Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Mike Levine 1952-2007

"Savor each breath and blessing. Remember the time you laughed so hard, jumped so high, held so tight. Remember the hour when you watched the scarlet sky fold to night. Remember the holy moment you touched the tiny fingers of birth."

Mike Levine

The people of Counties Orange, Ulster, Sullivan - and all points here and there - are reeling this morning. With the sudden passing over the weekend of the great journalist, Mike Levine, we've lost what can only be described as a regional treasure. When I first got the news early Monday morning, I experienced the same feeling in my gut that any of us would get when we receive the dreaded news that an old and cherished friend has left our world unexpectedly. It took me a minute or two to take it all in.
Mike was a guy, raised in the Inwood section of New York City, who relocated to our area (roughly an hour or so north of Manhattan) in the early 1980s to become a reporter and columnist for our paper, the Middletown, NY Times Herald-Record - the same paper where the legendary Hunter S. Thompson launched his career back in 1959. For a quarter of a century he was the voice of the people of Orange County. He was the man who championed the poor and dispossessed. He was a writer's writer, who lived by the axiom of every journalist worth his or her weight in ink, going all the way back to Upton Sinclair one-hundred years ago: to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
"When there are big shots to chop down with a wise crack, I don't blink. That's part of my job. I know I don't have a corner on the truth. But when I find I've swung the ax at those without power, I want to find another line of work. Because the part of my job I love best is to tell your stories. I want to tell them with the dignity and respect they deserve."
When I first started reading him so many years ago, on first sight I naturally came to the conclusion that he was a nationally syndicated columnist - he was that good! Then I realized that he was writing for my local newspaper, writing about people who I knew personally and issues that directly affected me! I remember saying to someone at the time, "You mean to tell me that this guy actually walks amongst us???" I first met him in the early eighties on the corner of East Main and North Streets in Middletown. Forever after, the few times I had the good fortune to encounter him, I used to walk on air that he would remember my name - I admired the man that much.
Yes, I knew Mike Levine personally - but that's really no big claim to fame - most of the population of Orange County knew Mike Levine personally. He was everyone's close, personal friend. His column was an oasis of wisdom, humor and good old-fashioned journalistic muckraking, in the best sense of that word. As Record reporter, Chris McKenna said in tribute yesterday, "Everyone who ever worked for Mike knows he was a relentless champion of journalism with heart. How sad that it was his own heart that failed him."
"Making homemade soup for a disabled and lonely neighbor. Concern about a stranger driving home safely. Returning a blank, signed check to its worried owner....In the end, these small and private acts of decency may save our world."
He was the heart and soul of the Hudson Valley. He gave us an articulate, compassionate voice that would otherwise have been drowned out by the forces of darkness and despair. That he no longer walks in our midst is too sad to even contemplate. We can only thank God that he was with us for the time he was, short as that time might have been. The planet Earth is a little more habitable because, for almost fifty-five years, Mike Levine called this place home.
Pray for peace.
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
"That we are part of one another - laughing, loving, losing each other in the endless universe of fire and ice and darkness and finding each other again, a union of souls and stardust. The wonder is not that we die, but that we ever were."
To read more of the archival writings of this great and good man, please click on: http://www.recordonline.com/

For more recent postings on this site please go here:

"The Rant" by Tom Degan


At 8:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Tom, Sorry you lost your friend and sorry the country lost such a fine journalist.
It seems such qualities are becoming rarer these days.

At 8:14 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Amen, sister Wilma! Amen. There'll never be another Mike Levine.

Tom Degan

At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


my sympathies for your loss of Mike Levine

Dr. Rick Lippin

At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for this loss also. May you take comfort in the thought that your kind and true words about him must be felt and appreciated by his spirit, as I believe so.

At 10:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,

There is always a void and deep sense of loss when someone influential and loved dies. My sympathy and thoughts are with you. It seems that he did mentor you well.

At 12:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, it sadden my heart that you have lost someone so dear to your heart. Heroes are hard to come by these days and each one we lose lessens the potentancy of each one that is left. Keep up your good work in being one of those truth tellers in my book.

At 2:37 AM, Blogger larkrise said...

Tom, what a wonderful tribute you have written for your local hero. I am sorry for your loss. His words and actions were those of a good man. That goodness and decency will live on in the hearts of those he touched. May his acts of kindness and words of wisdom continue to spread outward like ripples in a pond and teach all of us about a life well-lived.

At 4:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are so many good people worth hearing about who I've never heard of but I'm glad I encountered one of the ripples, through your blog, concerning this wise man.

At 11:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Tom, thanks for the link showing more about your friend. Very interesting.

At 3:41 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Your more than welcome, Wilma. Mike Levine's writing should be taught in every journalism school in the country. He was so unique. Everyone in this part of the country is going to miss him terribly. He could have been world famous had he chosen to go that path. In fact, he went to work in New York City a couple of years ago. But he loved the Hudson Valley and its people so much he had to return. He was one of us.
Tom Degan


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