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Jonathan Rowe, 1946-2011
(Jon was Senior Editor at WhoWhatWhy)

Jonathan Rowe was, by inclination, an unobtrusive man. He moved through this world quietly, and he left quietly.

He did not promote himself. He was not comfortable seeking recognition. He concentrated instead on substance.

Jon died the other day, abruptly, with no warning of any kind, and left behind a wife, Mary Jean, and an 8-year-old son, Josh.

In part because of his modesty, and in part because celebrity and valor are not the same, you very likely did not know of him.  Or, if you did, not nearly enough.

There are so many things that could and should be said about Jon, but I will not attempt to say them all. Jon’s friend David Bollier has already beautifully summed up Jon’s work, achievements and writing interests on his blog. I encourage you to read what he has to say, at http://www.bollier.org/my-friend-jonathan-rowe-1946-2011-appreciation. In fact, I’d suggest you read David’s piece first, as it will give you the “biography” and so you will have some context for my personal observations.

I’m going to focus here on what it was like to have the pleasure of knowing Jon as friend, mentor, and confidant.

Jon was my “intellectual partner.” I ran almost every idea by him. His mind and his hands touched my book, and he was integral to shaping our nonpartisan, nonprofit, news site, WhoWhatWhy. A mutual friend tells me Jon was excited by what we were doing and looked forward to his deepening involvement.

I met Jon more than two decades ago, when we both wrote for the Christian Science Monitor.  We were introduced by a colleague, who for some reason thought we would hit it off. Boy, was she right. Jon was reticent around new people, almost profoundly shy. But first tentatively and then with growing comfort, he would engage on a level one rarely finds with more gregarious individuals.

He was, in short, a great friend if you were open to his laconically loving manner. And he always had something surprising to say—he was always musing in a slightly off-center way, practical but a bit more wide-ranging in his cerebral wanderings than most.

In the following years, Jon and I remained in close touch, though we seldom saw each other in person. In fact, during our long friendship, we were probably together no more than a few dozen times. That was principally because we were usually in different cities. I was in New York most of the time. He lived for years in Washington, where among other things, he had served on Capitol Hill, then settled in the bucolic coastal town of Point Reyes, north of San Francisco. He wrote, he had a radio show, he edited, he consulted, he lived the life of the writer-thinker-advocate.

Although we occasionally spoke by phone, we mostly communicated electronically, exchanging literally thousands of emails.

Soon, he began advising me as a kind of informal editor-at-large, very useful to a freelance writer whose work covered a lot of bases. I would send him story ideas, proposals, drafts. And he would send back thoughtful, succinct advisories. Like this, from 1998:

Russ:  There’s the seed of a really good idea here.  We don’t have to legally ban provocative speech to establish a cultural norm that discourages it.  And that norm begins with our own politicians and media, who set the tone for the entire country.

I would get to this point much more quickly, and develop it more.  Most of what you have now should be compressed into a lead-in for the point that rings the bell.

And this from 2002:

Russ:  This is interesting, and I think cutting won’t be a problem.  The first few pages in particular have a somewhat puffy and — to use the deadly newsroom expression — thumb sucking quality.  Frame the question and get down to business.

And this from 2007:

Russ:  This is a lot closer but not quite there.  The frame is not quite right at the end.  I think you are calling on the violin section a bit too much.

2008:

First, you obviously have great material, and there’s going to have to be a pretty thorough line edit to help it shine.  Just too much information in places, offered parenthetically in a way that makes a reader work really hard to keep the thread.

2008:

Great.  At the same time I think you need to back off a bit in terms of pushing a conclusion at people.  The argument becomes brittle when you push it too hard.  You need to be suggestive in a way that encourages the reader to fill in the gaps for themselves.  Especially when you start to attribute motives to people, it tends to cross the line between valid conjecture and overreaching.  Try to stay in touch with the reader’s initial skepticism, and go a little lighter on the you-read-it-here-first stuff.  It comes across as self-dramatizing.

