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Eulogy for A Lover of Language

June 27, 2012

Dr. Steven C. Scheer in 2010. Photo by Catherine Osborne.

Shall I Speak At This, Old Friend?

“My Old Friend,” Steven, was a retired professor of English who taught collegiate-level classes for many years. Steven was born in Hungary.  He immigrated to the United States in 1956, completed his Doctorate at Johns Hopkins University, and eventually wound up retiring from teaching at the seminary in St. Meinrad, Indiana.  He adored language in and of itself for its richness and diversity, and never failed to take advantage of an opportunity to share his accumulated wisdom concerning it.  To say he was passionate about language would be a monumental understatement.

In addition to educating generations of young minds about the intricacies of the written word, Steven wrote.  He wrote essays and analyses, some of which he was invited to present to gatherings of learned professionals.  He started a copywriting business, and several blogs. His first self-published book, “Hollywood Values,” interpreted the language of motion pictures.  He loved movies, and just as lovingly dissected their characters, romance and drama.

Steven yearned to write an autobiography, but could not muster the internal fortitude to bare himself to the world. Instead, he put together a collection of his romantic short fictional stories (“The Heart Ages, But It Doesn’t Grow Old”) and at its end, inserted a section entitled “Personal: Two Days from My Life” wherein he related several milestones of his life.

He was a founding member of the Midwest Writers Guild of Evansville, which is where I met him. My first impression of Steven C. Scheer, PhD., was that of a somewhat slim version of Santa Claus. His rosy plump cheeks were framed in by silvery white beard and hair. His eyes had a twinkle that was both deep and lively.  The Hungarian accent didn’t hurt the impression one bit.  Overall, he seemed jovial, gregarious, and went out of his way to make me feel welcome.

Those of us who came to know him would often smile – nay, blush, at his seeming obsession with women, particularly those he described as ‘Callipigic’ (Venus-like in appearance) in enthusiastic terms, yet his true ardor was reserved for the language of the Bard himself – William Shakespeare.

Steven fought many battles in his later years, from cancer, to bouts of alcoholism, to impoverishment.  And while those struggles were largely not of his choosing, he did, on a Friday in the Merry Month of May, make his own decision to cast off his mortal constraints, to seek and embrace more comely spheres of existence that poets but dare to dream of.

Stranger, pause and look;

            From the dust of ages

            Lift this little book,

            Turn the tattered pages,

            Read me, do not let me die!

            Search the fading letters, finding

            Steadfast in the broken binding

            All that once was I!

                        – Edna St. Vincent Millay

Good night, my old friend. I hope you found what you were seeking.

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