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In Memoriam: Luke Cole 20 Years of Advocacy

Environmental Justice for All
June 2009

luke_uwf_v2


Contributors
Caroline Farrell
Lupe Martinez
Brent Newell
Daniela Simunovic
Gustavo Aguirre
Andre Booker
Teresa DeAnda
Bradley Angel
Michel Gelobter
Richard Drury Lozeau
Tom Frantz
Linda MacKay
Caroline Farrell
Josh Konecky
Elieen Gauna
Don Spradlin
Andre Booker

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CRPE's 20th Anniversary Events:

CRPE turns 20 this fall.  Luke was in the process of planning three events to celebrate his organization. We will hold these events to celebrate his life, and honor his legacy.  There will be an event in Delano on December 5th 2009, San Francisco on November 19th 2009, and New York in early November 2009.

CRPE's Offices

 
San Joaquin Valley Office
1302 Jefferson St., Suite 2
Delano, CA  93215
661-720-9140
 
San Francisco Office
47 Kearny St., Suite 804
San Francisco, CA  94108
415-346-4179
Greetings!
The Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment (CRPE) is mourning the untimely passing of its founder, Luke W. Cole, who passed away in Uganda while on sabbatical on June 6, 2009.  The last few weeks have been filled with tears, laughter, smiles and fond remembrances of Luke.

            Luke founded CRPE almost 20 years ago, in October 1989.  What started as the "Luke Cole employment project" has become a 15-person environmental justice organization with a national reputation for representing poor people and people of color fighting for environmental justice.  For those of us who worked with Luke at CRPE, his death has affected us deeply. We put together this Memorial Newsletter to commemorate Luke's life and work.  We invited our Board of Directors, Delano Advisory Board members, and staff to remember Luke and share how he touched us.

            Luke was our friend, our mentor and our leader.  He inspired us with his warmth, his bravery, and his intolerance for racism, discrimination and injustice. He recognized that an injustice in one community diminishes us all.  He shared his power and privilege to help those low income communities and communities of color struggle against powerful interests and buck the status quo.  There was a joy and a love inherent in his work, a belief that we all deserve to live a good, healthy, and full life and that communities should speak for themselves.

            On a personal level, I have had trouble putting into words the number of ways Luke has influenced my life and career.  I joined CRPE in the fall of 1999 and I had the privilege of working with Luke for almost ten years.  In our time together, he taught me so much about being a good lawyer, a movement leader, and a decent person.  I feel his loss in every part of my life.  I am grateful that he shared his vision with me and allowed me to help shape his work and the organization he built.  His generosity was unlimited.

            The memory of Luke that never stops putting a smile on my face is from last year, April 2008.  I traveled up to Alaska to meet Luke in anticipation of going to trial in our Kivalina case. The parties were able to settle the case a few days before trial which left our weekend free.  We decided to go on a nine hour boat trip to view wildlife along the Kenai Fjords.  It was freezing cold on the water, but we didn't mind at all.  It was beautiful.  I was just happy to be there and possibly experience my first whale sighting in the wild.  But Luke was on a mission to see some kind of bird- an arctic something or other.  Unbeknownst to most of the passengers, Luke had roped the ship's captain into searching for this bird and radioing other boats to see if there was a spotting.  So while most of us were just happy to be there and see what we could see, Luke had taken us on a quest. On the way we saw black bears, dolphins, whales, puffins, sea lions and seals, never knowing that we were supposed to be on the lookout for some kind of bird.  Sure enough we found it.  Luke was delighted and so was I, though I don't remember what we were supposed to have seen.  His huge smile made me smile and I was happy to have been on the journey.              
        