Jon worked hard to get me to say things in a simpler way. He cut long, meandering sentences. He expunged unnecessary adjectives.

Nothing ever seemed to matter beyond getting the concept exactly right. We’d go back to the drawing board again and again and again. Some stories that could have been out in days took the better part of a year until he would sign off on it. More so with my five-year book project. He was there for the ride, indispensable, both prodding and encouraging.

Unlike so many editors in a hurry to be done with a manuscript, Jon’s deepest interest lay in trying to precisely understand the heart of the matter at hand. He wanted to sort out all of the questions—moral, philosophical, practical, stylistic—and then make the case.

While I was writing my book and coming upon shocking and profoundly disturbing material, Jon was always there to calmly share the burden. He would digest new information, and often come back with thoughts, hours or days later. These discussions unfolded sometimes long after I had already moved on, as he tried to figure out how he felt about an issue.

I have been thinking about your piece today and something occurred to me that I couldn’t quite formulate last night.

There is an internal pull in the piece that gets it just a little bit off track.  You are sending signals to the reader that illegality lurks just off stage.  But you can’t deliver on that, and so it sets the bar too high, and unnecessarily so.

He had the capacity to say what he had to say bluntly and boldly without provoking the person being edited to take offense. We never had a fight, an argument, never exchanged sharp words, not in conversation, not in an email. I literally do not recall any unpleasantry of any kind.

Jon was a voracious reader of philosophers, thinkers, profound figures of large and small repute. When I sent him a piece I’d written on federal environmental policy and mercury poisoning in the fish population:

You might want to talk with Monte Burke, who just published a book called Sowbelly: The Obsessive Quest for the World Record Largemouth Bass.  Monte grew up in the South (a red state guy), is an avid fisherman, and lives in Brooklyn.

He appreciated complex ideas, but he liked simple, powerful ones better.

In March, 2002, he wrote me, referring to his mentor, former employer and sometime political sparring partner, Ralph Nader:

Russ:  In his new book Nader cites Abraham Lincoln on the point that if brought the “real facts” the American people “can be depended upon to meet any national crisis.”

Jon wrote a short essay at the height of the post-9/11 security panic:

I was in Washington this week and Capitol Hill feels like a state of siege.   The place is saturated with police – not friendly cops walking the beat, but police cars, often two or three at an intersection, faceless and grim. Fences and concrete barricades are everywhere.  You used to be able to walk through the tunnels under the Capital to get from the House to the Senate office buildings.  Now a staffer has to escort you.

You feel like an intruder in your own government, and in the buildings you yourself pay for.  The lobbyists still are there.  They exit from cabs in their tailored gaggles, crowd the couches in reception areas.  What’s missing is a sense that anyone else belongs.

Yes, security concerns are real.  But like the invasion of Iraq, the start of a security state in Washington has happened with an alacrity that suggests a prior wish.  There is no hint of regret.  When Richard Nixon was elected President in 1968, a fence went up around Lafayette Park across from the White House, which was a frequent venue for protests against the Vietnam War.  President Bush, in a meeting with Republican Senators, called the Constitution a “goddam piece of paper.”  The security lock-down is a proclivity as much as a response to an actual threat.

The sense of enclosure – of space for democracy shrinking—is of a piece with other changes around town. In Dupont Circle and other neighborhoods, the quirky shops and budget restaurants are just about gone.  Schwartz’s Pharmacy, where once you might have run into a young Ralph Nader at the magazine rack, or I.F. Stone,  or Carl Bernstein having Sunday breakfast, his bike locked outside, is now a Starbucks – one of three that monopolize the coffee trade at the Circle. On Capitol Hill, the old places like Sherrill’s Bakery are gone as well, replaced by establishments more in line with the tastes of the less democratically inclined.

