Local ties to Malaysia Air airplane shot down in Ukraine

TAMPA, Fla - The Tampa Bay community is feeling the loss of AIDS researcher Joep Lange who died in the MH17 crash.

"Of course it's a profound loss to those of us who loved him, the greatest horror to me, is his loss to the world," said close friend Dean Holland-Best.

When Joep Lange moved to Florida as an exchange student in 1971, it was Robinson High School humanities teacher Dean Holland-Best who gave him a home.

She says the two spent endless hours talking of poetry, art and literature, something Best says was Lange's first love.

"It was that same love for literature and humanities that I think made him so effective in the aids program because he was such a caring person," said Holland-Best.

The brilliant and rebellious teen was known for his long hair and activist mindset. It was that attitude which lead him to question the status quo and fear of AIDS and the HIV virus.

"He said that was ridiculous that people were terrified of aids and that it just wasn't as contagious as people thought," said Holland-Best.

She says Lange became one of the first advocates for spreading HIV medication in Africa. when those medications weren't being delivered due to refrigeration issues, living up to his ask why mentality he famously said "if Coca-Cola can deliver cold beverages to Africa, why can't we deliver HIV medication."

 "He was a big person in this world, he did great things, he saved lives rather than take lives," said Classmate and friend Larry Easler.

Easler is still coming to terms with his loss. The two saw each other at the schools 40th high school reunion two years ago.

"He was just very soft spoken, friendly, never really talked about himself or his accomplishments," said Easler.

And those accomplishments were plentiful, but Easler says it was that humble attitude that gravitated people to him.

"Be sure to enjoy life even if you're working hard, we have only one go, one time," said Easler reading the words written in his high school year book by the late AIDS researcher.

And as he reads the words left to him by his former classmate, even in death, Lange continues to inspire.

"From here on out I'm going to enjoy every day of my life, I'm going to enjoy the work that I do, maybe follow a little bit in his footsteps," said Easler.

"He believed in working hard but he also believed in making the most of every moment, and I think he did that," said Holland-Best.

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