            I consider it an enormous privilege to continue the work he started with us and to advance his legacy.  I know many people share in this unfathomable loss.  May Luke rest in peace while those he touched, taught, influenced, and mentored continue the struggle for environmental justice.        - Caroline
Luke Cole, Gustavo Aguirre, Dolores Huerta, Lupe Martinez and Caroline Farrell at the United Farm Workers 18th Constitutional Convention, 2008
Luke_Dolores_UFW group shot
Luke Cole. The Man with the Educated Heart! 
by Lupe Martinez, CRPE Director of Organizing
I met Luke when he first started building the organization. I joined him right at the time during the fight against the Incinerator in Kettleman City; this is about 19 years ago. Luke asked me to join him for a meeting in Kettleman City with the comite El Pueblo. I was extensively interviewed by the comite and the end of the meeting Luke said you did it, you did well and you survived.  I was given the blessing to start work, we walked streets in KC, organized and had lots fun times enjoying bucking the system.
 
We had our first office in the Valley in Fresno with the CRLA-Foundation. I used to drive up from Delano. From there on we worked in Buttonwillow against Laid-Law who wanted to expand the toxic dump.  Luke had gotten a call from the community.  Again that was also from the ground up, I did house meetings and had Luke come to the meetings with Padres Hacia una Vida Mejor. We spent many a nights in Buttonwillow, organizing, prepping folks for meetings held by the county. Long story here, bottom line was as Luke called it, "Jamming up the system" grassroots organizing. The story is in his book "From the Ground Up" in case folks have not read it. I am totally proud that I was the first organizer who worked for Luke.  He gave me that opportunity to work with him in an area that was a new theme, Environmental Justice. I had been organizing with the UFW prior to joining Luke and, of course, had worked with farm workers, which most of  these communities are comprised of.
 
Malaga was another project that started from a race track being proposed; again we went knocking door to door getting folks involved. What a ride this was.
 
I have so many memories with Luke in so many years of knowing him. I had gone back to the UFW after Cesar Chavez died and our communication kept on.  Luke never stopped asking me when I was going to return to CRPE. To me that was extremely important, to know that he thought of me as being capable of doing the organizing in his organization. Luke knew I did not have any degrees or an academic background, or so much as graduated from high school, except getting the GED... but he knew my life as well as my family's lives. Why? Because he took the time to listen and visit. He knew that Maria and I had been through so much discrimination as farm workers and what the cost of our struggle had been and what things we had learned that were not in any text book.
 
Luke was a person who had that charisma, the easiness to talk to, and you knew he just loved people. Like very few people who give their life in serving others with all their hearts, Luke certainly was one those persons who believed, "In service there is true life" and he put it to practice.  He loved the communities we work for, empowering, developing the leadership in those communities and people loved him back, which was his reward.  Foundations believed in what he was doing, and you know that by the mere existence of the organization for 20 years.
 
I remember when Luke called me during my time working with the UFW about the Boswell fight in Corcoran, and how that company wanted to bring in mega dairies.  Luke and I had a meeting with a few members of the Board of Supervisors. Here I learned a lesson of Divide and Conquer.  The Board was totally trying to divide us on this issue. The board thought that because I was with the UFW somehow I would split from Luke because these mega dairies would provide jobs. Luke and I argued with them heavily, to say the least. Luke was quick on his feet, responded, got up and started walking out the door, with me covering his back. Of course we know the result of that case.  Boswell gave up on their quest to build their dairies.  Luke and I just laughed our butts off that day.
 
Luke was so proud that we had participated at the UFW convention in 2008. He had quite an entourage of folks with him up in the stage when he spoke to the farm worker delegates.  Luke knew that not too many folks are given that opportunity by the UFW to speak up there, but he was one of those persons because the UFW respected Luke.
 
Luke always gave us the room to grow, to make decisions. It was up to us to take those opportunities, to take the lead to do something with it. He believed in us, he believed in people. The proof was also shown on November 20, 2008 in the AB32 hearing mobilizing to Sacramento. Luke was feeling proud of our work, proud of the whole team, proud that his 19 years were paying off.
 
I will miss Luke buying chicharrones (pork rinds) at the Michoacana a block away from our office, which he just had to have every time he came to Delano.
 
Patron (as I dearly called him and as he called me), I dearly loved you as my brother who knew how to make one feel appreciated, your educated heart (by loving people, not by books) with which you touched so many, you will always be remembered. Rest in Peace Patron until we meet again!

