Memorial service held for anthrax suspect

Sunday, August 10, 2008

FREDERICK, Md. -- The Army scientist suspected in the anthrax attacks was remembered for his humor, intelligence and compassion at a memorial service Saturday.

Bruce Ivins, 62, died of an apparent suicide late last month after being informed by the FBI that charges likely were being brought against him in connection with the 2001 attacks.

Some mourners wept when speakers at the service talked about Ivins' many hobbies, including juggling, target shooting, practical jokes, cartoons and the weather. Colleagues recalled a talented scientist with a probing mind who loved to debate a variety of subjects.

"Bruce was many a thing," said one of his brothers, Charles Ivins, who added that he took some solace in knowing that Bruce's "torment" had ended.

Bruce Ivins also was remembered as a devoted musician at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, where he played piano for 28 years and was known to volunteer to clean up after services.

More than 250 people attended the hourlong service. Speakers cited the turnout as evidence of how important Ivins was to the church community.

Authorities believe Ivins mailed deadly anthrax spores in letters, including ones sent to members of Congress. By 2005, government scientists genetically matched anthrax in his laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md., to the fatal toxin. Federal authorities also focused on Ivins' history of paranoia and delusional thinking that prompted doctors to medicate him.

The Justice Department says it could have convicted Ivins, a microbiologist and anthrax vaccine expert who spent 35 years working at the bioweapons lab. Ivins' lawyer, Paul F. Kemp, has disagreed, contending that because it took the government so long to act, its evidence must have been weak.

Co-workers and Ivins' family held a private memorial service Wednesday at Fort Detrick's nondenominational chapel. Frederick is a city of about 58,000 people, 40 miles northeast of Washington.

Ivins is survived by his wife, Diane; a son, Andy; a daughter, Amanda, and brothers Tom Ivins of Middletown, Ohio, and Charles Ivins of Etowah, N.C.

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