In this at least the nation’s capital really is a mirror of the nation.  The same thing is going on from coast to coast.  There is a connection, I think, between the police state on the Hill and the corporatizing of the neighborhoods. A retail chain that demands conformity in its thousands of outlets is of a piece with a government that demands conformity from its citizens.  A chain that seeks to claim every block in a city (in parts of San Francisco this is no exaggeration) is related to a government that seeks to claim, in one way or another, most of the world.

It has to do with control, and with grabbing everything. They call it “freedom,” which I guess it is for those that do it. But for the rest of us it is a vise tightening, and less room to breathe.  The House of Representatives moves to sell off National Parks and turn the rest into corporate billboards. State legislatures, at the behest of telecom corporations, ban localities from establishing municipal WiFi networks and thereby claim the air as a democratic commons.  Corporations claim school classrooms as advertising venues.  Wal-Mart decimates our Main Streets.  On and on.

Their space expands, and ours shrinks.  It is a syllogism that is larger than any of the people doing it. The crew in the White House is cheerleader and enabler for something it did not invent.  We can be grateful in a way.  For decades these tendencies have been working quietly and in disguise. Now they are out in the open, with an aggressive bravado. We can name them, and maybe start to deal with them.

What’s the form of government that joins authoritarian government with corporate convenience?  The word is not awfully useful today, associated as it is with the racial politics of the Nazis.  But the thing is upon us.  The clock is ticking; and if we don’t start building boundaries now – more, if we don’t start to construct a shrewd politics of boundaries – there is no telling where it will end.

He took a deep interest both in the human condition in general and in the hurly-burly of the day to day.

In 2003, around the time of the Iraq invasion, while I was living in Belgrade, he wrote me:

Have you been able to listen to NPR at all – on the web perhaps.  It’s been awful, especially the news updates.  One administration official after another, taken as gospel.  “Rumsfeld said…”  That sort of thing. Jr

In 2004, when I was researching George W. Bush:

another interesting pattern is the way everyone who says something bad about George recants very promptly.  remember the head of his office of faith based initiatives.  would love to know exactly who called and what they said.  that could establish the modus.

In early 2005, as the Dan Rather scandal unfolded:

this whole thing has the smell – strong smell — of a set-up.  if the CBS investigation didn’t ask that question, that’s an even worse offense than the original, I’d say.  are you trying to track this down?

In 2005, when I sent him a piece on Judith Miller’s New York Times reporting that led up to the Iraq invasion:

Russ: For what it’s worth that’s a crystaline distillation of the aroma I’ve been getting from Miller.  She’s complicit in this, an accomplice posing as a principled journalist.  Keep on the trail.  Jr

***

When you told him something significant, he would say “Oh.” Or “Hmm.” Followed by silence. He was thinking. He wanted to respect the concept. Sometimes there was nothing to be said, and so he said nothing. Jon was also one of those rare people who would get off the phone the instant he sensed that you were busy.

He could say no when he had to, but he liked to say yes, in as few words as possible. When I asked him if he would consider joining our nonprofit’s board of directors:

sure I’ll do it.

Jon had a stammer that came and went. He tended toward silence. He was from New England, and he seemed to embody the better aspects of the Puritanical strain: self-effacing, prone to quietness, no use for excess.

The only favor I remember him asking was, once, if he might sleep on my floor for a single night. When I asked why he was passing through town, it came out that there was a DC party celebrating the release of an essay collection to which he had contributed. Otherwise I would never have known.

Jon’s personal and professional interests spanned topics like economic inequality, the things we share as community, the inaccuracy of our official measurements for progress. As best as I could tell, he had virtually no interest in creature comforts.

Many years ago, when I was coming into Washington and Jon was out of town, he invited me to use his apartment. I found that he, a white man, lived in a nearly all-black neighborhood, in a small (modest is not even the right word) apartment that one entered from the alley. A cab driver refused to take me all the way to the door. The apartment had almost no flourishes of any kind, and Jon slept on a mattress on the floor.

