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In memoriam Kupo Mleya

In the hours just past midnight on Friday — two days before Christmas — an old coworker was shot and killed a block from his home. The circumstances of his death are not entirely clear and the suspected killer, who was arrested on Saturday, won’t make his initial court appearance until tomorrow morning.

I hadn’t seen Kupo for several years, and it’s been even longer since we worked together at the local co-op. He always struck me as optimistic and energetic, a vibrant heart who seemed to glide above whatever troubles may have clouded the sky. He had a manner and smile that many have described as “infectious” as they memorialize him. It’s an appropriate enough description, but it doesn’t really do justice to the man and his effect on those around him.

Kupo’s charisma was more of a warm invitation than an outward projection; his magnetic personality drew out the good feelings of others so that everyone could bask and share in that restorative glow.

For all that this city never deserved him, he shared himself deeply and unabashedly, and anyone who knew him was better for it. My favorite memory of him was a discussion about bicycling we had one day at work while prepping produce. He was an avid tinkerer, and back then I was in the habit of recreational biking. I described a trip across the levee trail at Holmes Lake Park, and the stiff wind that nearly blew me into the water.

Kupo glanced at me, then stared into the distance and said:

“A crosswind is a distraction.”

Just so. Honoring his memory by continuing onward — while appreciating the worldly beauty that surrounds me, and never taking for granted the community that sustains me — is the least that I can do.

Rest in peace, friend.