Brent Newell, CRPE Legal Director
Luke at BVHP Luke's professional life was all about two words: environmental justice.  And words were his best tool, for he was a gifted writer and a courageous, persuasive speaker.  He chose to use his words to benefit others, to defend others, to protect others, and to give meaning to the term environmental justice.
 
As a young attorney and less than one year out of law school, Luke heckled Jay Hair, the President of the National Wildlife Federation, for having a Waste Management, Inc. executive on the National Wildlife Federation's board while he gave a keynote address at the 1990 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference.  Two years later in 1992, a grassroots organizing and legal battle culminated in the defeat of Waste Management's plans to build a toxic waste incinerator near Kettleman City, California.
 
Luke stood tall on many occasions.  One such occasion was in the fall of 2000, when the Joint Senate Assembly Agricultural Committee held a McCarthyesque hearing in Hanford, California to investigate CRPE's bold challenge to the dairy industry's dominance.  Upset state legislators grilled Luke, yet Luke did not waiver in the defense of San Joaquin Valley communities.  Nine years later, CRPE still challenges the dairy industry and its captured politicians.     
 
Luke used the power of his words to teach, inspire, litigate, agitate, and empower people to believe that environmental justice was possible and to get after it.  Dozens of law students learned from him, and then went on to careers representing the powerless against the powerful.  He wrote hundreds of briefs and always spoke truth to power.  He educated, empowered, and represented scores of communities - on their terms - in many struggles.  He was a leader in a movement that became known as environmental justice.
Remembering Luke
by Daniela Simunovic, CRPE Community Organizer
In the past weeks much has been said about Luke's many legal accomplishments; but, for many of us what distinguished Luke from other attorneys, what made him a great lawyer and a greater man was his fundamental belief in the power of people to transform their lives and improve conditions in their communities.
 
Luke recognized that environmental racism could not be defeated by victories in our judicial system alone. Luke firmly believed that to end the cycle of racism, poverty, and environmental injustices afflicting so many poor people and people of color in our country, we needed to empower the women, men, and children who for far too long have been living at the crossroads of these social evils.  Luke's strong belief in the power of people dominated the way he practiced law, and it was this belief that led him to found The Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment 20 years ago.
 
What makes Luke's story more powerful is the fact that Luke came from an extreme life of privilege. He grew up traveling the world and attending some of the most prestigious schools in the nation. With his talent and background he could have gone on to a legal career of much fortune and fame. Instead, upon graduating from Harvard law he ventured west to California's San Joaquin Valley- also known as the Appalachia of the West for its extremely high levels of poverty and unemployment.  It was in this Valley that Luke would encounter environmental racism in its rawest form. In the predominately Latino farm worker communities like Kettleman City, Buttonwillow, Alpaugh, and Earlimart Luke would come to witness first-hand how the poorest of the poor were shouldering the brunt from our society's pollution-driven economy for someone else's profits. Luke understood that it was not a coincidence that toxic waste dumps were located in communities like Kettleman City: an impoverished community with over 90% Latino population. Luke understood the political realities that created places like Kettleman, and he also saw the affects the pollution had on its residents: cancer, respiratory illness, birth defects, etc. 
 
Luke was outraged by the injustices he saw, and frustrated by the fact that there was no organization providing legal and organizing support to the rising leaders of these communities. Luke dedicated the rest of this adult life to channeling that outrage into CRPE, an organization that would provide residents of environmental justice communities with both legal and organizing support to help them fight the powers that be, and to help them make their communities safer and healthier places to live, work, and play.
 
Luke was honest and direct, bold, intelligent, witty, and quick on his feet. He also had a flair for creating a dramatic effect. All these traits served him well when in court, at public hearings, or in heated confrontations with the opposition. Many of his colleagues could share stories with you that would make you laugh and say, "Yeah, that sounds like Luke". Some of my fondest memories of working alongside Luke include an EPA workshop in Kettlemen City in 2007, where the EPA was presenting a bogus EJ report that concluded that there were no environmental injustices in Kettleman City. After protesting and marching with the residents of Kettleman we came in and took over the meeting. Luke in his typical "Luke" way went up to testify and turned his back on EPA to symbolize how EPA has historically done this to the residents of Kettleman.  
 
