October 3, 2015 / 7:28 PM / 4 years ago

River ran through life of Oregon professor slain by student

GLIDE, Ore. (Reuters) - Lawrence Levine, the Oregon college professor slain by one of his students in a mass shooting, would often sit on the steep bank of the river below his house, contemplating the paradise he had found.

A note for one of the Umpqua Community College shooting victims is seen outside the college in Roseburg, Oregon, United States, October 3, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Friends and family gathered at the house on the river on Friday to mourn the avid fly fisherman, who at 67 was on the verge of combining two of his passions - nature and writing instruction - when he lost his life.

Levine was one of nine people shot to death on Thursday on the campus of Umpqua Community College in the former timber town of Roseburg, in the bloodiest U.S. mass shooting in the past two years.

The writing teacher lived in a two-story wood-frame home overlooking the North Umpqua River, a half-hour’s drive from Roseburg, about 180 miles (289 km) south of Portland.

Longtime friend and former English instructor, Cheryl Allen, described Levine as a “confirmed bachelor.” He could see the river flowing directly below his back porch, but Allen said he often carried a folding chair down to sit as its edge.

“Anything done on the river is done to be on the river,” he wrote in the Summer 2013 issue of the local fly fishing journal The Steamboater Whistle. “If a place makes you feel as if you’re in paradise, you are. Why wait.”

Levine wrote about his experiences for fly fishing magazines and had written more than one unpublished novel, Allen said.

Standing on his back porch gazing at a table-and-chair set, a pair of boots by the back door and rubber waders hanging from a nail, Allen said “He left all this thinking he’d be back the next day.”

There was no indication from authorities or college officials why the assailant, Christopher Harper-Mercer, 26, chose Levine’s class, or whether he held any particular grudge against Levine, who was just four days into the new semester with his students.

According to accounts of survivors, Levine was the first killed, shot at point-blank range when Harper-Mercer, a student in the class, stormed in.

Levine was teaching an introduction to expository writing, a mandatory course for students whose writing skills are deemed below college level. It was a class he was not particularly fond of teaching, according to Allen.

She said Levine was much more excited about an upcoming nature writing course he had developed himself and that he was supposed to begin teaching in the spring semester.

Reporting by Emily Flitter; Additional reporting by Grant Smith; Editing by Mary Milliken

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