Raymond Levenson was my sixth grade Art Teacher. At first, we were all hesitant to warm up to him because he was replacing our beloved Mr. Geiger in the post and I think the poor guy knew it as he quietly contemplated our displays of affection for our outgoing teacher.
Yet, in a rather comical reversal of fortune for our former Sub, we zoomed over to him one by one in cartoon like fashion on his first day.
I can even remember what drew me. Our mutual love for the music of Paul Simon or, as he jokingly referred to him as, the Giant Gonzalez Band. We were all heavy wrestling heads at the time and Wrestlemania IX at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada was coming up in a few days so our rather amusing fighting fever was on for the showdown between The Undertaker and The Giant Gonzales. Ah, old memories.
To this day, I still remember the things he taught us, from pottery and sketching to textiles and all the other Arts and Crafts we learned during his tenure at Robert Poole Middle School. I even still have the pencil sketch he did of me on Manila paper just before my twelfth birthday and the Georgia O’Keefe style pinch pots we made under his instruction. I got the sketch laminated after years of keeping it safe in a clear plastic produce bag while I was in high school. Click for a larger view of the picture.
The funny irony is, I’d been trying to find him online over the years to ask ‘official’ permission to use it and link to him if he had a site or something out of respect for the work he did and the patience, humor, and humanity he taught to us in class. It’s the sketch of me I use for most of my profiles. I always thought of it as amazing because, for a change, it reflected exactly how I looked with no bias or criticism. He even got my eyebrows right and, at the time, I was particularly sensitive about those given all the comments I’ve gotten for as long as I could remember from both friends and enemies.
I thanked him at the time but it was the thanks of a barely teenaged kid who hadn’t developed a full appreciation of just how good it was artistically. At the time, I just saw it as a good likeness after hearing his nasal complaints about my moving and fidgeting in the seat while he sketched.
After months of not searching, on a lark, I decided to try first Facebook and then Google to see if my luck might change. Well, it did but I don’t consider it a positive. I just found out a few minutes ago that he died a little under two months ago on 9 August 2009. People like him – with such a great wit and positive humor as the one I remember should live a heck of a lot longer. May he Rest in Peace.