Another more recent moment occurred last November, as the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved its AB 32 Scoping Plan to curb Global Warming Emissions in the State. Luke was outraged that this plan did nothing to protect environmental justice communities at the frontline of the impacts of global warming. CRPE mobilized more than 80 EJ activists from over 18 rural EJ Valley communities to the November 20th hearing to let CARB know that they were against a plan that left them unprotected. When it was evident that CARB was not going to make time for these activists to share their stories, Luke stood up and took the meeting over. He asked all the activists who had come from the Valley to stand up and voice their opposition to this unjust plan.  This action created an energy and excitement in the group and gave folks who had made the long journey to Sacramento a sense of power. Luke taught many of us through his example that it was okay to stand up to the powers that be and challenge the discriminatory and faulty power structures that made it the status-quo to subject poor people and people of color to disproportionate levels of pollution.
 
Luke inspired many of us to find the power inside of us. Luke gave us power and more importantly he gave us love. Luke had a big heart, so big that you could easily forgive his sometimes arrogant or blunt manners because you knew that his intentions were always good.
 
Luke talked the talk, and he walked the walk. This man of great privilege humbly stood alongside the most oppressed people in our society and fought alongside them. He stood alongside victims of pesticide drift, he fought with residents of rural communities who lacked access to clean drinking water, and he stood up to mega-dairies and the giants of Agri-business in order to help clean the air in the country's most polluted air basin; and all this just in the San Joaquin Valley. In Kivalina, Alaska and Camden, New Jersey and in many other cities around the world he fought for justice amongst grassroots leaders.  
 
Luke loved the people he worked with both in the community and his staff. I am one of the community organizers who for the last 3 years had the privilege to work and fight alongside this great man. Luke left a dedicated staff of organizers and lawyers who are committed to continuing to wage the fight our leader started. 
 
My hope is that Luke's legacy will be of a man with a tremendous heart, who loved people, and who firmly believed that environmental racism could only be successfully challenged from the ground up.  ĦQue viva Luke! ĦQue viva la lucha!
Gustavo Aguirre, CRPE Assistant Director of Organizing
 Penview                                                         
Jefe, Luke Cole was one of those heroes that irreversibly changes those (like me) who have the privilege to meet and work closely with them .  Seeing Luke's dedication, passion, commitment, courage and most important: unconditional love for those he helped and served those with the most need. When it comes to dedication in serving others always, Cesar Chavez is my model.  Now I have two models: Cesar and Luke. Both dedicated their lives to serve others. I will never forget that the United Farm Workers (UFW) gave me the opportunity to develop myself as a leader and I for the rest of my life will thank Jefe Luke for giving me the space and opportunity to exercise my organizing skills (e.g coordinate the Tulare Co. pesticide buffer zones campaign which we ended by celebrating a Victory) and for giving me the opportunity to help my people. He always believed in people that's why (on top of the great legal work) he always insured the participation of the affected communities he helped and represented. I strongly believe that Jefe Luke left us a great well-based organization (Center on Race Poverty & the Environment) and great very committed (leaders) staff,  that will allow us to continue Jefe Luke's dream of a better quality of life and a better world for the most in need with Justice and Voice. "VIVA JEFE LUKE."
Andre Booker, CRPE Advisory Board
Luke was an amazing person, and an even more amazing man of generosity.  I don't know if I'll ever meet another person with his degree of humanity.
Teresa DeAnda, CRPE Advisory Board and Board of Directors
 Teresa and Luke Holiday Party                                                                      
This day at the Holiday party, we played a game where everyone was given a pencil and paper and told to close their eyes and draw Luke. Luke got a big kick out of the game.  Many pictures looked very abstract (some even looked like a guitar with hair), but Jen's (I think it was jen's) was really close and actually quite good. Luke said he would save all these funny likenesses of himself and cherish them! I really miss you Luke! My hero.
Adelante! A Few Memories of Luke
by Bradley Angel, Greennaction for Health and Environmental Justice
Luke Cole honored by Gila River Alliance for a Clean Environment
As always, it was a long drive from San Francisco to Kettleman City, but this time it was harder than usual. Five days after Luke's passing, I traveled alone down Interstate 5 to Kettleman City as I had done with Luke 100 times over more than two decades of our work together. As I drove past the agricultural fields, cows and rolling hills, I had time to reflect and remember this committed and hell raising activist, amazing lawyer, root beer fanatic, dear friend and colleague. 

