Passion ruled Dan LeVan’s life
Standing in Rosebud Cemetery the day before Memorial Day, Dan LeVan’s voice wavered as he talked about the duty of putting flags on the graves of veterans.”I’m proud of my service,” LeVan said, then. “I’m sure there will always be someone here to put out the flags.”Dan took a deep breath as he looked around at the cemetery now filled with tiny American flags. “There’s always tears on Memorial Day. When they play taps, there’s never too many dry eyes,” he said.On Oct. 5, two days after his 79th birthday, taps was again played. This time, they were played for Korean War veteran Dan H. LeVan.Next Memorial Day, someone will place a flag at his gravesite.•••••On Veterans Day, Pat LeVan woke up realizing there was work to be done. Dan would always go and put flags at the war memorial in front of the Garfield County Courthouse.This year that duty fell to Pat.She saved one flag to place at another spot.”I went out today (Sunday) and put a flag out for Dan (at Rosebud),” she said.•••••It’s chilly at 6 a.m. and the sun isn’t ready to peek over the horizon. But Dan E. LeVan has a job to perform. He clips in the large American flag, then hoists it to the top of the pole attached to the deck of Dan and Pat LeVan’s Glenwood Springs home.Later, as the sun drops and darkness is poised to take over, Dan H. LeVan’s son will finish the duty when he brings the flag down, folds it and takes it inside.That’s the proper flag etiquette – up before daylight, down before darkness.”I guess I’m carrying on that tradition,” Dan E. LeVan said. “I still think about the first day I took it down. I broke down. I thought, Dad, you’re supposed to be doing this.”
Patriotism and a fierce loyalty to his country was important to Dan the father. That’s been passed down.And the heart of that is based on the flag.Every Flag Day, the old LeVan flag is taken down, properly disposed of, and a new flag is hoisted in its place.It’s been that way for the past 14 years.•••••Inside the LeVan home, Pat looks relaxed, but sadness won’t let go. Her son Dan has moved in, and that provides some comfort.Pat talks about a love affair of more than 50 years, and she smiles. Going through scrapbooks, mementos and pages of writings from her husband, Pat tries hard not to let the tears flow.Then she talks about what it’s been like since her husband and best friend passed away.”Just not having him here. That’s what I miss,” Pat says.The bed feels empty. She misses waking up beside her husband.”Getting up in the morning and him not being here, I miss that. He’d have the flag up by the time I got up. He always made sure that the flag was up,” Pat says.It was Tuesday, Sept. 30, when Dan passed away. Pat remembers him sitting on the far corner of the sofa.She thinks briefly before talking about what her morning ritual has become since that day.”I get up every morning and sit in the spot where Dan died. It’s comforting. Peaceful. It really helps,” she says.
Dan LeVan’s life breaks into neat little chapters.A childhood in the mountains of Idaho. A time in the military, taking a bride and having a family, a teaching career, and then came work with the American Legion.At 19, Dan joined the Army and served as a medic and in Korea.As the 1960s arrived, Dan was out of the Army and ready to begin his teaching career.Dan taught art at Glenwood Springs High School for 30 years.In the corner, Pat retrieves a basket packed full of cards – literally, close to a hundred. Most are from former students. Words of thanks and love.”It was so touching to see so many cards from former students,” Pat says.After he retired from teaching in 1989, students still stopped by to visit. Scattered throughout the LeVan home are pieces of art from former students.Small trinkets of thanks to a man who impacted their lives.”He was such a great influence as a teacher. Good teachers give more than is asked of them. That’s what Dan did. He would always spend extra time with his students,” she says.”He just blossomed with pride when he’d hear from former students. But he was so humble because he never thought that he helped them that much,” Pat says. “No one could be more proud of his students than Dan was.”Dan would often go to yard sales and find pieces of metal, wood, spoons or whatever he could find to take back to his classroom for students to work with.As a teacher, Dan dabbled in art but there wasn’t a lot of time left over.”So often teachers don’t have the time to do things themselves. That was Dan,” Pat says.
But his influence on the art community began back in 1962 when he helped get the Fall Arts Festival started. The Grand Champion winner is presented in his name.Whether it was as a teacher, father or husband, Dan was always like the flag waving outside – a source of loyalty, pride and affirmation.”He was always trying to give people credit for what they did. He always praised them, he was such a positive person.”At the funeral, a former Marine, and student of Dan’s, Eddie Houge, presented the perfectly folded American flag to Pat.Dan never lost track of many of his students who joined the military.”Dan had a real love of the military and would write to students after they joined the military,” she said. “He had such pride for this country.”Soon there will be granite benches at Rosebud honoring Dan and his devotion to the military. The plaque on the benches will read: “To honor all veterans past and present in honor of Dan H. LeVan.”
On Sept. 2, 2005, Pat awoke on her 68th birthday to a single piece of paper with special words from her husband of more than 47 years.Happy Birthday, Sweetheart PatriciaI hope that you can imagine the world of flowers, chests of jewels, mountains of good foods, volumes of enduring words, trips to wonderlands, and endless days of devotion that you will receive from me should you desire them or want them; for you deserve the world’s best for being such a wonderful wife and sweet companion.Pat and Dan met in Yellowstone. She was a governess on summer vacation, and Dan was a park ranger. She was a “flatlander” from Wisconsin, and Dan was the rugged strapping mountain man from Idaho.”I was scared of high places,” Pat says laughing. But there was one thing that caught her eye.”A park ranger in uniform.”Seven years the younger, Pat was immediately smitten and the two were married on June 14, 1958. They would go on to have three children, Dan E., Michael and Shelly.Both sons also served in the military.The poem Pat received was not unusual. “He’s a very open person. Very emotional. He loved to express himself and many times it was through his writings,” she says. “He was very caring and a very loving person.”Dan loved to write poems, letters, essays and even penned a manuscript on his time in the military – “Memories of a medic in the Korean War.”Pat says his emotions are what fueled his passion for everything in life. Whether it was his family, teaching or love of country, Dan’s passion was always in full view.As a couple, Pat says the key was both togetherness and space.”We did so much, some together, some separate. I think we let each other have space to do things separately,” she says. Stopping to read one of Dan’s letters, Pat pauses. “When you lose someone, you have to remember the good memories and all the things he did for me, his family and his friends,” she said then smiled. “I take comfort in that.”But even with her husband gone, Pat says he’s already helping prepare her for when it’s her time.”I always had a great fear of death. As long as I can remember. But since Dan died I don’t have that anymore. I think it’s because I know that I’ll rejoin him when I go,” she says.Pat says she’ll slowly pack many of Dan’s things away. She says that she will continue with Dan’s work of helping put out flags on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.In the morning, she will take a moment to sit where Dan died, then begin her day. The flag will be flying high outside and life will go on.
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