Man wrote song just before he was stabbed to death, says friend

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Friends of Peter Conway John said he brought joy to the neighborhood and the community, with his heart, generosity and love of music. John was stabbed to death Tuesday afternoon in his home by a man whom they say he was trying to help.

He was writing a song with a close friend in the hours before he died, his friends said. His friends want to share the lyrics as a tribute to him. They said he was watching a bird in the birdbath outside his home, and the bird inspired this stanza, his last song before he was killed:

They weren't here for Appallachian spring,

The sweet oboe solitary ring,

That small sparrow dipping wing,

Even frolicking.

Police arrested Stephen William Kovacs for the killing. Neighbors told KATU that John was trying to help Kovacs turn his life around, allowing him to stay at his home. But they said John had bought a house in Washington and was planning to move "to the country," and had told Kovacs that he could not live there with him.

John was "unlike any other," friends said, with a special spirit, a former history and philosophy teacher and author who loved to read poetry and have long philosophical discussions. They said he often played guitar outside his home, blew bubbles to entertain the neighborhood, and rode around on his bike with his boom box, playing music from his very large and eclectic music collection.

Peter Conway John is listed as the author of A Sense of Wonder: Reassessing the Life and Work of Ludwig Wittgenstein. The publisher is listed as University of California, San Diego, Department of History 1988.