Walter Rave, a prominent activist and Takoma Park community member, succumbed to injuries from , but for many his memory stands out even though he's gone.
We asked anyone who had a story to share what Rave meant to them. Below are the entries we received. If you have a story or photo to share of Rave, either add it in the comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Compassion Over Killing will be holding a memorial for Rave Jan. 8 at 2 p.m. at its headquarters.
I’ve known him since 1993, live a block from his house, and was with him in the hospital with him when he died (and earlier in the week in the hospital, too).
Walt was surrounded many friends in his final hours (it was literally standing room only), all telling him what a great man he was. Many emails about him which had been posted to various lists were read to him, and he always nodded that he could understand them. (Despite his beyond-horrific injuries, he was conscious, could communicate by nodding and shaking his head, and communicating by allowing us to go through the alphabet to form words he wanted to say.)
He also heard from many friends by phone one last time, including people he very much respected in the animal protection movement. His very final moments were peaceful. As horrible as his predicament was, and horrible doesn’t come close to describing it, I’m glad he at least got to hear what so many people thought of him, something that generally only happens after we die, and I’m certain he appreciated all the kind words.
Walt’s life was driven by a desire to stand up for those who were being bullied—and animals were at the top of that list for him. He detested animal abuse, regularly derided what he referred to as “human supremacy”—the idea that essentially only humans matter and we can do whatever we’d like to our fellow creatures since they don’t happen to be part of our group—and always tried to give animals a voice. But his love of cats was, in my opinion, one thing that really kept him going. Virtually every time we’d see each other, we’d trade stories about what our cats were up to. He always said his favorite thing in the entire world was to hear cats purr.
He’ll be missed and not forgotten.
This sounds stupid, but meeting Walt was the first time that I realized "old" people could be cool. In my 20s, I always wondered if somewhere down the line I would morph into an mini-van driving stepford wife who worried only about money and owning property and didn't give a crap about social justice issues.
Well, when I saw Walt at all the Neimans protests stoically holding his fox-in-a-trap effigy for hours on end, it gave me hope that growing older doesn't mean selling out. He just looked like a badass to me. Then when Walt partcipated in that civil disobedience/arrest with us inside Neimans, I was like, "Damn... Homey really is cool!" I remember going to his house when the faunavan was being parked there and seeing all the bamboo and thinking I was going to copy him one day and grow a big bamboo forrest in my yard even as it irked the neighbors.
After Walt did that "Lee was right" protest, I told Walt he is my hero. But it's not because of that one singular event that Walt is my hero. He's my hero because of the way he conducted his entire life. He never backed down from his beliefs, no matter how unpopular. He wasn't constrained by societal conventions or the fear of being mocked or looking like a weirdo. He really was punk rock in a way that most punk rockers can only dream of being.
Anyway, I just looked back at my email exchange with Walt and his response to my telling him that he's my hero was:
C'mon, no one ever considered me to be cool. And being a hero, just isn't going to happen. What I CAN do, is to do things that help me to live with myself. I just don't want to die realizing that I should have done this, or that I should have done that. Because if I do, I will also realize that I hadn't lived.
Not trying to be cheesy here, but Walt has lived exactly the way I aspire to live: for the greater good, without apology and without compromise. I mean, and what's more heroic than that? He can rest assured that he will not die without having lived.
One last classic Walt story that he told me, cut and pasted here from his email to me:
Years ago, (in a crappy job), my boss called me into her office and said that I would have to get rid of the animal rights sign on the back of my truck. It was a sign that said, "ONLY PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO EXIST. ANIMALS DON'T!" "YOU make it so, by eating meat." At first I thought that maybe she was right, because it was definitely pushing the limits of free speech. But then, I thought of Oliver North's statement when questioned by Congress. He said "Sir, men died with their face down in the mud, for my right to take the Fifth Amendment." So I got up out of my chair, and laid face down on her office floor, and said, out of the corner of my mouth, the same thing. She backed down on her demand...
Classic Walt. He is the only one whom I ever told was my hero. His courage was off the charts.
Walt Rave and I shared an absolute love of all creatures and the belief that they should be able to live out their lives free of exploitation. We also talked about our mutual love and adoration for cats on several occasions.
I remember returning from leafleting events with Compassion Over Killing's FaunaVision van, which we parked in Walt's driveway. I recall the kindness Walt showed me and the fact that he even named a watercolor after me...to this day, it was one of the most touching things anyone has done in my honor.
He and his beloved cats will be missed.
In 1986, I was a new animal rights activist and attending one of my first anti-fur demonstrations, this one in New York City. I found myself standing next to a tall, older activist -- it was Walt, as I later learned -- and engaged him in conversation. He wrote his answer out on a little note pad hanging from around his neck. I assumed he was mute, and we continued our conversation in this manner.
A year later, I moved to Washington, D.C. and became involved in the local animal rights scene. I saw the same tall, older man I'd met the year before and went up to say hi. Lo and behold, he answered me back by speaking! I asked him what was up with that, as all this time I'd thought was a mute. He told me that when I'd met him the year before, he was in the midst of a prolonged vow of silence, undertaken as an atonement for speaking unkindly to someone he cared for (whom, as I now know, was Ingrid Newkirk, the founder of PETA).
So that was Walt, a man of deep conscience and compassion, and great self-discipline. Oppressed and suffering animals have lost a true champion, and I join many others in mourning his death.