Denise Geiger thought it was important to celebrate the life of her fiancee, Dennis Lane, on what would have been his 59th birthday. "His birthday is the best day to do that," Geiger said.
And so she spent an emotional evening at Clyde's in Columbia last Wednesday, Jan. 29, where a memorial happy hour was held for Lane, a prominent community figure and businessman known for his blog, A Tale of Two Cities, who was killed last May.
"Even while I've been sitting here, I've laughed with people, I've cried. All my emotions are wrapped up," Geiger said 30 minutes into the event.
Geiger recalled that on Lane's 58th birthday the couple were celebrating while preparing for a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. She said the trip was an item on their bucket list.
A little more than four months later, on May 10, Geiger said she was awakened in the couple's Ellicott City home by a knife struggle between Lane and then 19-year-old Jason Anthony Bulmer, the boyfriend of Lane's then 14-year-old daughter, in which Lane was killed.
Howard County police charged Bulmer and Lane's daughter, Morgan Lane Arnold, in the crime, accusing them of plotting a scheme that also targeted Geiger. After a number of postponements, both Arnold and Bulmer remain in jail and await trial on murder charges in Howard County Circuit Court.
Bulmer has a motions hearing scheduled for Feb. 21, with a trial set for April 22. Arnold's motions hearing is set for Feb. 27, with a jury trial set for March 24.
Geiger acknowledged that when she thinks about Lane's death, which she refers to as "the terrible event," she's able to deflect the trauma by focusing on another element of the attack.
"He was a hero, he saved my life," she said. "When I think about the terrible event, that's what I think of. I think about how he was unbelievably strong and caring in all the magical ways you can think of."
Lane's friends and colleagues who attended last Wednesday's gathering at Clyde's, many wearing his favorite color red, said they also have learned how to separate the good of Lane's life from the horror of his death.
"I think today is a celebration of who Dennis was, a celebration of his character and a celebration of how he contributed to our community," said Paul Skalny, a friend of Lane's who co-hosted a weekly podcast with him called "And Then There's That."
Jessie Newburn, a fellow blogger and longtime friend of Lane's, said she can't ignore Lane's death, but that the remarkable part of his story is his life.
"Part of his life is his death, and his death is a tragic and horrible death. I think dwelling on it and thinking about it are a little bit different, but I think it's important to celebrate someone's life, to be happy for his life," she said. "Everyone has a birth date and everyone has a death date — who he was in between those times was really amazing."
Two funds started by Lane while he was alive have become memorial funds. The first, through the Community Foundation of Howard County, will annually rotate between funding causes Lane had a personal affinity for. To donate to that fund go to cfhoco.org/give/donate/foundation and write "Dennis Lane Memorial Fund" in the honorarium line.
The second is through Lane's alma mater, John Carroll University. It funds students in the schools Communications School who are undertaking plays or theatrical performances. To donate to that fund, go to johncarrolluniversity.wufoo.com/forms/give-to-jcu/ and write "Dennis Lane '77 One Acts Fund" in the designation box.