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Michael · Rossman

Message from Karen

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As virtuous men pass mildly away
And whisper to their souls to go
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
The breath goes now, and some say, no...

This is how Michael left us, at about 2:30 yesterday afternoon.  Surrounded by family love.

From him, among his last days of talking much, and from me, great, deep thanks for all your help, letters, wishes, prayers, and of course Blood! 

No flowers, thanks.  My yard is in splendid bloom.  Any gift you'd care to give would be welcome I'm sure,to a cause you know he cared about,  If you've meant to, but haven't quite gotten to a blood bank yet,please do.  (And please don't feel bad if you're unable to, for any reason.)  The best gift of all that you can give, truly,is to ask friends to give blood in his name.  Preferably, but not necessarily, at the UCSF blood bank.    He took so very much from the supply that it is still an enormous act of love to him to replace some of it.  Who knows?  Perhaps for some who are not already regular donors, it will become a habit.  I get such a good feeling when I go to a blood bank, because it's one of the things in society that is simply and completely for the common good.  Cuz obviously,  it's a supply that one day either we, or someone we dearly love, will desperately need.

We are still putting together love notes to, and now about, Michael.  If you'd like to send one, it's to:  1409 Bonita, Berkeley 94709.  Thank you, too, for those.  Though he just couldn't reply at the end, they meant so much to him.

We'll get back to you when we've got the memorial planned.  Anybody care to guess how many people to plan for?  I can't begin to figure it out...

An apology for not getting this out yesterday.  And a hope that I'll be able to figure out how to send it to Michael's list as well as my own. If you don't get it till evening, apologies, for I'll have had to wait for the tech support...
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On May 14th, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
rainbow bridge
until we meet again, by and by...
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On May 14th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
A firecracker
of a man, he left us much too soon, with a belly full of life projects still in him. Though short and pixie like, Michael was a burst of social change energy and earth based values who cast a tall shadow. A 50 year resident of Berkeley, he was an undeterred hippie, and helped keep the spirit and life of the pivotal 1964 Free Speech Movement alive many decades after it had occurred. He had a very sweet gentle disposition and a charming sense of humor as well.
When in 1982 I brought him up to UC Davis to speak in the class I had organized on the decade of the 1960's, I was struck by the broad picture he painted of the non violent social change community spirit that existed in the bay area counter culture in the mid-sixties before the media discovered the Summer of Love. He contnued to care for and contribute to that community for the rest of his life, as an activist, teacher, writer, cultural historian, naturalist and outdoor kids summer camp leader, musician, and artist.

Michael was an incredible collector of stuff, useful stuff, and had amassed what was the largest political poster collection in private hands in the nation. He had an amazing passion for the art and evolution of political graphic arts and frequently welcomed visitors from academia and activism to look though parts of his massive collection for research, inspiration, and information. He had more science supplies then entire schools packed into his home, microscopes and taxidermed animals, shells and stones, artifacts and feathers, and an amazing orchid collection.

One of the main reasons Michael continued to hold up the importance of the FSM to the general community was that it represented a precise moment of permanent transformation of individuals in the power to the people mode. Those who were part of FSM realized their own power and potential to create and alter politics, institutions, and culture in a profound way. It made it okay to step out on a limb and make a difference in a profound way. The experiential, spiritual nature of so many young folks acting as conduits of change became the norm for a generation thereafter.

As he said: "This was the deep revolution of the FSM, our utter break with past tradition: turning inward to focus on our own conditions. Immediately the focus moved from our political condition to our condition as students, as learners. Throughout the conflict, culminating in the brief birth of the first “free university” during the climactic sit-in in Sproul, a broad movement of educational reform began--questioning and remaking curricula, classroom processes, student living, the board of regents--and echoed across the nation."

Immediately after the FSM, he was a pivotal player in the movement for education reform, reform in higher education which came first to affect college campuses around the country and then spread out into many many communities. He spent fall of '65 and early spring traveling from Berkeley to SF State, where the country's first working experiment called the Free University was in brilliant operation. That movement spread like wildfire and in short order there were hundreds of Experimental Colleges and alternative education programs on campuses across the nation, liberating a generation to new ideas about spirituality, body movement, diet, politics, agriculture, music, recreation, and culture that collectively have totally transformed this nation.

