jayfurr: (Sepia)

As of this April 16, it'll have been ten years since the horrific events that took place in Blacksburg, Virginia on April 16, 2007.

In the ten years since a mentally ill young man ran amuck with his guns and took the lives of 28 students and four faculty members -- and wounded seventeen others -- members of the Virginia Tech university community have gathered each year on April 16 to stand vigil and to remember those we lost.

I'd like to be there in person for the remembrance (I grew up in Blacksburg and received my masters degree there), but unfortunately, I have to be in Lubbock, Texas for work that day.  In fact, I've never yet managed to be there for the memorial despite my active travel schedule.  I've always hoped that I could route myself through Blacksburg on my way to Seattle or San Francisco or Tucumcari, but it just hasn't worked out.

I wish I could say that the Virginia Tech massacre served as the Pearl Harbor-like wake-up call for the American people that finally got us to realize how out of control our love affair with firearms has become.

I wish I could say that the National Rifle Association realized that there are more important things in life than maximizing gun manufacturers' profits.

I wish I could say that we, as a society, took a look at what happened in West Ambler-Johnston Hall and Norris Hall that awful day and decided "this far, and no further."  That it had to stop.

Unfortunately, I can't say that.   Blacksburg wasn't enough.  Sandy Hook wasn't enough.  Aurora wasn't enough.  Orlando wasn't enough.  Ten thousand gun homicides a year in the United States aren't enough. Nothing's enough.

Nothing's ever going to be enough.

Our society has "addict brain" where our fetish for firearms is concerned, and the only thing that satisfies the craving, however briefly, is...

More guns.
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Dad's cremains

Not to be unduly morbid, but there’s something weird about sitting down at the dining table in your deceased parents’ house and going “Huh. What’s in that bag over th… oh, it’s Dad’s cremains.”

Mom’s are in a cabinet a few feet away. At some point both sets of ashes are going to be mixed together and scattered under the big oak tree at the house in Virginia I grew up in. Apparently the current owners are okay with some strangers showing up and scattering their parents’ ashes around; I think I’d find it odd if former residents of my house in Vermont made the same request.

At least my parents made a semi-reasonable request instead of asking to be scattered off the top of the Empire State Building; I hear building security gets pretty cranky when people try that.

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Aaron Keith Furr, 1932-2016

Aaron Keith Furr, 1932-2016

Dr. Aaron Keith Furr, 84, of Brooksville, Florida passed away on Thursday, March 31, 2016. Born in Rowan County, NC on March 5, 1932, he was a longtime resident of Blacksburg, VA before retiring to Florida. He was the son of Carl Albert Furr and Sue Howell Furr and grew up in Salisbury, NC. He attended Catawba College, Emory University, and Duke University, graduating from Duke in 1958 with a PhD. in nuclear physics. The love of his life was his wife, Dora Mondon Furr, of Brooksville, whom he met at Duke and was married to for over 50 years, from March 22, 1958 until her death on September 1, 2011. Dr. Furr is survived by his daughter, Elizabeth Furr of Brooksville, his daughter Julie Furr Youngman and her husband Paul and their children Alex, Madeleine, and Lily, of Lexington, VA, his son Joel Furr and his wife Carole, of Richmond, VT, and his son Rob Furr, of Calgary, AB. Dr. Furr spent his entire career at Virginia Tech, as Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and then as director of the campus environmental health and safety department, retiring in 1998 to Florida. Dr. Furr loved books and reading, science, cats, and sharing his firmly held opinions on a variety of subjects both serious and trivial. He had his silly side, periodically tormenting his family with caterwauling renditions of the song “Blood on the Saddle” and other classics. He will be missed.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 28 at 2 pm at Dr. Furr’s house, 201 Sunset Drive, in Brooksville. In lieu of flowers, donations are encouraged to Jericho Road Ministries (http://www.jericho-road.net/), the Hernando County Public Library (http://www.hcpl.lib.fl.us/), or the Southern Environmental Law Center (https://www.southernenvironment.org/).

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Mom, Elizabeth, and Dad

Mom, Elizabeth, and Dad at Mom’s 70th birthday party in 1999

My father, Keith Furr, is, to put it bluntly, dying. He has been suffering from pretty severe dementia for several months now, not recognizing anyone and not really knowing where he was, and showing no signs of improvement. However, in recent days he took a severe turn for the worse. He has had only very short periods of consciousness, and has refused food and water, and has been suffering from pneumonia. His physicians have placed him on palliative care, meaning no drugs other than what would keep him comfortable, no food or liquid.

Over the years, he has repeatedly expressed wishes that he not be kept alive after all hope has gone, and we feel this, the palliative care and quiet end,is what he would want. He has been very sad in the four and a half years since my mother, Dora Furr, passed, and though he was never very religious, in recent years he spoke of having something of a change of heart and hoping that he would get to see her again.

Dad reading to me after work when I was about three years old

Dad reading to me after work when I was about three years old

Dad was a good man. He was the only child from his family of four to make it out of the North Carolina Piedmont and to college and wound up with a PhD in nuclear physics from Duke University, where, incidentally, he met Mom. He spent his entire career working as a professor at Virginia Tech, first in physics and mechanical engineering, directing the Virginia Tech research nuclear reactor, and then, when the reactor was closed down, switching to head the university’s occupational health and safety services program. Under Dad’s leadership, the Virginia Tech campus safety department became a model for others across the country. Dad authored many publications during his career, but one he was particularly proud of was the CRC Handbook of Laboratory Safety, which went through multiple editions and sold very well.

He was married to Mom for over 50 years and when she passed, he was never the same. They argued and fought as any couple likely does, but at the end of the day they knew they’d always have one another.

He is in a nursing home in Florida. My siblings and I just said our goodbyes via cell phone, with the exception of my sister Elizabeth, who lives in the same town as Dad. We’re very grateful to our cousin Anne Bartlett who’s been there through thick and thin for Dad, and who has been acting as a go-between and many other things besides to keep us informed and in the loop and aware of how Dad is doing.

My sisters Elizabeth Furr and Julie Furr Youngman, and my brother Rob Furr plan to hold a memorial service for Dad, very likely at the end of May. We will all miss him very much, and we’re very sad that his time has come.


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