Friends, family of fatally stabbed lecturer bid him adieu

Memorial service for John Dowling, killed in Paris, was a joyful celebration of his life

The memorial service at the Pôle Universitaire Léonard de Vinci, where John Dowling taught English and European civilisation for 20 years. Photograph: Lara Marlowe

The memorial service at the Pôle Universitaire Léonard de Vinci, where John Dowling taught English and European civilisation for 20 years. Photograph: Lara Marlowe

 

John Dowling’s friends made his memorial service on Tuesday night a joyful celebration of the Irish lecturer’s life.

There was only one reference to “the aggressor”, the former student from Pakistan who fatally stabbed Mr Dowling outside the Pôle Universitaire Léonard de Vinci on December 5th, 66 years to the day after he was born in Churchtown, Dublin.

About 20 of Mr Dowling’s family, and relatives of his partner Ann, travelled from Ireland for a private service at the crematorium, followed by the memorial at the university where Dowling taught English and European civilisation for 20 years.

The family brought a Mass card with a photograph of the kind professor. The poem Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep was printed on the back.

A student designed a tricolour four-leaf clover with the words “Thank you John” inscribed beneath. It has become an emblem of remembrance at the school, and many mourners wore it on a badge.

Nelly Rouyres, a colleague, said Dowling was “brought up in a hardworking Irish family” and began his intellectual journey in his uncle’s library. He learned Italian because he wanted to read Dante in the original, and had purchased an apartment in Venice. He was also an unconditional supporter of Munster Rugby.

Munster jerseys

For an hour, the high-rise in the La Défense business district west of Paris felt like part of Ireland. In one of the most moving moments, 13 student athletes donned red Munster jerseys to sing the rugby anthem Ireland’s Call in sync with the Irish rugby team, projected on the screen behind them.

Two of Mr Dowling’s students read from the hundreds of messages of condolence left in registries in the university. They described his smile and laughter, his love of Ireland, his erudition and ability to instil confidence in the most shy students.

David Dupuis, a former student who became a colleague, said Mr Dowling’s classes were “better than going to the movies or the theatre . . . His mere presence made you feel happy . . . He could light the fire of learning within you.”

“His wonderful soul is on the right hand of God now,” Mr Dowling’s colleague Andrew Ryan began, in Irish. “He was a young man with white hair,” Mr Ryan said, struggling to control his emotion.

Irish blessing

“Today we reflect on a good life, a life of service,” said Fr Hugh Connolly, who ministers to the Irish community in Paris. He saluted Mr Dowling’s partner Ann, and his brothers and sisters, Dorothy, Sylvia, Derek and Colm. Then he read the Irish blessing, “May the road rise up to meet you . . .” in Irish, French and English.

Lucas Jacq, a former student, concluded the testimonials, saying, “The joy you have provided us will remain. Nothing will stop us from living like you did, with such humanity.”

A tenor sang The Parting Glass before an image of Mr Dowling with students on the eve of his death. No one knew that it was literally his parting glass, but the lyrics were perfect: “Good night and joy be with you.”