Ivins's Friends, Family Recall the Good Times
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Hundreds of friends, colleagues and fellow churchgoers who knew Bruce E. Ivins as a dedicated father, jokester and brilliant scientist -- not as the government's alleged anthrax terrorist -- paid their final respects yesterday in Frederick.
The packed sanctuary where Ivins had played keyboards and piano for decades filled with laughter as friends and relatives recalled stories of Ivins losing backyard soccer games to his children, juggling and singing, and playing practical jokes on his co-workers. Diane Ivins, his widow, chose the eulogists, Bible passages and hymns, according to the pastor and others. She has not spoken publicly since Bruce Ivins killed himself last week as federal agents were seeking an indictment accusing him of committing the 2001 anthrax attacks that left five people dead.
Unlike the private memorial days earlier, however, during which co-workers offered unmitigated praise, Ivins's pastor and brother yesterday seemed to acknowledge the overwhelming tide of revelations that had emerged about Ivins in the past week: The FBI had tied the anthrax spores used in the attacks to Ivins's lab; he had privately battled deep depression, drug and alcohol addictions, and he had an obsession with a sorority house, according to several accounts.
"Forgive whatever sins Bruce may have committed through human weakness and grant him a place of happiness, light and peace in the kingdom of your glory," prayed the Rev. Richard J. Murphy of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church. "We look at Bruce and his service to his church, a man who gave himself in service and in love . . . and we know that our God, who judges, judges with forgiveness."
Ivins's brother, C.W. Ivins, was more direct: "I'm glad your torment has ended," he said. He called his brother "a darn good father" who should be remembered for his hopes, dreams and all the good times.
In his message, Murphy drew a parallel between Bruce Ivins and the tragic period in the life of Job in the Bible. Job "had been a very prosperous man and experienced a change of fortune," Murphy said. He was being urged to "accept guilt and confess guilt for what was befalling him. But . . . in the height of his abandonment, he could still say these wondrous words: 'I know that my vindicator, my redeemer, lives.'
"Reflecting on that reading, I thought of Bruce and his faithfulness to his music ministry," Murphy said. "I believe Sunday after Sunday, he came and not only gave of his powers and abilities but sought strength and direction from his God," Murphy said.
Another eulogist, Jerry Andrick, spoke about a little-known aspect of Ivins's life, saying that it typified his warm and giving nature. Bruce and Diane Ivins had adopted their twins, Andy and Amanda, now 24. The Andricks were the twins' pre-foster parents, but the Ivinses had invited them to share in the children's birthdays and holidays for many years afterward.
Andrick said almost every get-together ended in a soccer match or football game in the Ivins's back yard.
"It was the Geezers versus the Whippersnappers," Andrick said, describing how he and Bruce never won a game against their kids.
Every Christmas dinner also ended with Andrick and Ivins sitting down to read all 365 comics in the year's Far Side desk calendar, Andrick's perennial gift to Ivins. "He loved the humor. We both did," Andrick said.
Both Andrick and C.W. Ivins described Bruce Ivins as a man who enjoyed sport and a hint of danger.
Both recounted how much he loved to shoot handguns, fire up his chain saw, even juggle knives.
Ivins had bested his brother in a combat shooting drill, had regularly driven to Andrick's home for target practice, and would jump at the chance to cut down his own trees or someone else's.
"My brother was many things to many people," C.W. Ivins said, weeping as he finished his eulogy. "I miss you. I love you as a brother loves a brother."