In my last post I mentioned that I went to two separate events on a rainy Saturday. In the morning I went downtown with a few friends from my church to the National Museum for Women in the Arts then ate lunch at a nearby Cosi, which I already wrote about. After lunch we all took the Metro back to Maryland where we all went our separate ways.

I went from the Metro straight to another event that I wanted to attend that was also held on the same day. This event started at 4 p.m., which was why I was able to make two events in one day. It was important to me because it was a dedication to four people whom I knew and who all died within a four-year time span.

I previously posted in this blog photos of two of the honored people that were taken shortly before their deaths at the 2012 Greenbelt Labor Day Parade. At the time Bob Auerbach (the white bearded man wearing a green shirt with a wide-brimmed hat, light grey shorts, and long white socks) was running for Congress on the Green Party ticket. Had he won, he would’ve been the oldest man ever elected to Congress. The big man in the white shirt and dark pants holding a large sign saying “Vote For Bob Auerbach” (while that sign unfortunately obscured part of his face in both photos) is Doug Love.

2012 Greenbelt Labor Day Festival

2012 Greenbelt Labor Day Festival

Three months after I took those two photos, Bob was struck by a car while he attempted to cross a street just two days before his 93rd birthday. Four months after Bob’s death, Doug Love had also died after losing a short battle with cancer.

Friends of the four activists were so inspired by their non-stop devotion to the cause of peace that they decided to erect a peace memorial to them. It took a while in order to find a spot then fill out all the forms with the appropriate local authorities while designing the site.

The unveiling was supposed to be held outdoors. However, like I wrote in my last post, it was raining very heavily all throughout the day. I drove in my car past the area where the memorial unveiling was supposed to take place and I saw no one there. I decided to take a chance and try the nearby Greenbelt Community Center and I saw a notice announcing that the memorial had been moved to a room in that building. I managed to make it to the ceremony just in time. When I entered I noticed this flag that had the word “peace” written in a variety of languages.

Unveiling of a Peace Memorial for Four Activists

There was a display showing a photo of the four activists who were being honored.

Unveiling of a Peace Memorial for Four Activists

The next photo shows a closeup of the writing that was in the middle of the display.

Unveiling of a Peace Memorial for Four Activists

The next photo shows a closeup of Bob Auerbach’s picture.

Unveiling of a Peace Memorial for Four Activists

I first met Bob years ago while I was still a college student at the University of Maryland at College Park. I was dating a man who would become my future ex-husband. My boyfriend used to tell me about how, when he reached the legal voting age, he cast his first ballot for the third party candidate Barry Commoner. Around that time the Green Party in West Germany received seats in the parliament and international attention for being a ragtag alternative party who shook things up in West German politics. (The Greens were strongly against the nuclear proliferation from both the U.S. and the Soviet Union.) My boyfriend became so intrigued by this that he told me he did research for any U.S. counterpart, he made a few phone calls, and was given Bob Auerbach’s number as a local contact. He called Bob up and Bob invited the two of us over to his place for a few hours.

So I decided to go along with my boyfriend. I had heard that the Green Party in West Germany were made up of activists in their 20’s and 30’s (the most prominent of which was Petra Kelly) and I expected a similarly young person who wasn’t much older than me. I was surprised when I saw what Bob looked like. He was in his 60’s back then (which made him older than even my own parents) and he had the bald head and long white beard that he still had until he died. We talked for a few hours and he seemed very enthusiastic about wanting help in spreading the growth of the Green Party in the United States. He had been a longtime peace activist going as far back as the late 1930’s (when he jointed the War Resisters League) who never stopped and he was involved in a whole lot of local organizations, all of which dealt with peace and justice issues.

My boyfriend and I were still students at the time (he was a part-time grad student and full-time NASA employee while I was a full-time undergraduate student) so we weren’t able to devote as much time to Bob’s cause as he wanted us to. We briefly attempted to hold some kind of talk on campus about the Citizens Party (which the U.S. version of the Green Party was called at the time) but the attendance was poor and the Citizens Party never quite got a foothold on campus. (It was also the same year that the Rev. Jesse Jackson was making his first run for president and many students on campus were more interested in his campaign than in building any kind ot a third party.)

After I graduated and married my boyfriend I would see Bob around from time to time. Ironically, shortly before our wedding, my boyfriend and I started attending a local Unitarian Universalist congregation and we ultimately joined it. Bob’s ex-wife, Mary Carson, was a longtime member of that congregation who used to sing in the choir and she was active on a number of committees. (Her health had become frail in recent years so she rarely attends services anymore unless a family member takes her there for special occasions like the winter holiday season.)

The next photo shows a closeup of Esther Webb’s picture.

