Image: Mourners at church
Gail Burton  /  AP
Mourners enter St. John's Catholic Church for a memorial service on Saturday for Bruce Ivins, the Army scientist suspected in the anthrax attacks.
updated 8/9/2008 5:09:56 PM ET 2008-08-09T21:09:56

The Army scientist suspected in the 2001 anthrax attacks was remembered for his humor, intelligence and compassion at a memorial service Saturday.

Bruce Ivins, 62, died of an apparent suicide late last month after being informed by the FBI that charges likely were being brought against him in connection with the attacks.

Some mourners wept when speakers at the service talked about Ivins' many hobbies, including juggling, target shooting, practical jokes, cartoons and the weather. Colleagues recalled a talented scientist with a probing mind who loved to debate a wide variety of subjects.

"Bruce was many a thing," said one of his brothers, Charles Ivins, who added that he took some solace in knowing that Bruce's "torment" had ended.

Bruce Ivins also was remembered as a devoted musician at St. John's the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, where he played piano for 28 years and was known to volunteer to clean up after services.

More than 250 people attended the hourlong service. Speakers cited the turnout as evidence of how important Ivins was to the church community.

Some people who knew Ivins have said they cannot believe the scientist who liked to work in his garden and volunteer for the American Red Cross was capable of bioterrorism that killed five people, sickened 17 and scared the nation a month after the Sept. 11 attacks.

'Very loving, giving'
John Barnard, who worked with Ivins at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick between 1992 and 1994, said he does not believe the government's claims. He said he has written to several members of Congress asking for an inquiry.

"My experience of him during that time is that he was a very loving, giving man, and this doesn't make sense at all," said Barnard, who now lives in Pittsburgh.

Kathleen O'Connor, who met Ivins at a dinner while the two volunteered for the Red Cross, also said she could not believe a man who gave so much of his time to help the community could do something so terrible.

"They haven't got a real case. It's all circumstantial," O'Connor said after the service. "There's just no way he could do it. ... They just grabbed a convenient person."

In the days since his death July 29, friends have recalled his musical skills and eccentric personality as a startling contrast to the dangerously psychotic person described by federal investigators.


Authorities believe Ivins mailed deadly anthrax spores in letters, including ones sent to members of Congress. By 2005, government scientists genetically matched anthrax in his laboratory at Fort Detrick to the fatal toxin. Federal authorities also focused on Ivins' history of paranoia and delusional thinking that prompted doctors to medicate him.

The Justice Department says it could have convicted Ivins, a microbiologist and anthrax vaccine expert who spent 35 years working at the bioweapons lab. Ivins' lawyer, Paul F. Kemp, has disagreed, contending that because it took the government so long to act, its evidence must have been weak.

Co-workers and Ivins' family held a private memorial service Wednesday at Fort Detrick's nondenominational chapel. Frederick is a city of about 58,000 people, 40 miles northeast of Washington.

Ivins is survived by his wife, Diane; a son, Andy; a daughter, Amanda, and brothers Tom Ivins of Middletown, Ohio, and Charles Ivins of Etowah, N.C.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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