Drama mural honors memorable grad who lost his life to cancer

December 12, 2016 — by Angela Liu and Julia Miller

As they arrive at school in the front parking lot, many visitors immediately notice the intricately detailed mural that adorns the back wall of the Thermond Drama Center. It offers an inside look to the behind-the-scenes preparations of the drama department in the ‘90s: students line cables, paint show props and select costumes.

But behind the artistic snapshot lies a deeper meaning: the mural honors 1996 alumnus Doug Leverich, a deeply involved drama student who lost his battle against leukemia on Nov. 21, 1997.

As they arrive at school in the front parking lot, many visitors immediately notice the intricately detailed mural that adorns the back wall of the Thermond Drama Center. It offers an inside look to the behind-the-scenes preparations of the drama department in the ‘90s: students line cables, paint show props and select costumes.

But behind the artistic snapshot lies a deeper meaning: the mural honors 1996 alumnus Doug Leverich, a deeply involved drama student who lost his battle against leukemia on Nov. 21, 1997.

Leverich was described by those who knew him as a well-rounded student, participating in Jazz and Concert Choir, football and various theater-related activities. During the late ‘90s, Doug’s diagnosis came as a big shock to the Saratoga community.

After he passed away, the Falcon published a tribute in which Doug’s friends wrote handwritten letters about him that were scanned and put in the printed issue. One letter was written by current SHS attendance secretary Mandy Armes, whose maiden name was Manousos and went to school here at the time.

Armes considered Doug one of her good friends in high school. They not only participated together in plays at SHS, but also spent a lot of time together throughout the years Armes knew him.

“Doug was a pretty wonderful person,” Armes said. “He had a funky way of dressing and was just so funny. We still miss him, and we still talk about him to this day.”

The mural contains real people who were apart of the drama program at SHS and who knew Doug, according to Armes. The sketch was created by 1996 alumnus Jim Van Over, one of Doug’s best friends from high school. The idea of the mural, according to Van Over, had been conceived with Doug before he had even been diagnosed.

“The plan was that I would paint it as well,” Van Over said. “I was nowhere near good enough to paint it at the time, but I was 16 and thought I was amazing.”

While they were in school, Doug and Van Over had noticed that “the arts had taken a complete back seat to academics and sports.” Taking inspiration from the then-new Falcon mural on the side of the gym, Doug and Van Over started on what they jokingly called their “baby.”

The project, however, was pushed onto the backburner after Doug’s diagnosis. It was Doug’s mother, Janet Leverich, who reopened the idea, stepping up with both “emotional and monetary” support, according to Van Over.

“The mural is a tribute not only to Doug and his contributions to SHS, but as a lasting remembrance of the humble rebirth of theater there,” he said. “I get misty every time I stand on that walkway and look at 19-year-old Doug smiling at everything we accomplished.”

This November marks 20 years since Doug’s passing. Current drama students at SHS, like junior Ania Kranz, did not know Doug, but agree that the mural made in his honor effectively reflects the heart of the drama department.

I think the drama department is one that is incredibly welcoming,” Kranz said. “The mural shows a variety of people, and I think it does reflect creativity and acceptance.”

Armes thinks it would be a good idea for the school should pay to have the drama mural touched up, since there are noticeable pen marks and words etched into the paint.

I think it's important to bring light to the mural again,” Kranz said. “Respecting and honoring people that were once part of our community is always valuable.”

 
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