November 19th, 2012 | by AARON MESH News | Posted In: City Hall, PDX News

Vigil for Street Musician Kirk Reeves Spotlights Suicide Prevention

vigilAllan Kalik, the trumpet teacher for Kirk Reeves, watches the crowd at Reeves' candlelight vigil. - Aaron Mesh

More than 200 people huddled under the Hawthorne Bridge on Sunday evening at a candlelight vigil to remember "Working" Kirk Reeves—the 56-year-old street musician who for a decade played trumpet at the bridge's onramp in his distinctive white tuxedo and Mickey Mouse ears, until he shot himself earlier this month.

Mayor Sam Adams declared Sunday as "Kirk Reeves Day," and an assembly of trumpeters and one bagpiper played "Taps" and "Amazing Grace" in a rainy march along the Hawthorne Bridge.

But Reeves' death came as the city is scrambling to rectify the police bureau's brutal treatment of mentally ill Portlanders—and officials attending Reeves' memorial walked a careful line between remembering the iconic performer and putting a face on suicide-prevention efforts.

"He would want us to talk about the fact that he died of suicide," said Adams. "Because he talked about his work trying to save other lives."

Both Adams and City Commissioner Amanda Fritz mentioned the city's suicide-prevention hotline: (503) 972-3456.

"When you have a broken leg, you go to the emergency room," said Fritz. "When you have a broken heart, you're expected to pull yourself together by your own bootstraps. [...] You can't love someone out of mental illness. So please don't berate yourself. Sometimes mental illness is fatal."

As they handed out candles in paper cups, vigil organizers reminded people that they're raising money for a statue of Reeves on the Hawthorne Bridge. Mourners, many of them wearing hand-fashioned mouse ears, stood quietly as Reeves' trumpet teacher, roommate and two sisters talked about his beaming smile and selfless compassion.

"There's always going to be unanswered questions," said his sister Daisy Reeves of Boston. "We're always going to wish we loved him a little bit better. It's OK. Because we'll always have the best part of him right here."

 
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