Dennis Lane's fiancee of eight years said she was struck from the beginning by this "absolutely, unbelievably charming man," how he seemed to know everyone, how he worked the room — and how he could talk.
"I didn't think men could talk that much. He could outtalk me and my girlfriends," Denise Geiger said at Tuesday's memorial service for the slain Howard County writer, who worked in commercial real estate as a broker, consultant and developer.
Through his work in many mediums — his blog, his column in The Business Monthly, his podcast on local affairs — Lane built a big presence in the county, and those who knew him by both his public and private personas came out to remember him in a two-hour public service at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia.
Lane was stabbed to death in his Ellicott City home early on the morning of May 10. His 14-year-old daughter, Morgan Lane Arnold, and her 19-year-old boyfriend, Jason Anthony Bulmer, have been charged as adults with first-degree murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder.
Geiger, who met Lane at an outdoor concert in Howard County in August 2003, was in the house when Lane was killed. She told the crowd that the last moments of his life were filled with "pain, rage and terror.
"We were robbed of our future together," she said. "I want you to know he saved my life in the last moments of his."
She did not elaborate, and nothing more was said about how Lane died. The 15 speakers — family, friends and public officials — focused instead on how he lived, from his time as a boy in Catonsville, North Carolina and Columbia through college and beyond.
Abouot 200 people attended, almost everyone wearing something red, Lane's favorite color and the color of the signature scarf he wore sometimes even in mild weather. Guests and speakers turned out in red ties, baseball caps, slacks, dresses, scarves, jackets, boutonnieres. The stage was decorated with pots of red roses, and a bigger vase in the center was filled with red and white roses.
Lane's sister, Barbara Sandusky, recalled how he was given the name Terrence Patrick when he was born until, three weeks later, their mother thought "that does not fit."
"She was a reader of 'Dennis the Menace,' and thought that fit better," Sandusky said.
Speakers painted a picture of a gregarious man moving through the world with an eye out for fun, a little trouble and another connection with one more person.
Another sister, Kelly Lane, said his life in writing and real estate seemed foretold. She remembered he was "town crier" in their neighborhood in Catonsville, always wanting to be first with news or a good story.
As a 12-year-old in their new home in Raleigh, N.C., she said, he spotted construction materials stored at a development site, and soon had an idea.
"He built the most awesome tree house you ever saw, with material pilfered from the construction site," she said. "It had stairways, windows, doors."
It was Lane, as a student at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, who "procured" a driver's license from someone old enough to drink, said friend Alan Jones.
It was Lane at the forefront of the charge when "streaking" across campus was the rage in the 1970s, said Bill Gagliano, his fraternity brother at John Carroll University in Ohio.
County Executive Ken Ulman and Councilwoman Courtney Watson, who represents the district where Lane lived, talked about Lane's life as a civic activist.
"This is somebody that cares deeply, deeply about our community," said Ulman. He said Lane worked to make the county a better place "in a jovial, humorous way."
Watson talked about the funny, gently needling text messages Lane would send to public officials, including one she received after a storm knocked out power and was flooding Main Street in historic Ellicott City. She messaged back that she was on it.
" 'Courtney Watson, Super CouncilPerson,'" Lane messaged back, Watson said. " 'P.S., can you charge my smart phone?'"
Only one speaker talked about Lane's daughter.
Dave Bittner, co-owner of Pixel Workshop in Columbia, who produced the public-affairs podcast Lane hosted with attorney Paul Skalny, focused his remarks on Lane as a father.
With all the roles Lane played in his life, he said, "he was proudest of being a dad," and would post accounts of his time spent with Morgan on his blog, "Tales of Two Cities."
Once, on an autumn walk in the woods, Lane and his daughter spotted a patch of red leaves on the ground in the shape of a heart, Bittner said. Lane photographed the leaves, and as Bittner told the story, the picture appeared on two big video screens above the stage.
"He loved his daughter with all his heart," Bittner said. "Please join me in honoring Dennis the dad."