Jon was not someone you could easily entice to frivolity. His idea of a wild time was discovering a welcoming independent coffeehouse.  Our great joke was that he was the rigorously ascetic one, almost embarrassed by a nice meal in a nice place. I lived the flashy Manhattan lifestyle, or so it seemed to him on his rare visits, when, coincidentally, I had a full plate socially.

Me:

Jon, annoyingly I have yet another one of these holiday parties…

Jon:

I’m dizzy just thinking about it.   A small town guy now I guess.

He found a lucky match in Mary Jean, a spirited Filipina working in a medical office,  with whom this medical-skeptic Harvard grad seemed to share so little and yet shared so much. He enjoyed their regular trips back to visit her family in the islands. It was a whole new ecosystem to be contemplated. And Point Reyes was a real community—and that meant a lot to him.

And then, on October 16, 2002, he wrote me:

By the way, Joshua Perry Espulgar-Rowe arrived on 10/10, at 6:30 AM, full of sass and topped with a full head of hair.  He was more than a week early, which is a trait he did not get from his Dad.

He became a dad late in life, and took great pleasure in being a companion to his son.

2007:

Russ: Sorry I couldn’t call tonite. I came home from my radio show and Josh wanted me to help him redesign his railroad track layout and that was that.

———

Jon was not exactly a Luddite, but he knew how to resist the blandishments of civilization as long as humanly possible. He never did have a cell phone as far as I know. I remember him visiting New York and leaving me a message from a pay phone, saying he would try again later. Once I missed him entirely on a visit because I had no way to call him back.

Recently, he’d agreed to let a good friend, Gary Ruskin, build him a website so he could post his collection of writings. Gary was at the house working on that project when Jon died.

Jon was selfless to the max, seemingly of a strong constitution, and he apparently did not know that he was carrying a fatal infection. He’d even gone to the gym shortly before collapsing. He was rushed to the hospital, where he died on Sunday morning.

Jon was a deeply religious man. A Christian Scientist, he didn’t have much use for doctors. It was one of those things on which he could be obstinate, so I never discussed the matter with him.

While it may have been his stubbornness that tragically ended his life, it was another aspect of his exemplary purity of purpose.  Here’s an essay typical of the man:

Christian Science Monitor

January 26, 2006

It’s all in a name

It used to be that the names of places mirrored deeper meanings, values, and our past.

By Jonathan Rowe

POINT REYES, CALIF. – The news that a town in Texas has changed its name to that of a corporation, in exchange for free TV, made me think about my elementary school, which was named for a local man who died in World War I. …

I still remember the awe I felt when I looked up at the plaque in the main corridor. Somehow the message penetrated my unruly mind, that I was supposed to be brave and unselfish, and to serve my community and my country, the way young Albert Edgar Angier had done.

America once was full of messages like that. Schools, arenas, and public places bore the names of civic leaders and national and local heroes. A Washington Square Park, a Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, was not just a memorial to a dead person. It was a testament to the qualities of character that the nation purports to stand for and to pass along to its young.

Have you ever heard of Joel Elias Spingarn? He was a professor of comparative literature at Columbia University, a founder of the Harcourt Brace publishing company, and for many years an executive of the NAACP. His memory lives on in part because Spingarn High School in Washington, D.C., is named after him. His achievements are an example to every student who walks through its doors.

It’s not the kind of message that young Americans are getting much these days. Increasingly the Spingarns and Angiers are giving way to corporations eager for yet another hook into the minds of kids. Buses, hallways, classrooms, and even textbooks are filling up with come-ons for junk food and the like. A high school football field in Illinois has become Rust-Oleum Field. In New Jersey, an elementary school now has a ShopRite gym.

It’s not just the schools. Piece by piece the civic landscape is collapsing under a deluge of commercial self-promotion. Sports stadiums, parks, and other spaces all are dropping civic names for corporate ones. Ballparks once were a kind of lyric poetry of place. Crosley Field meant Cincinnati. Briggs Stadium meant Detroit. Candlestick conjured up the San Francisco fog, and the wondrous Willie Mays. Now you hear Cinergy, Comerica, SBC, and you are everywhere and nowhere.