Unveiling of a Peace Memorial for Four Activists

Esther Webb was the first of the four honored peace activists to pass away (back in 2009). My then-husband and I met Esther when we got involved in a local group known as the Pledge of Resistance that was protesting the Reagan Administration’s policies in Central America. Esther was a devout Quaker and among the more committed peace activists I’ve ever known. She was arrested numerous times for her nonviolent resistance. (She was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.) She was always bright and eager and she was optimistic about the righteousness of always struggling for peace and justice.

The next photo shows a closeup of Bert Donn’s picture.

Unveiling of a Peace Memorial for Four Activists

Of the four activists, Bert Donn was the one I knew best. Like Esther Webb, my husband and I also first met Bert through that same Pledge of Resistance organization that protested the Reagan Administration’s policies in Central America. In addition, my husband and I first knew his wife, Marj Donn, when she served as the Director of Religious Education at our Unitarian Universalist congregation then, after she retired from that job, she continued serving on a variety of church committees (such as the Social Action Committee). Bert only attended UU services on special occasions so we worked with him mainly through the Pledge of Resistance. Bert had been a peace activist as far back as the early 1950’s while he worked a day job at the same NASA Goddard Space Flight Center as my husband did. (I’ll never forget the time that my husband and I were at Bert and Marj’s house and Bert showed us old newsletters, flyers, and similar items from various peace and justice groups he had been involved with. Some of those papers dated as far back as the 1950’s. He had them carefully organized and filed.) Bert passed away just a few months after my husband abruptly walked out on me. When his memorial service took place I attended it even though I dreaded the possibility of seeing my estranged husband also present. In fact I expected him to be there because both he and Bert shared a love of working with NASA. I dealt with it by facing the front of the church at all times during the service. Once it ended I looked around and found that my estranged husband hadn’t attended at all.

The next photo shows a closeup of Doug Love’s picture.

Unveiling of a Peace Memorial for Four Activists

Of the four activists, Doug Love was the one I knew the least. I would see him around town and he was always friendly and willing to say “Hi” to anyone who had just happened to pass him by on the street regardless of whether Doug knew that person or not. I still remember this deal we had struck together just one year before his death in 2013. I have a mulberry tree that’s on the property line between my home and my neighbor’s home that was planted sometime in the distant past by a previous occupant of my townhouse. That tree produces more mulberries than my husband and I could ever eat. (And, to be honest, mulberries are pretty bland in taste compared to raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries.) The berries tend to fall to the ground and dot the front lawn for a few months until they eventuall rot and they get overgrown by the grass. One day, just a few months after my husband walked out on me, Doug came by my home because he loved mulberries and the tree he usually used to pick them that was located on the public property areas in the neighborhood had died and he noticed that I had them. We worked out an agreement where I would let him spread tarp underneath the tree in order to capture the mulberries. I didn’t mind the tarp because it was there for only a couple of weeks until Doug got enough mulberries for his personal use. The good thing was that my front lawn was less messy with excess mulberries. Sadly that agreement was short-lived because of Doug’s illness and death and, once again, I have to deal with mulberries falling to the ground in large masses as of this writing.

The room in the Greenbelt Community Center had to be hastily set up to accommodate an event that was originally scheduled to be held outside. Judging from the next two photos, I have to say that the organizers did a great job with decorating the room on short notice.

Unveiling of a Peace Memorial for Four Activists

Unveiling of a Peace Memorial for Four Activists

The ceremony consisted of family and friends giving a eulogy for one of the activists followed by singing a peace song (such as “Down by the Riverside”) followed by another eulogy for one of the other activists and, so forth, until all four of the activists were honored. The formal ceremony ended with Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan (the tall guy in the blue striped shirt and navy blue pants) helping the activists’ friends and family members with cutting one ribbon for each of the activists.

Unveiling of a Peace Memorial for Four Activists

Unveiling of a Peace Memorial for Four Activists

There was a reception which included vegan food served on recyclable/compostable dishes and eating utensils. One person brought a bunch of strawberry plants asking those in attendance to take at least one strawberry plant home to plant in memory of the activists. Since I was currently in the process of trying to start a strawberry patch in the front lawn of my home, I eagerly took two plants and I planted them the next day.

After the reception went on for a while, we all got word that the rain had subsided for a bit and some people decided to walk down to the site of the memorial (and the ill-fated unveiling) to get a look at it. I followed the people because I was curious to see where it was located. (For the record it’s located near the rear entrance of the Greenbelt Public Library at the bottom of this hill.) The memorial consists of four benches (one for each of the activists) and they were meant for any passers-by to sit on and do some silent contemplation (especially of peace and justice issues). A lot of people sat on those benches despite the fact that everything was wet from that massive downpour.

Unveiling of a Peace Memorial for Four Activists

Unveiling of a Peace Memorial for Four Activists

I wasn’t in the mood to get my pants wet so I passed on sitting on the benches. I’ll return at another time (preferably on a less rainy and wet day) and take a closer look at the memorial as well as take a few pictures.

Update (July 22, 2015): Here are some more detailed photos of the new memorial, which I shot on a day that wasn’t raining at all.

Advertisements