Mervin Lewis Lane Jr
Mervin Lewis Lane Jr, a resident of Santa Barbara, California for over 67 years, died peacefully in his sleep on December 31, 2016, on the last day of Hanukkah. He was born in New York City on October 5, 1928, and raised in a Sephardic Jewish family the eldest of four children.
Mervin grew up with a great enthusiasm for sports and music. He attended the New York High School of Performing Arts as an accomplished pianist and percussionist performing in a number of New York orchestras. Upon graduation he was offered a full music scholarship to the Yale School of Music, however he declined the scholarship and instead, decided to hitchhike through post war Europe with only a duffel bag and guitar on his back.
Having lost all but one surviving Dutch relative to the Holocaust, Mervin’s time in Holland and France deeply influenced the path that formed the rest of his life. There the importance of the arts took on new meaning and his interests beyond music grew to include the visual arts, literature, poetry and the importance of freedom of expression and original thinking.
Upon his return to the United States, Mervin enrolled in the innovative yet little known Black Mountain College in North Carolina – known as the first bi-racial, experimental liberal arts college in the South. The school gave rise to many notable artists, thinkers and writers, such as Walter Gropius, William and Elaine de Kooning, Josef and Anni Albers, Arthur Penn, M.C. Richards, Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Ruth Asawa and Kenneth Nolan, hosting guest faculty the likes of Albert Einstein, William Carlos Williams, Buckminster Fuller and May Sarton.
While attending Black Mountain Merve met his first wife, dancer and choreographer June Rice Lane Christensen. Merve and June married and moved to Grenich Village in New York City where they continued their studies in music and dance. A dream of teaching and building an art center for children took them to the West Coast where they eventually settled in Santa Barbara, California.
In 1951 Merve and June bought an acre of land on Mountain Drive and began building their own adobe home and dance studio by hand, becoming part of the original Mountain Drive Community. In 1953 their daughter Katherine was born and in 1956 their son Nathan. The house was completed in 1958. In the aftermath of the Coyote Fire in 1964 when much of Mountain Drive burned, the family home survived but the marriage ended. Some years later Mervin married Margaret Robinson, remaining deeply devoted until her passing in 2013.
In the 1950’s Mervin taught music at both Kate and Devereux Schools. He studied recorder with neighbor and music professor, Nazi German refuge Erik Katz, helping form a local classical baroque and renaissance music group, the Collegium Musicum of Santa Barbara.
In 1961 he completed his Masters Degree at UCSB and began teaching English Literature at Santa Barbara City College. Over his 33 year tenure he became known for his additions to the College curriculum; teaching Yoga (as the first certified Yoga teacher in the Santa Barbara City Schools), Tai Chi and a Philosophy Course on Buckminster Fuller. Mervin’s primary passion was in American Literature and the works of Marcel Proust. He will probably be best remembered for his 28 years of teaching through Santa Barbara Continuing Education the works of Henry James and Proust’s ‘Remembrance of Things Past’.
In his spare time, Mervin studied Chinese calligraphy, practiced the piano, Tai Chi and Yoga until a stroke impaired his movement. He loved to laugh, tell stories, play tennis, swim, and enjoy exotic foods and spices. He was an amazing cook, forever looking for the perfect pastrami and chicken liver sandwich – none of which could compare to the delicatessens of New York City.
In retirement Mervin continued to write and study literature. His published works include ‘Sprouted Seeds: Black Mountain College – An Anthology of Personal Accounts,’ ‘Going To Town,’ ‘Ancient Letters’ and ‘Houston Passage’. Sadly, in 2008 Mervin and Margaret lost the family home to the Santa Barbara Tea Fire in which everything, including all art, collection of letters and unpublished works were lost. His last years with Margaret were spent at Vista del Monte until her death. He later moved to Peppers Estate where he spent his time rereading the classics, the writings of Confucius and Emerson always by his side. In December, Mervin transferred to hospice care spending his final days at Serenity House.
Mervin is survived by his brother Christopher, his children Katherine, Nathan, Robbie, Maia, Tamar, Rima and Louis, their spouses and families, including 8 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren along with his beloved nieces and nephews. We honor the many ways Mervin influenced and intellectually challenged us: to be self-determining, authentic and creative, to openly view the world, approach matters honestly, and live a life full of reverence – in the true Oxford definition meaning of the word.
An outdoor memorial service will be held on Mountain Drive, April 23, 2017.
RSVP for location and details (805) 729-4456. For those students of Mervin who were inspired to write, please bring a copy of a short piece to read, share and post on Mervin’s memorial wall!