Then there’s Clark, Texas. This hamlet of 125 residents has agreed to change its name to DISH, which is a satellite TV system owned by Echo-Star Communications. In exchange, the residents will get free satellite TV for 10 years. When a locality sells its name – its identity – to a corporation, it is both the logical culmination of the trend, and an object lesson in what’s at stake.

In scriptural times, the bestowal of a name was an event of great significance. A name was an expression of character; and humans earned new ones in accordance with their inner growth. Jacob, after he spent the night wrestling with his demons, became Israel. His old name means “to seize by the heel.” His new one, “God will rule.” The places where such events occurred acquired new names, too. Jacob called the place of his trial Peniel, which means the “face of God.”

Places had meanings. Their names connected the outer landscape to the inner – to the shared identity of the people, and to that which they most valued. For most of its history, our nation followed a civic version of this same tradition. Our outer landscape mirrored our character, our values, and our past.

The strange part is, it’s not the “godless liberals” who have brought about this change. For the most part, it’s the same ideologues who lecture us about traditional values on other days. They cut taxes to the point that schools and the rest are desperate for funds. Colorado Springs District 11 was one of the first to sell ads on school buses. It was in a “fiscal crisis,” a spokeswoman there explained. “They couldn’t pass a bond or any kind of tax increase.”

Ergo, the Coke ads in schools. Across the nation, plaques to the young men and women who give their lives in Iraq now will have to share space with those.

Next time ideologues bemoan the decline in traditional values in America today, and how young people choose self-indulgence over service, they might look at the propaganda they have invited into the schools, and into the culture at large. Character comes with a price; and if you aren’t willing to pay it, don’t blame others when it is gone.


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  • Editorsteve

    A fine commentary, Russ. A life lived well, but far too short.

  • Marnie

    Thank you Russ. Thank you Jon.

  • Jonathan Wimpenny

    An inspiring, and well written, obituary. Thanks Russ.

  • Jamie Wolf

    What a touching and compelling evocation of someone whose life shines out with purpose and excellence…. Beautifully done, Russ… Jon and I must have crossed at some point in my Washington Monthly days, but I never met him… I wish I had.. I’m so glad you gave us that example of his work, and that it will be continue to be accessible…

  • Anonymous

    Truly wise men are rare, and I appreciate your introduction to this one. I’m elated to be made privy to the substance and context of so many of his prescient comments. When his observations mirror my own, (“There is a connection, I think, between the police state on the Hill and the corporatizing of the neighborhoods.”) I feel like he’s encouraging me too, like he did for you. I can now see where he had an effect, through your hand, on your book.

    Your tribute was especially informative, and I’m very sad for your loss.

  • Elizabeth Barnet

    Beautiful glimpse. Same man, different vector. Jonathan fostered an on-the-ground commons movement with me and a devoted committee and a community, here in this coastal town of Point Reyes Station. Amazing how he lived in so many worlds through correspondence, thought, insight. I’d seek his view on most anything; now to sit with the resounding silence. We are developing a tribute page to him at http://www.westmarincommons.org. If you’d like to support his family and honor his work here, email me westmarincommons (at) svn.net. Elizabeth Barnet

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this touching piece on my Uncle Jonathon. He loved writing and politics and one of my fondest memories of him was getting to visit “Uncle Jonathan” at his office at the Christian Science Monitor back in the mid-to-late 80’s when I was about 7 years old. He let me use his computer and encouraged me to write a story about my day in Boston. This was the first time I had ever typed on a computer and used a word processor. I was able to print-out the story I had written and cherished that piece of paper.

    Looking back, it was listening to him and my dad (Jonathan’s brother) debate politics which inspired me to follow in my uncle’s footsteps and study Government at Harvard. My Uncle Jonathan was a kind, loving, and caring man who will be missed by so many of us.