As a teacher and educator, an orator and spokesperson, an activist, archivist, and torch bearer, he influenced tens of thousands of individuals. He was a dedicated husband, father and grandfather, a creative soul, a masterful work of art of a man, and a dear friend of mine and many many others. A meteor of a man and true mensch, we will not see his sort pass by this way again...........dkupfer
On May 15th, 2008 06:26 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) replied:
Re: A firecracker
Amen. May we carry on in his spirit...with courage, humor, passion and grace.
Love to the family.
a Berkeley Neighbor_ missing Michael
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On May 14th, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
Greatest Teacher!
I had Michael as a science teacher for several years during grade school.
He was the best teacher I ever had! He will be missed greatly.
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On May 15th, 2008 10:37 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
Karen & Kids,

It is Thursday and I jut got news of Michael's passing.
Your quote on this page, as well as your words of care, are so wonderfully appropriate. Thank you.
There are a few people on this earth like Michael and mostly they inspire the rest of us to be better. Unfortunately there are only a few....
Thanks to you, Karen, and Michael we have two children raised in love and care and instilled with that special something that only the both of you could bring to them. They now get to share....
One of those famous poetic people wrote, "I would have my friends as I would have the books in my library, Seldom using them but always knowing where they are" This is how I felt about Michael. We talked a total of three times over the past four years. I seldom "used him" but I always knew where he was to be found.
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On May 15th, 2008 10:40 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
Karen & Kids,

It is Thursday and I jut got news of Michael's passing.
Your quote on this page, as well as your words of care, are so wonderfully appropriate. Thank you.
There are a few people on this earth like Michael and mostly they inspire the rest of us to be better. Unfortunately there are only a few....
Thanks to you, Karen, and Michael we have two children raised in love and care and instilled with that special something that only the both of you could bring to them. They now get to share....
One of those famous poetic people wrote, "I would have my friends as I would have the books in my library, Seldom using them but always knowing where they are" This is how I felt about Michael. We talked a total of three times over the past four years. I seldom "used him" but I always knew where he was to be found.
Bob Van Peer
Fort Bragg
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On May 16th, 2008 01:46 am (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
Hands-on learning with Mr. Rossman
I am so sorry to learn of Michael's passing; I had not heard that he was ill. Michael was an inspired and inspiring teacher--with wonderful if progressive teaching methods. I will never forget eating slug slime in one of his classes at Ecole Bilingue!

I recently lost both of my parents to terminal diseases, and hope that everyone who can donate blood in tribute to"Mr. Rossman" will do so--as Karen says, blood is a life-giving gift, and our loved ones need it all too often.

Peace to Michael's family,
Courtney Williams
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On May 16th, 2008 03:08 am (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
I graduated from Ecole Bilingue in 1992 after ten years there, amongst them many days were spent in Michael's classes. Although I had not kept in touch since graduating, I carry many vivid memories with me every day from those classes. I will never forget the look on my parents' faces when I told them, as Michael had suggested to the class, that we should carry a garbage bag in the back of the car in case we came upon road-kill that we could bring in for teaching. More than that, I will not forget the pure astonishment and fascination I felt the day Michael brought in a squirrel he had found, dissected its chest cavity for us and then showed us how the respiratory system worked using a drinking straw. I can picture the lungs expanding and still feel the excitement I felt that day. Having a teacher uncover that fascination with life in me at such a young age contributed hugely to my going on to become a doctor.
Michael was always pushing us to think outside the norm and to push our limits, like when he sauteed cow brains for us to try. I've never eaten them since, but I remember they were delicious!
I feel so lucky that I was able to learn from him, and feel so glad that so many children had the opportunity to learn from his lessons to continue to think with their imaginations.

Love to all his friends and family,
Mindy Longinotti
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On May 16th, 2008 02:04 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
Echoing Mindy's sentiments
Although I had not seen Michael in over 20 years, I have similarly indellible memories of the squirrel cavity inflation exercise, as well as the identical reaction of MY parents upon suggestion that we pull over to recover the remains of a deer carcass one day so that Michael could explore its insides with our 5th grade class.

I majored in biology at Stanford, and much to my parents' shock, conquered an insect phobia to write a thesis on butterfly genetics (many weeks of hand feeding caterpillars required), and then to spend months in a Central American rainforest up to my elbows in unidentified slime and astoundingly fertile leaf litter, counting bug species. I can honestly say that the memory of Michael's intrepid example years earlier contributed in no small part to my persistence and determination that made this possible.

I wish that every elementary school student could be fortunate enough to have a guide half as inspirational as Michael was.
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On May 17th, 2008 05:00 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
I met Michael several years ago while he was meandering around. We had a few dates, exchanged a few e-mails, shared a few giggles, decried our hard-earned wisdom and lack therof, and sporatically touched each other emotionally in that way we gray haired people so often do....but it was obvious his heart and soul were elsewhere. A few months ago a common acquaintance told me he was seriously ill. So I have been a lurker on this site, garnered a smile from his always insightful hopeful wry way of viewing the cosmos, and I smiled even more at the casual mention of his re-marriage which the powers that be deemed necessary to leave in order to return.

Go in peace, Michael Rossman.
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On May 17th, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
I was very sad to hear this news about an inspiring figure from the early days of the new left. My sincere condolences to his family and other loved ones.
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[User Picture]
On May 18th, 2008 12:05 am (UTC), waihili commented:
Not forgetting the trickster, coyote spirit of the man, a man who frequently described his actions or impulses as "transgressive" -- an impish sprite and a serious rebel.

