Joan Ecklein, in memory

Paul Shannon delivered a eulogy for Joan Ecklein, May 21, 2022, First Unitarian Society of Newton. Photo: Cole Harrison/MAPA
Paul Shannon delivered a eulogy for Joan Ecklein, May 21, 2022, First Unitarian Society of Newton. Photo: Cole Harrison/MAPA

Presented at the Celebration of Life for Joan Ecklein, May 21, 2022, First Unitarian Society of Newton

When i think of Joan, I am reminded of a part of another eulogy given long ago by a young Chilean man at the memorial service for a friend who had died fighting the Pinochet dictatorship.

There are some, he said, who struggle for a few years. And they are good.

And there are others who struggle for 10 years, and they are even better.

But there are still others who struggle for justice their whole lives.

And these are indispensable

Joan Ecklein was one of these indispensables.

It’s funny, but in the heat of those struggles for justice, we don’t realize the privilege we have to know our colleagues and to work with them to change the world.

But now, of course, with Joan suddenly gone, we realize what a big hole there is now in our movements for peace and justice —

and for many of us, what a hole there is in our lives.

Because Joan was just always there.

You could always count on her.

Do any of us remember a time in our lives when Joan was not with us in the trenches?

We almost lost her, what was it? 12 years ago? 15 years ago?

but somehow, to our surprise and good fortune, she bounced back to rejoin us along the road and give us a dozen or so more years of friendship and activism.

We were not so lucky this time.

Joan was a trooper for justice: social justice, economic justice, gender justice, but especially racial justice

You were not going to turn her around.

She knew what she was about and where she was going

She did not suffer fools lightly

She gave no berth to injustice.

She was determined to abolish nuclear weapons.

And she was going to do everything she could to end our wars and the terrible suffering they cause far away people — in Yemen, in Syria, in Iraq, in Vietnam — who are invisible to most people as we go about our lives.

She lost many battles along the way,

But won some really big ones.

She was a determined feminist who understood men and enjoyed working with them.

And she is now so disappointed that she can’t go to the next rally against Raytheon, against nuclear weapons, against the catastrophe of war,

And FOR a much better world.

She knew our empire for what it is: a dark hand over the earth that holds us all back from realizing the full promise of our sisterhood and brotherhood.

But she also knew the importance of friends.

She created many circles of good friends.

And all of us were fortunate to be in at least one of those circles

So now the GOOD SHIP WILPF will have to continue its voyage through treacherous waters toward the promised land without Joan at the helm.

Hopefully we have learned enough from her and with her to keep that ship afloat and take it to safe harbor where Joan will be waiting for us

Thanks for everything Joan. for being a good friend. for being a good comrade. for being a long-time companion along the road. and, of course, thank you for your chinese meatballs. we will never see their like again.