  • JonathanWiner

    It is incredibly distressing that this life was cut short, no matter how you look at it. For him, his life; for his family and friends, him. And for the rest of us, this man, in light of who he was and what he did on this earth. Carp diem. Thank you for taking the time to tell us about him, Russ, and to remind us of his sense, and his labors, and his sensibility.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Fellmeth/1157153003 Robert Fellmeth

    I hired Jon Rowe to work with Nader in 1969; we paid him $400 for the summer. I recruited most of the 110 law students and journalists that first summer after the FTC Report. But I liked him so much I wanted him on my ICC team that seven of us put together. Jon was the glue in any organization he worked with. No ego, just the facts ma’am. He was an excellent writer, and self effacing. Next to Joan Claybrook, he was always my favorite Nader Raider of all those I worked with from 1967 to 1973. I am so proud of his career after he left. Jon was a tortoise, not a rabbit. And the steady, reliable, competent tortoises mean everything. You can have your Reggie Jackson, give me Stan Musial and Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn, and Jon Rowe. Any day. The thing I remember most about him though is his smile and his laugh. He thought I was hilarious, so naturally I knew he was a genius on that basis alone. But he always had a twinkle in his eye. There was a 12 year old boy in there. I sure liked that. I am going to miss him. His memory is in my mind and will be there as long as it is functioning.
    My condolences to his wife and child.

  • George Pratt

    Russ,

    Thanks so much for this wonderful tribute to an amazingly sensitive and profound individual. I had never heard of Jon before this, but wish I had. I would love to read more of his work and wallow in his clarity.

    This touched me deeply, as do Jon’s words in the representative works you’ve posted.

    My sincerest condolences.

  • John Yemma

    Russ, thank you for this. I met Jonathan in Washington the early 1980s and got to know him few years later when he moved to Boston where we both worked for The Christian Science Monitor. Your remembrance captures the Jonathan I knew — intense, kind, always in search of the clearest concept, and a deep and natural (and never annoying) skeptic. His skepticism was a flag he flew quietly but steadfastly. Nothing — not business, government, religion, or the generally accepted view of the material world — were accepted by him on face value. He was not moved by fads or fashion or emotion. I lost touch with him for a time, but in 2008, when I had returned to the Monitor as editor, Jon interviewed me for his radio program. The questions he asked and the way he asked them reminded me of his gentle inquisitiveness. It was an honor being his colleague, if only for a time.

    John Yemma

  • Brian Mcgee

    R.I.P. Jonathan.
    Thank you for using your time on earth to do good.
    Thank You.

  • Peggy Lauer

    Thank you, Russ. A clear distillation, and an expansion, of this most amazing, understated man by you, and those who commented so far.

    A friend sent your link at 10pm tonight. After a good cry, I found “A Few Commons Notes From The Philippines” that he emailed to me in February of 2004, after a family visit there with Mary Jean and Josh. I liked what he said about his purpose, which he accomplished: ” The commons is not something abstract and remote. It is a matter of daily experience, to people everywhere. We are not telling people something they don’t already know. We are giving words and therefore conscious shape to something they in some sense know already. When the outer echoes and affirms the inner in this way in the public arena, the result is the material out of which a new politics can be made. ” The “we”– other observant, articulate ‘commoners’–will continue the echo, and his voice will still be heard. That is some solace.

  • Punky

    I was one of those who never met Jon, but through you he’s now touched me, too (and given me some great writing guidelines, to boot)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cassandra-Troy/100001504852984 Cassandra Troy

    I cannot pray so, I will keep good thoughts for those near and dear this human being; a real one, not one of these cretins passing. RIP

  • David Holmstrom

    I am deeply saddened to learn of Jon’s passing. The way I discovered that he is on his way to somewhere else was when I tried to send him a political piece that would have been of interest to him. Minutes after it was on it’s way, the message came back “undeliverable.” I googled his name and found Russ Baker’s lovely tribute to Jon, who was one of the sweetest, toughest writers I knew when he and I wrote for the Christian Science Monitor in Boston. Beneath his quietness was a man without guile. He never wanted to utterly disparage someone or ridicule ideas that were paper thin. I sit here thinking, Jon, thank you for our few hours of talking and sharing with each other. I am so grateful for the memory of you.

