A celebration of the life of longtime Mendocino Coast youth advocate and former bookshop owner Jim Levine is set for Feb. 2 in Point Arena.

Levine, who joined the fledgling Mendocino County Youth Project in 1974 and went on to become its director, died Jan. 1 from complications of a heart attack he suffered three days earlier. He was 73.

"He always believed in somehow making things better," said his wife of 54 years, Alix<NO1><NO> Levine of Gualala. "He found work that fed him, he did it well and he raised really good kids. It was a life that was very complete.

"If it could have been longer, that would have been better."

Jim Levine was known throughout Mendocino County and beyond for his work as a para-professional counselor, mentor and proponent of children. Much of the hands-on and administrative work he did for the Mendocino County Youth Project from 1974 to 1991 and again from 1997 to his retirement in 2004 sought to help troubled or neglected kids avoid the criminal justice system.

His responsibilities with the Youth Project led to him also direct the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization in Mendocino County through most of the '80s and into the '90s.

Levine took a break from social work in 1991 to become a partner in a Point Arena bookstore, Bookends. He and his wife closed the shop in 1997 and he went back to work for the Youth Project.

He also was active for decades in a variety of community efforts aimed at positively impacting the lives of the county's children.

He served on the board of First 5 Mendocino Commission, which serves children in their first five years of life, as well as on the boards of the Redwood Coast Recreation Center, Mendocino Family Youth Services and the California Coalition for Youth.

In his free time, Levine relished taking walks with his wife and dog, dancing and spending time with his two grown children, three grandchildren and many friends.

"He loved to cook for people," his wife said.

In addition to his wife, Levine is survived by daughter Rachel Honey of Petaluma, son David Levine of Sherman Oaks and brother Kenneth Levine of Arroyo Grande.

The Feb. 2 celebration of his life will begin at 2 p.m. at the Arena Theater in Point Arena. A reception, with dancing, will follow across the street at the 215 wine and beer bar — once the site of the Levines' bookstore.

Memorial donations are suggested to the Jim Levine Legacy Scholarship. Donations should be made out to Mendocino Family and Youth Services and sent to MCYP, 756 Oak St., Ukiah CA, 95482.

— Chris Smith