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Despite struggles, Duluth train victim never gave up on life

Jason McLevis wanted the public to know that his aunt, Cathy Ann McLevis, was somebody.

The 28-year-old Duluth man said that media portrayals of his aunt this week have led people to believe that she was "a homeless bum."

"She was a highly intelligent, loving human being that loved her family dearly and just really struggled to cope with her mother dying and other downfalls in life,'' he said.

Cathy McLevis' body was found Monday morning after she was struck by a train on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks near the New Page Paper Mill sometime after 9 p.m. Sunday. Duluth police said it appeared to be an accident and there was nothing immediately suspicious about it.

The nephew said his aunt, 48, was a confirmed member of Trinity Lutheran Church and had attended Duluth Business University. He said she worked for many years as a secretary for a Duluth property management company. She was unmarried but has children ages 16 and 11 who live with their fathers, he said.

Jason McLevis said his aunt was especially close to her mother and went downhill after she died in 1998. He said his aunt had a problem with alcohol and prescription medication.

"She struggled with addiction the last couple of years and she finally succumbed to her addiction,'' he said.

The nephew said he talked to a police investigator Wednesday and there were no indications that the death was a suicide or that she had given up on life.

"There was no note, nothing to indicate that she was suicidal,'' he said. "She had never attempted it, or had any attempts. She never told anyone that she felt like dying. The family agrees with investigators that it was completely accidental. ... Indications are that she was intoxicated, but we don't know for sure. It's going to be two weeks before we get the toxicology reports back to find out what, if anything, was in her system. They knew that she had been drinking."

Jason McLevis said the investigator told him that his aunt was spending the evening with people near the tracks. She told them she was getting cold, so she was heading back to town to get warm.

"The investigator and medical examiner said that, other than trauma from the accident, she was very clean and had been taking care of herself,'' he said. "It wasn't like she was on some monthly bender. It was obvious that she had been somewhere that day and cleaned herself up."

Jason McLevis said the last time he talked to his aunt was in 2008.

He remembered the last thing she said to him: "She said, 'Here's my number. If you need anything, call me. I'm here for you.' She always was. She was the type of person that it didn't matter if she didn't have anything. She would give you anything she had. It was all about family. It's sad to see it end up this way."

He said he's working with other family members to handle funeral arrangements for his aunt.