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  • CQ

    I didn’t know Jon personally, but I used to follow his writing at the Monitor. After he left there, I’d find his name popping up in connection with The Tomales Bay Institute and On the Commons — and always I saw the dateline Point Reyes  Station.

    Today, when I was looking up one of your interviews, Russ, I came across this sad news on your site. One could say that the world now has one less determined truth-seeker in it. But I choose to look at Jonathan’s legacy in a brighter light: he paved the way for others who aren’t content with pat answers to keep searching, with Rowe-like skepticism (to paraphrase Monitor Editor John Yemma) until we find that elusive truth. I have a feeling Jonathan would want none of us to quit the search, ever.     

  • http://www.facebook.com/nedrra Nedrra Lanakila

    From a mind that continues to find its way back from a diagnosed stroke over 2 years ago (I forget how long), a mind that often has challenges comprehending what it’s read, thank you for this beautiful tribute to a man I had never heard of, from a writer I’ve never met. 
    It sang to me.  It painted his presence and his probing, inquisitive and bright outlook on life so that I could feel his way of being, and be blessed by the experience of it. 
    It confirmed that there are mentors out there — real mentors — who genuinely care and encourage their chosen ones to stretch, refine and self improve through the compass of their unrelenting steadfastness and wisdom.  Without an agenda of equity in their lives.
    You demonstrated how his guidance and encouragement has blessed your writing skills.  He must have smiled when he read this.
    You’ve fed the cells of my soul to find ways to do more than keep going.  

  • Iris_mack

    Jon and I met in the 1980′s at the Christian Science (C.S.) church in Cambridge. I was a Harvard grad student and I think he was working at the C.S. Monitor.We would see each other for services on Wed and Sun. We got together for lunch, movie, etc. every once in a while. But he was so mellow and back then I was really type A. So he always kind of looked after me like I was his little high-strung sister.  LOL!A few years after we met I took C.S. class instruction with a teacher in D.C. for two weeks. After the 2 weeks new students like me got to meet the students from previous years. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that Jon was in my teachers’ association (kind of like an alumni club). Great minds think alike!Our association meets every year on the last Sat in June. I did not make it this year. However, one of my sisters did.  She also knew Jon well. They were both trained as lawyers.Jon and I had all sorts of conversation over the years – religious, working out, about Summers and Rubin, books, etc.  He was always so calm.  The last time I saw him was two years ago at our association in D.C. (I missed last year because I was living abroad.) Afterwards he and I walked for miles around D.C. brainstorming and just chilling.  I had lost my mom a few months prior to this and as always, he was a good person to discuss life and how to live with dignity and meaning.His spirit still lives on. He was one of the coolest and nicest persons I have ever met.Iris Mack

  • Michel Boudreaux

    Thank you for this remembrance and the telling comments that followed.  I was a classmate with Jon in the late 60′s.  At times we were close, though I think he was a person who was non-attached in a profound and beautiful way.  I saw him last in 1975 when he visited and celebrated my first son’s birthday with us.  We lost touch after that.  How strange to hear about his life from you who knew him after I did, and to recognize him so clearly in your words.  Only lately have I come to appreciate the Commons, its value, and the enormous threat it is now under.  As usual Jon was way ahead of me, but not so far as to be unwilling to entertain me for a time.  By the way, I suspect he never lost that quality that drew me to him most, a genuine wit. Jon was the peace he wanted in the world.

    • Elizabeth C Barnet

      Michel,

      It is indeed strange to recognize the person through all the people who knew him at different stages. Thanks for sharing your connection. And, knowing him during the last years of this life, I agree, he did have a sharp wit and he liked to play with words – one of the many ways he enjoyed relating with his amazing son, Joshua.

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