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Richard Deats, a Friend

Richard Deats–a Friend

I lived in Rockland County, New York, in the town of Pomona and I think I met Richard in one or more of the many cooperatives that had been formed in that county. Then he introduced me to the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the oldest peace group in the world, located in Nyack, NY, just about thirty minutes from where I lived. And Richard became a friend. He died this month, on April 7, and these are just a few of my memories.

I loved his deep dedication to peace, lived out in his life. He worked for the FOR and traveled the world making peace. At the very same time he held his sense of humor, his lightness, his love of making music, and his word play. I could rarely say something to him without him turning some word around or upside down and causing a smile or laugh between us.

Eventually I bought a house right across the street from him and we and his family became solid friends. Jan, his wife, is a professional musician. Many of his children were involved with music. I can remember one time in my house hearing drumming. I went out the front door–looked across the street–and found some of his young adult children on the roof of their house, drumming away.

He traveled all over the world training others in non-violence. He believed with a very deep knowledge in the power of non-violence to work. He told me of non-violence training he did (I believe in Korea) where it was forbidden for the people to sing “We Shall Overcome,” and he said, “at every church service, at every gathering, with obvious government people present, they would sing it–strong and full of life.”

Sometimes I would see him out in front of his house gardening, and I would cross the street and we would talk. He was always ready to pause, tell a story, laugh with a friend. 

And finally each year there was a gathering after Christmas and before New Year’s of singing carols in their livingroom–old ones, new ones and finally the lighting of the Christmas tree–real tree, real candles and a feeling of peace come once more to the world.

Good memories of a good friend—set free now. Tonight I’ll sit outside with a candle and sing a song of peace. Perhaps he will be singing too.

(On the internet, go to: wagingnonviolence.org and scroll down to find “Remember Rev. Richard Deats.” See his picture and read more of the scope of his life written by  Ethan Vesely-Flad, director of national organizing for the FOR, and John Dear, long time peace activist, former executive director of the FOR and now director of  the Beatitudes Center of the Nonviolent Jesus.)

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