("Many thanks, Mister Ourand".)

I lost a teacher, mentor and friend today-- Raymond Ourand, whom I first met in 1967 as my first year German teacher at Francis C. Hammond high school in Alexandria, VA. His son announced today that he passed away this afternoon. He was one of my favorite instructors, ever; a kind, funny, witty and exceptionally bright man with an obvious passion for his subject and the ability to clearly communicate a contagious enthusiasm for it to his students. He was a popular man and a fine, fine teacher.

I reconnected with him here on Facebook, quite by chance, recently, and reestablished communication after a 50 year absence. I finally got to tell him-- in so many words-- how much I valued his kindness and compassion, and what he had meant to me as a teacher and an example of manhood all those years ago. I so enjoyed getting to know him as an adult, and witnessing his sharp and incisive take on contemporary life, culture and politics. It was strange and enjoyable to finally be a grown-up with him.

Ray suffered from Pulmonary Fibrosis which made it progressively harder for him to simply breathe. It's always a fatal diagnosis. He said that after dealing with it in a cycle of ever decreasing returns he'd decided to forego further medication and painful struggle. He deliberately selected his time to go, and chose a simple course of action that allowed him to exit while he was lucid and as much in command of his faculties and situation as possible.

Ray Ourand and his dog, Kevin-- who hopes to score some of
Ray's pizza. (Inset: Ray in the mid 1960's, about the time we met.)

He told me he had frequent hospice care; a close friend stayed at his home with him, and his family was a constant presence. He spent his last evening visiting with his grandchildren and saying his goodbyes to those to whom he was closest. I had a few private messages from him in recent days, and expected him to depart very soon. He left this life today-- calmly, prepared, composed, and in the presence of loved ones.

I hope that when my own time comes I am given the opportunity to be able to face it with the foresight, courage, dignity and grace that he summoned. Ray tells me that he's leaving his body to a local medical school, so that even after death he may continue to teach conscientious students who are eager to learn and explore.

If that isn't a truly selfless, class act, I don't know what is. Danke schön und Auf Wiedersehen, Herr Ourand. Thanks for everything, and Godspeed to you, old friend.

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