In 1989, I met Luke at a grassroots environmental conference on the East Coast, and he asked if I knew of any communities of color fighting a pollution battle who needed a lawyer. It was an honor to introduce Luke to his very first environmental justice case when he represented the farmworker community of Kettleman City in their historic struggle and victory that stopped Chem Waste from building a hazardous waste incinerator. 

In the early 1990's when the Kings County Planning Agency held a so-called public hearing in Hanford, 25 miles from Kettleman City where the incinerator was proposed, Luke and I smiled and joined in as hundreds of furious residents chanted "Adelante!" and stormed to the front of the auditorium after racist county officials told them to go to the back of the room. Luke's landmark lawsuit made history when the Superior Court invalidated the EIR for the incinerator project due to inadequate environmental review and the failure to translate even part of the EIR into Spanish. In the face of fierce community opposition and strong legal advocacy, Chem Waste gave up - resulting in one of the most important victories in the history of the environmental justice movement.

For 21 years, we worked together in Kettleman City and dozens of other campaigns in rural, urban and indigenous communities. I never ceased to be amazed at Luke's awesome legal skills, his passion for justice, and never-ending commitment to empowering people. Luke was rare among lawyers in telling his community clients not to rely on lawyers, and that the key to winning is an active community leading the fight.
 
Luke was Greenaction's attorney of choice, linking him and CRPE up with communities we work with and also on occasion to represent us. Luke even got me out of jail when I was arrested in Buttonwillow during a public hearing for the "crime" of speaking Spanish during my testimony. As a friend and lawyer, Luke stayed up all night until he could get me out of the jail in the morning.
 
When I arrived in Kettleman City last week, I was met by weeping residents who were grieving over the loss of Luke, but everyone vowed to step up their commitment and keep fighting for justice. On Saturday, July 18, Luke would have been in Kettleman City for a protest against the proposed expansion of the toxic dump. Residents are dedicating the action to Luke's memory, and everyone is invited to march in his honor and in support of the community.
 
Since the terrible news of Luke spread, it has been so sad and very inspiring to hear from many of the community members in places where Greenaction, Luke and CRPE worked together - but it also puts a big smile on my face to keep getting reminded what an amazing human being Luke was. Luke will be missed dearly, but his spirit will live on and inspire people for years to come. 
Michel Gelobter, CRPE Board of Directors
Luke and I were geeks. 

I liked to run regression analyses on polluter siting decisions and he liked to tweak words that tweaked judges and defendants.  That tweaking was iron refusal to let the language of the law hide injustice or play ball the old-boy way.

He was a geeky collector of the geekiest stuff (spy cameras and root beer!). He was incredibly playful and hard if you mistook that twinkling for a willingness to relent.  He didn't like that I didn't like root beer or that I'd cut a deal to get one done.

The attention of geeks strays, but true geeks never forget any of their loves. Kettleman and Kivalina, Plover and Redpoll, Weinhard and Gale's, Nancy and Zane.

Keep an eye out for a Chuckle in a beard.
Richard Drury Lozeau, CRPE Board of Directors
Luke_AtlanticLuke's passing is a tragic and untimely loss to his family, friends and to the environmental justice movement.  Luke was unquestionably the most significant legal figure in the environmental justice movement.  Luke arguably created the field of environmental justice law as a distinct area of practice, both through his extensive docket of successful lawsuits raising environmental and civil right theories, and through his prolific publication of over 50 law journal articles and a book on the subject of environmental justice lawyering. When Luke began his practice, the term "environmental justice" did not even exist.  Today there is a US EPA Office of Environmental Justice, environmental justice legislation has been adopted at both the state and federal level, and there are text books written on the subject to train a generation of future lawyers.  Luke played a critical role in almost all of these developments. 
Tom Frantz, CRPE Advisory Board
Luke established an Advisory Board in Delano in the fall of 1998 which I was privileged to join.  He had the patience to let this board grow into a confident group of activists over a period of years.  He had no overt agenda except to build up our capacity to tackle local issues of environmental justice.  He was an excellent teacher who led by example and continuously gave people the opportunity to grow and develop their own skills.   He knew how to build people up, push them to follow their instincts, and he always had concern for their personal problems.  He also knew when to step back and let the seeds he had planted grow up on their own. 
 
