Santa Fe activist John Otter passed on Sunday. For those of you lucky enough to know him, you know what a valued activist our community has lost.
For those who did not know John, he was an active volunteer on the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2015 and since the founding of Retake Our Democracy he attended most every meeting, even one only a very few weeks ago. While we never met socially, we spoke often before and after meetings and I was struck by both his keen mind, gentle heart, soft-spoken demeanor and subtle wit. We need so many more like John.
John was not only active in Retake. He was a strong supporter of the Los Alamos Study Group, the Global Warming Express and I am sure many other justice organizations. I have been forwarded the following note from his wife, Suzi.
This is Suzi writing to you from John’s computer. I am sad to tell you that John died on Sunday, September 15, 2019. I was with him when he took his last breath and it seemed that he left this world the way he lived in it… on a surge of divine love and joy. Ambercare hospice did their work beautifully and he was comfortable and pain free.
We are having a memorial for him on Sunday, September 29, from 2-4pm here at the Commons, 2300 West Alameda. Would you be willing to help me get the word out? He was held in the vast love of the communities that work so hard for justice and peace and it would be great if they can be here to help us celebrate his extraordinary life on the 29th.
And so, I share this information from Suzi and hope to see many of you there to celebrate a good life, well-lived. I want to share a bit more about John as they are instructive to us now in these challenging times.
First, since I didn’t know Suzi or much about John outside of his advocacy, I reached out to Genie Stevens, founder of Global Warming Express, who I knew to be close friends with John and Suzi. We spoke for quite awhile and one thing I learned was that John was an avid mountaineer, having climbed dozens, perhaps even hundreds of the tallest mountains in the world.
Genie shared that John would go out with his mountaineer friends and that after an arduous climb, he would ask his group to join him on another climb right then and then would go out again, often alone. Genie shared that this was John in all aspects of his life. No mountain high enough, never enough mountains to climb.
And so, John pushed himself relentlessly the last five years, despite having terminal cancer. Genie noted that he didn’t even seem to acknowledge that medical reality and that only weeks ago he asked to enroll in Global Warming Express’s mentoring program. That was John, another mountain to climb, cancer be damned. Genie saw this as an apt metaphor for today’s youth who must face a challenging future and no matter what we do now, that future will be fraught with very steep, treacherous mountains and no choice but to climb.
The second thing I want to share is that I looked for Suzi’s Facebook page to read more about her and John. I didn’t find a page for Suzi, but the FB search of “Suzi Otter” landed me on an appropriate post by a photographer named Suzi who had posted the image at left with this comment: “Did you know that otters “hold hands” when they fall asleep, to keep from drifting apart?” And so, Suzi held John’s hands as he moved on to another world, we can only hope it is a more gentle one than this….and that it has mountains for John to scale.
Lastly, days after the Trump election, John had a bumper sticker printed: Make America Gracious Again. Pure John: In the darkest of times, John found a gracious path.
I can think of no better tribute to John’s life than for you to take his place at the Strike today. We have our own mountains to climb and the most challenging is being addressed today at the Roundhouse. He would have been there, that is for sure.
And then if you knew John I encourage you to join Suzi and others to commemorate his life on the 29th.