Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Merle Levin: 1928 - 2009 (Eulogy)

Merle Levin: Aug. 21, 1928 - June 10, 2009

Rabbi Daniel Roberts (rabbi emeritus, Temple Emanu El in Orange, Ohio) gave the following eulogy for Merle Levin, a well-known figure on the Cleveland sports scene, at a celebration of Levin's life at Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center on June 16, 2009.

“What’s the Score?”

These were one of Merle Levin’s last words besides saying to his wife Dolly and his children, Judi, Nancy and Dennis that, "I love you.... What is the score?"

The score of what a person does with the years that are given to him to play the game of life. Isn’t it unbelievable that a man can lead a life so rich that it takes multiple scorecards to capture his essence?

Today we recite the statistical story of the man who was simply known by “Merle”, unless you knew him as “big Money” or "Merle the Pearl," or "Merle the Mench," as his friend Harlan Diamond called him.

His scorebook of life is so cramped with the numerical accomplishments of the lives he touched, of the quality of work he performed, and the way he made other people feel positive about him/herself.

Merle had a world class smile that went with his love of people that attracted others to him. He was a real smoozer and loved, as we heard, to talk with everyone. He always had a story to tell. His finger would go up, and you knew a yarn was to follow.

He was in love with the English language and he loved to write (often ghost writing for others). He compiled sports media guides for all the sports at CSU, and this was at a time when it was not digital. It was cut and paste.

Sports and Merle are synonymous thoughts. He loved all the sports, maybe soccer the best, but he loved the Indians, Browns, and Cavs, and more importantly the young people who played sports in college just for the love of sports.

Many were the young people who were given their 15 minutes of fame because Merle made them a story when there was really not a story there, but Merle saw the behind the scene story in these youth and convinced others to write about them. This is the sign of a true Mensch... thinking about others and promoting them.

Merle was a true professional through and through. He had many moments of glory, the sweet sixteen victory over Indiana, and he handled all the publicity, the ups and downs of victory and defeat in all the sports, and the coaches.

All of his fellow sports writers loved Merle. All of his co-workers loved and admired Merle.

Merle would absolutely love this celebration of life for Merle always loves a party, loved banquets (put them together with ease), loved to eat... pastrami and chocolate phosphate ... and he had an office where you could not sit down because papers were strewn all over the place, but he knew where everything was.

Of course, as we heard two of his most exciting moments in his life were when he was elected into the CSU Hall of fame in 1993 and the second was when, despite his disease that he fought against and would not let it get him down, he walked to the podium to accept his induction into the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame which his friends, Les Levine, and David Glasier kept from him until Merle had to write the bios of all the inductees. Merle literally gave his soul to CSU, and he loved it.

Now, be careful that you do not close the Media guide too quickly before reading all the fine print at the end, like Merle was a devoted and loving husband to Marilyn for 25 years. He was a devoted caretaker to her during the final stages of her cancer.

And then he met Dollie, as administrative and athletics clashed... but the two of them did not, except over the idea of getting married. Dollie kept refusing, but finally agreed that she would be married on July 4th, a legal holiday, for which she was sure that Merle could not pull off having a wedding. But while they were in Hilton Head (N.C.), Merle invited her to go to Savannah (Ga.) for dinner and a wedding. And do it was. He found a blind justice of the peace, and that was the beginning of 31 years of fun, and humor, and laughing, and rescuing cats and huskies... and Dollie’s involvement with Humane Society.

And read the section on Merle balancing sports with raising three children, Judi, Nancy and Dennis. He was always interested in who and what you were doing. He pushed you to learn. Every vacation was a learning vacation. He taught you to respect all people and, as you said Dennis, Dad taught you to be color blind -- remember the trips with the team.

Nancy, he tried to turn you into a Tom Boy---playing baseball in the back yard. All of you spoke about his creative side, the adorable postcards he sent to you...the football and baseball games attended with. David (Glasier) expressed your love, Judi, Nancy and Dennis, as well as his own, for your dad, and also the grandchildren’s, Shawn and Sage. The nieces and nephew all adored him.

Now turn to the last page of the guide and besides his infectious smile you will see the final words that he wrote to his Dolly:

Where once we strolled the boards along a bustling Savannah river, now I cannot stroll;

Where once we climbed a steep hill behind a hurrying pup to our castle at the peak, now, I cannot climb; nor is the puppy there

Where once we walked the banks of a river lazily curving through an arboretum, now, I cannot walk;

where once we strolled the fields bordering the great homes which graced our handsome community, now I cannot stride.

Always I knew you would be waiting for me at the end of the road, no matter how much I might have angered you during the course of the journey, because you were, indeed my world.

It has been a very long road and now I am not sure I have the strength to keep going.

Maybe he might have then gone on to identify with the following words:


When I die

If you need to weep

I'll be there

Walking the street beside you.

And when you need me

Put your arms around others

And give them what you need to give me

You can love me most by letting

Hands touch hands, and

Soul touch souls.

You can love me most by

Sharing your Simchas (joys) and

Multiplying your Mitzvot (good deeds)

You can love me most by

Letting me live in your eyes

And not on your mind.

And when you say Kaddish for me

Remember what our Torah teaches:

Love doesn't die,

People do.

So when all that's left of me is love,

Give me away.

So we say to Merle Levin, go in peace and we will give your smile, your love away to others for you have given us so much... and the Media Guide closes but the words will remain within our hearts.

This eulogy was originally published on ObitsOhio.com on June 16, 2009.

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