Not forgetting the man who danced with me at TantraFest while creating an impromptu poem on the absurdities of the event, singing it loudly as we darted and swayed like two Bollywood extras. We left early, after knocking over an image on the altar, spattering candlewax everywhere... leaving slightly shamefaced, but gleeful and exhilerated.

Not forgetting the man who accompanied me, with respect and curiosity, to a local Makahiki observance, gamely trying to twist his tongue around chants in 'olelo Hawai'i.

Not forgetting the man who took me along poster hunting at anti-war demonstrations, and who little by little let me into the mysteries of the poster room, finally urging me to make a serious study of the eros portion of his collection.

Not forgetting the man who channeled the raucous and hungry spirit of "Tom O Bedlam" at a benefit at Project Artaud.

Not forgetting the man who loved my dog, who gave the furry person of my household more respect than any of the rest of us. Who gave him joy too, playing dog like on the floor, juggling the small beast like a furry ball.

Not forgetting the man who took my skewed and amateurish statistics and tore 'em apart before I had a chance to embarrass myself by handing in a flawed school project. Not forgetting the fun he had doing it, while getting his ration of platelets and red blood.

Not forgetting the hundreds of chocolate bars we ate, ritualistically, critiquing the wrapper, the cacao content, the flavor. Not forgetting the notes he made on some of the wrappers, in small, cramped handwriting.

Not forgetting the gazing -- the transcendent experiences of face beyond the face beyond the face and the subtle energies streaming, the rapture and wonder we felt at this observable, but not measurable, and increasingly reliable connection.

Not forgetting his capacity for unconditional love and friendship. Not forgetting his capacity for deception. Not forgetting what he told me, and what he left out.

Not forgetting our journey to Hawai'i -- our sail on a double-hulled canoe and his nude climb up a volcanic cliff which worried the captain of the boat until he finally reappeared, covered with bleeding scratches but happy as a kid; his digging up of botanical specimens; his eye out for road kill as we drove the long road from Ka'u to Kilauea. Not forgetting his pissed off dumping of a pig skull in a trash can at the Honolulu airport, when he realized it might be likely be confiscated by agricultural inspectors before the flight.

Not forgetting the many nights which were still not enough. Not forgetting that my son made him a lego robot, a few days before his death.

Not forgetting that others loved him too, and that we all had our reasons for doing so, and for sometimes suffering as a result.

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On May 19th, 2008 07:54 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
Thank you Michael.
Michael was my science teacher in elementary school at Berkeley Montessori (and Lorca was my classmate!) and I absolutely believe that he is why I am where and who I am today. I have such vivid memories of him dissecting any roadkill he found on his way into school. I even remember him bringing some cow tongue to school and dissecting it for us and then cooking it over a Bunson burner for us to taste afterward.
More importantly I remember an assignment he gave us to come up with as many questions as we could about bubbles. I spent a weekend playing with bubbles and won the contest and Michael gave me my choice of prizes from his bag of tricks. I chose a book about North American mammals which he was so happy I chose, and I still have it today.
I also remember sitting on the floor reviewing our last lesson during which we talked about butterflies and he asked if anyone remembered the term to describe the transition from caterpillar to butterfly and I did and he seemed so impressed.
I don't think I have such clear memories of any other teacher in my life. And because of him I am a science teacher myself today. I wish I could have shared those memories with him directly.
My thoughts are with Michael's family and everyone else who is missing him today.
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On May 19th, 2008 09:11 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
en memoire
all my thoughts and warm feelings to Michael's family and friend. I met him in 1994 I was just coming to America to pursue my american dream!! He was teaching at the ecole bilingue and I was a nanny for a little boy there....and I told the boy : "Was you are the lucky little boy of the world to have such a wonderful teacher as Mr Rossman" This guy is a bible the bible of every generation to come! Pascale
A bientot Michael!
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On May 19th, 2008 09:46 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
Teacher of nature
Dear Karen, Lorca and Jamie,
I am so sorry to hear of your loss. My thoughts and emotional support are with you. Michael was a huge--and positive--influence. He, more than anyone, taught me to look closer and most importantly, to appreciate the natural world. I am eternally grateful! Many moons have passed, but I will always have fond memories of interacting with Michael and the three of you at camp. My best to all of you!
-Kelly Carbone
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On May 19th, 2008 11:34 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
about Michael - from Revolution Books
We will miss Michael, who visted our store periodically, to talk about politics and change. A spritely presence! Always urging us to carefully collect revolutionary posters in a box for him at our store (which we did for years). Ever young at heart and in spirit! That's how I remember him.
-Reiko, Revolution Books, Berkeley
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