I have studied some radical community development theory while working with low income groups in other countries.  The main idea is for people to take control of their lives and their community.  Luke amazingly put it all into practice in the center of one of the richest places in the world and it worked.  The people he has lifted up will never be the same and the roots have taken hold.
 
Luke has changed my life as he did so many others.  He has also left an extremely viable organization in CRPE.  Our work has begun!
Linda MacKay, CRPE Advisory Board

In September of 2000 in Hanford, CA when CRPE was just starting to make headway on some of the dairy struggles - Kings county supervisor Tony Olivera convinced State Senator Dean Florez to host a hearing - that was mostly just centered on attacking Luke.  They saw Luke as an outsider from San Francisco - who was trying to bring his liberal ideas to interfere with the San Joaquin Valley's good-ole-boys' business. 
 
I don't like giving speeches - I get really nervous, but they made me so mad.  I testified at that hearing that I didn't appreciate them attacking Luke personally.   I told them, to me, Luke could be compared to the likes of Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King or Gandhi.  I told these arrogant government representatives that Luke showed those of us who had previously been powerless - how to help ourselves.  He had given power to the powerless! 
 
I'm glad I was able to honor Luke in that way while he was still alive.  He knew I loved him.  I feel somewhat comforted that I let him know how much I appreciated him more than once.   I'm sure going to miss him, but I believe thoughts of Luke and his great strength and bravery will continue to inspire me to keep fighting the good fight.
CRPE Staff Retreat in Modesto CA, 2008
 CRPE_staff_Modesto
Josh Konecky
Luke was a mentor and a friend.  He inspired the way I practice law and profoundly changed the way I view the world.  He had such a big heart.  I will miss him greatly.  But his impact on me and everyone else he touched will continue on; we can all be sure of that.
Eileen Gauna, CRPE Board of Directors
I can't imagine not seeing Luke... in California...New Mexico...D.C...or any place where there is environmental justice mischief to be made and hell to raise.  At hearings, advisory group meetings, or conferences, Luke could always, always be counted on to make "three points."  For some reason, he always had three points to make.  Not two, not five.  Three.  I asked him one time what that was about...was that some kind of Trinity thing he had going on? He just smiled.  Not a sly smile, or an amused smile, but Luke's characteristic big beaming grin smile.
 
I recently recounted to the folks at CRPE one of my favorite memories of Luke from years ago, and I'll share it here: Luke, me and my sister Jeanne-an environmental justice activist who passed on in 2003-were sitting together at one of  those "round-table"  meetings...the kind of meeting where everyone can see everyone else.  It was also the kind of meeting that tends to get a wee bit tedious (actually, really tedious).  It's the kind of meeting that you feel you have to go to because something important might just happen, but usually it does not.   Anyway, Jeanne's group, the SouthWest Organizing Project, had a campaign against Intel at the time, and someone at the meeting mentioned this particular company.  Luke started scribbling madly on his legal pad.  He passed a note to us.  All I remember now was that it was a silly, irreverent little poem that had a refrain about "Intel, Do-Tell."   For some reason, the note caused the three of us to get the worst case of the giggles.  You know, that awful state you get into when want to burst out laughing but you have to keep a straight face...your eyes water and you can't look at each other because that will be the end of it.  Instead, you look down at your papers and your shoulders are shaking like crazy.  Our attempts to muffle the giggling didn't work. We got into trouble. 
 
After the meeting, Jeanne and I scolded Luke for getting us into hot water with his silliness.  There was that big beaming grin again.
 
