By Regis L. Roberts
The live oak planted at the southeast corner of Loftin Student Center Nov. 14 in memory of former student James Dyer, who died Oct. 24 at age 56, does not yet match up to his stature, but, as live oaks do, it will grow to about 40 feet.
Former reading Professor Mary Jane Howe said the day came to pass as Dyer had hoped.
One minor variation from Howe’s plan was a last-minute relocation of the planting from the mall between Moody Learning and Fletcher Administration centers to an area near the east entrance of Loftin.
Friends of Dyer remembered him as a kind and gentle man who greeted everyone he saw, enjoyed life and loved this college. His love for this college is why he decided to have a tree planted here, instead of Howe’s suggestion of the nearby Aurora apartments where he lived before moving from one nursing home to another.
Counselor Edie Huff said she always saw him on campus up until only a few months before he died, but she never asked him if he was taking any classes. Dyer was a student here for three years beginning in 1979.
Huff said she never knew what Dyer was up to and that he liked to flirt.
She described him as a person who never felt sorry about himself for being in a wheelchair.
Standing in the mall, she said she could still imagine him rolling through on his way to class.
Dyer, who had both of his legs amputated from gangrene that set in after gunshot wounds and complications from diabetes, spent his last days in a VITAS hospice facility.
Beginning in 1971, Catherine Hudson-Dove and her daughter Avis Hudson were Dyer’s legs.
They were the closest thing Dyer had to family. In fact, he was just one year older than Catherine’s eldest son.
The Hudsons also helped him manage his finances and gave him medical assistance and care.
Edwin Sasek, a chaplain for VITAS, said caring for Dyer was a meaningful experience and he was glad to have known him
Before he died, Sasek recited for Dyer Psalm 23; when it was done, Dyer said, “Wow, how beautiful.”