that sword of Damocles hanging over my head. Ah, but, probably no. Not in my family history, and they were all heavy smokers.

I recall a time last year when I helped Glen move some e-waste out of his basement for recycling. He was heavily into the chemo stage and had lost all his hair and weight and strength, and so I had to haul all this stuff on my own, which was fine with me. He told me he needed a break and went outdoors. When I hauled up a load to my car, I found him smoking a cigarette, and he looked a little guilty.

"Are you going to give me shit?" he asked.

I replied "You already got lung cancer. What more can happen?"

He was miserable enough as it was. Why try to quit?

I really didn't expect him to make it through last summer.

At the school, I only had to give him grief in a professional capacity once, as lab tech. He was making ceramic drums, and was using goat skin for the drum heads. The goat skins were stored in his locker and were really starting to stink up the place. And so I said to him "Dude! You got to do something about those rank goat skins!" He laughed and got them out.

Glen had a work shop in his basement that included a nice metal lathe. One time he brought in a remarkable little brass device, which he placed on a hot coffee mug, and it oscillated in a very charming way.

"Oh!" I said, "A Sterling Engine!"

He nodded and said nothing, but later I found out from the ceramics professor that he had said "Leave it to Kurman to be the only one to know it was a Sterling engine!"

I puffed up with pride, delighted to be absently complimented by such a smart guy.

And he was a smart guy. And a good guy.

I heard a cop story once about a man who's son was murdered, and he wanted to pray over the body. the cops told him not to do it, because his son's mangled body would be his last memory of him. That's not true. We choose the memory we wish.

So, the memory I have is from two weeks ago, when I went to visit Glen at his house. Glen , my former student aide Scotty, Glen's wife Martha, and Glen's sister Mary Jo all sat on the porch. It was a pleasant warm sunny afterrnoon. We had beers. We had laughs. We had good conversation. Even though he needed a walker, Glen was active, aware, engaged, funny.

Everyone enjoyed themselves, and that afternoon is where Glen will reside for me.


  1. It's going around. My last post was a RIP for a friend as well.