I will miss Luke, and all the brilliant ways he helped move social justice forward inch by inch.  But mostly, I will miss that beaming grin.
Luke Cole, Sofia Sarabia, Marybelle Nzegwu, Ingrid Brostrom, Don Spradlin, Lauren Richter, Alice Purdy, Zoe Palitz having lunch at House of Nanking, February 2009
Luke_Intern Lunch

How Luke Cole Came Into My Life - Twice, by Don Spradlin CRPE Development Director
I don't remember the first time I met Luke, but he did.  I was searching for a job here in San Francisco so I could move back home from a temporary project in LA ... and noticed the opening for a Development Director with CRPE posted on Craigslist.  I wasn't quite sure what CRPE was all about, but it sounded good and I was looking for something that could provide me with passion in my life and career - again. 

I sent off my resume and Luke called and invited me in for a first interview.  As I walked into the San Francisco offices for the first time, Luke said "You don't remember me, but I met you back when I was a student at Stanford.  You produced a "10K Race on campus as a fund raiser for the Guardsmen." 

I was collaborating with the Delta Upsilon Fraternity (they marked the courses and volunteered to help manage the foot race).  Evidently, Luke was one of the frat guys helping that day - not a surprise - but I don't remember him and was amazed that he remembered me from that event over 30 years ago (around 1978). 

I was lucky enough to be hired by Luke, starting February 1st of this year, and then just a very short four weeks later he left for his sabbatical.  I am so thankful that I had the month of February to work with him.  During that time, Luke was very focused on passing along his vision of CRPE to me and how it was time to add development components to the mix and what the organization's history was all about and how CRPE grew to this place after a successful "Strategic Plan" was completed. 

What I remember most, of course, are the personal moments - the character values, vision and purpose he passed along to me as his guide for when he would be gone.  It is hard to look back on his departure plans without getting upset.  At the time, however, I was just nervous about the unknown 'ramp up' that was ahead of me in terms of understanding the EJ Movement.  I can't think of a better mentor.  I just wish I could remember EVERYTHING he told me.

Luke pointed out that "we don't wear coats to work here" when I arrived for my first official day at the San Francisco office. He impressed me with the casualness of walking around the office in his socks most of the time or he would wear those really ugly rubber sandals when it rained (or not). 

He came into my office on my first or second day and announced right at 6 PM that it was time to 'go home' because he didn't want me accumulating 'comp' time while he was gone.  And, now that I think about it, during our orientation - he brought in chocolates for Lauren and me to taste test. 

I thought that was pretty cool, but Luke made no big deal out of the fact that he was giving us insight into one of his major passions.  It was just a thing to do while we talked about environmental justice and the movement.  I realize now that was how Luke lived -  firing on more pistons than most people even know they have and living life larger than anyone else I have known. 

He picked me to do a job for CRPE that I know well and turned me on to the passion I was seeking that combines my life and my career - how lucky is that?  Thank you, Luke ... I had no idea what you were building when you put all of these components in place.   I just knew you were busy marking things off of your 'to do' list so you could leave.   I do know that I am committed to your vision and so thankful for this opportunity you gave me to live life fully every day all of the time.
Andre Booker, CRPE Advisory Board
Luke was an amazing person, and an even more amazing man of generosity.  I don't know if I'll ever meet another person with his degree of humanity.
Luke_bird
Photo From Luke's Facebook Page, Atlantic Yellow-Nosed Ablatross


As reflected here, Luke left an indelible imprint on CRPE as an organization and on everyone associated with it.  We will greatly miss Luke as we continue the work he started with us.  Plans for upcoming memorial services will be posted on our website www.crpe-ej.org and on Luke's memorial webpage www.lcmemorial.org www.lcmemorial.org.  Our future Newsletters will contain additional tributes to Luke as well as updates on our current and future Campaigns.  We want to include other reflections on Luke in upcoming Newsletters so please send submissions to Lauren Richter, lrichter@crpe-ej.org lrichter@crpe-ej.org.  Thank you for your continued support of CRPE during this difficult time.  We will have a Spanish version of this newsletter posted on our website next week.


Sincerely,
 
Caroline
Caroline Farrell

Acting Executive Director
Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment