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Spring 2001
The Last Man of Letters
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John in New York in the 1980sJohn loved UCLA, even followed the football team through good times and bad, which perhaps we can count as a sort of fulfillment of physical vigor, as shown by fondness for and success in sports. He was true to his school, to all of his schools, till the end, speaking at the 60th reunions of his class at the Shanghai American School and Occidental. In 1996, Occidental gave him the (honorary) Ph.D. he never had.

"He was proud of what he knew, but never arrogant," says Zarem, still the awestruck student. "He understood that not everyone would know him or his work. His scholarship was not mainstream, but he didn't care if he was off in the corner. He loved his corner, and he was willing to share his corner so generously. He taught me that you can do your own specialized work and still be a human being."

John was as generous a father, husband and comrade as he was a scholar, artist and teacher. He was too wickedly funny, too human, to be the "ideal man" that Cecil John Rhodes was looking for, but I say he was more. He was the man who, at age 62, and still tall, skinny and asthmatic, taught me, then a rowdy 10-year-old, how to ride a bike - his physical vigor proven, once and for all.

  • I didn't know that navel oranges are much sweeter than Valencias, and easier to peel.
  • I didn't know that sometimes it's appropriate (and fun) to judge a book by its cover.
  • I didn't know how much fun my mom was capable of having.
  • I didn't know that men could be so gentle.
  • I didn't know how to feel safe.
  • I didn't know how to watch birds.
  • I didn't know the doing little favors, just because you want to, can make you a hero.
  • I didn't know that consistency, patience, honor or class.
  • I didn't know how much you could love someone you weren't related to, and how much they could love you.
  • I didn't know how much I would miss him.

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