by Jamie Anfenson-Comeau
Longtime Hyattsville resident David L. Levy died in December 2014, but just before he died, he was able to hold a copy of the book he spent the last two years of his life completing.
“I wanted him to hold the book before he died,” said his publisher, Carolivia Herron of Washington, D.C. “You could tell it really meant a lot to him.”
Levy, 78, died Dec. 11 after a 10-year battle with parathyroid cancer, said his wife, Ellen Levy.
David Levy, a Hyattsville resident since 1980, was nationally known for his work as an advocate of shared custody of children in cases where the parents were divorced, separated or never married, but he also authored several fiction and nonfiction books.
“He was always working on a book,” she said.
In the last two years of his life, Ellen Levy said he became interested in writing “Viktor IV,” otherwise known as Walter Carl Gluck, an American artist who lived on a barge in Amsterdam and made art out of pieces of driftwood.
Gluck drowned in 1986, but his art has become internationally famous.
Ellen Levy said her husband met Gluck in college at the University of Florida, when the two worked on the student newspaper, and kept in touch until Gluck’s death.
“One day it just occurred to him that Viktor IV was such a creative, unusual person that he wanted to write a book about him,” Levy said.
She said her husband was determined to finish the book before he died.
“David was very, very ill in the last two years, but the book kept him going,” Levy said. “Even when he was ill, he mustered up the strength to travel to Amsterdam and to interview [Gluck’s] widow.”
Richard Morris of Hyattsville was a member of the Gateway Arts District Authors with David Levy. He said he became friends with the Levys after meeting them at a book signing in 2011.
“He really threw himself into the research. He went right at it. It was good to see,” Morris said.
Over the course of his work, Ellen Levy said her husband collected hundreds of pages of research and photographs.
Herron said she met the Levys over seven years ago, when they started attending her synagogue in the District. She said David Levy was such a charismatic individual, that she based a character — the Dean of Heaven — after him in her own book, “Asenath and the Origin of Nappy Hair.”
“He was very outgoing. There was no sitting at a table with him without finding out everyone’s name, everyone’s business,” Herron said.
Herron said she met with the Levys in November 2013 and David Levy told her about his book.
She said he was looking to get his book edited and published, but that the person he was working with knew a lot about art, but not publishing.
“He showed me some of the papers he had on the book and I said, ‘We’ve got to do better than that,’” Herron recalled.
Herron took charge of editing and publishing Levy’s book. When his health declined in the last few weeks of his life, Herron said she cleared her schedule to finish the book.
“She came to our house almost weekly to get it done,” Ellen Levy said. “She was unswerving. It was a labor of love.”
Herron said she finished the book and brought David Levy a galley proof.
“It meant the world to him,” Ellen Levy said.
David Levy’s “Viktor IV: A Biography” can be purchased as an ebook through Barnes and Noble, and is scheduled for release in March, Herron said.
Reprinted with permission — The Gazette/Laurel February 26, 2015
Copyright 2015 The Gazette