Sunday, April 12, 2009

Remembering Two Pioneer Valley Public Citizens: Jonathan Souweine and Eric Schocket

We are marking the passing of two local citizens who in related but distinct ways did a great deal to foster social justice. I happened to know both rather well, and they knew each other, for they met in the hospital. They were two of the three victims of leukemia among my friends and acquaintances in the past five years. All fought valiantly and lost. All died relatively young.

This past Tuesday, Jonathan Souweine (1948-2009) passed away. The memorial service at the Jewish Community of Amherst on Friday must rank among the town's largest in recent memory, reflecting Jonathan's immense circle of friends and influence alike. Even strangers may know him, for the construction project that he and his wife Judith undertook furnished the story for local author Tracy Kidder's bestselling House. Even those of us who knew Jonathan may have forgotten or been unaware of some of his many accomplishments: star high school and college athlete as well as lifelong sportsman and outdoorsman, attorney and then executive director of the environmental activist group MASSPIRG, leading proponent of the first mandatory bottle-return bill in the state, successful local attorney--who managed to be both relentlessly tenacious in his professional and political life and unfailingly kind in his personal relations. Fellow attorney Edward Etheridge, quoted in Phyllis Lehrer's news report, perhaps best summed things up by saying, "He lived his life at full speed."

Next week, we mark the passing of our Hampshire College colleague, Eric Schocket, who died in 2006. His acclaimed book of essays on literature and social class gives a hint at what kind of teacher and thinker he was, and what he might have become.

This coming Tuesday, Michael Denning of Yale University will deliver the second annual Eric Schocket Memorial Lecture, on the theme, "Spectre of Wageless Life."

1 comment:

Clarity said...

I'm pleased to have found a blog with meaning. I intend to research your friends' causes; it is good of you to laud them, there are too many unspoken heroes.

On a lighter note, in response to Friday's post "the people who make these things... never bothered to make the proper acquaintance of our friend, the apostrophe." I chortled a while.