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Erling Rohde

From: Carolyn Birden
Date: Wed Dec 18, 2002 12:19 pm
Subject: Erling Rohde

Some of you may remember seeing a tall, thin, man carrying a big suitcase with a Message from Prisoner X, printed in 32 point font, pasted onto the side of it. The suitcase contained various things, depending on the event: it might hold some flyers about an upcoming demo, a fierce statement supporting Mumia Abu-Jamal, or the clarinet that he played in front of the White House or Philadelphia's City Hall or wherever else he could find an audience. It usually held the portable typewriter, which he would pull out while riding the train to or from a meeting, and use to record his observations on, as well as his anger at, the injustices to be found in life. Erling Rohde, one of WBAI's best fans, used to show up at LAB meetings, Bylaws meetings, demos, rallies, and any other opportunity open seekers after justice. He spoke for all listeners, and demanded of the station what Pacifica's mission promised. He had a passion for justice, and for fairness and equality: one of the most ethical people I have ever met, and one whose life, revealed in comments and offhand skills, never ceased to delight and intrigue me.

Erling's last big public fight, one which no doubt contributed to the heart attack that preceded the one that did him in on Saturday, December 14th, was against Columbia University's refusal to divulge its record on minority hiring for the new building on 110th and Broadway. He felt keenly that Columbia, his alma mater, should divulge how many of the employees of the 100 or more subcontractors working on the site were actually classed as "minority" workers, and how many of them were employed in the higher-paying skilled trades as opposed to the lower paying day jobs usually filled by immigrants and temp workers. He videotaped the construction site, met with and argued against the University's point man, and railed against the subterfuges and trade practices that produced segregated workplaces. That heart attack landed him in the hospital, but his stay was brief: he left with neither a diagnosis nor a prescription. He didn't take medicine, on principle. Erling gave his age, 78, and his brief setback, no mind, and continued to engage life on multiple fronts.

This Saturday, however, he had just overdone it: after a hard day at work - he still did plumbing and engineering work that he had practiced for years - he was carrying some shelving, along with two bags of audio tapes, intended for recycling by recording WBAI's output, to his home two blocks away when he collapsed on the street, and could not be revived. He leaves more than a widow, a WBAI archive, and many friends: he leaves space for an individual with a big heart, a keen eye, a good wit, and a soul. He was one of the most individual, and independent, people I have ever known. He will not be replaced, for they don't make people like that any more. He will not be forgotten, either.

Erling's body will be at the Ortiz Funeral Home on 190th Street and Broadway (4425 Broadway) on Thursday December 19th between 3 and 9 p.m. His spirit, however, will no doubt continue to search out and demolish windmills wherever they spring up. Carolyn Birden


From: Paul Surovell
Date: Wed Dec 18, 2002 12:43 pm
Subject: Re: Erling Rohde


This is very shocking news.

Erling was a devoted leafletter and occasional participant in the Daily Vigil and many Pacifica activists will remember him for leading us in song after the Crystal City Pacifica national board meeting.

His energy was so enormous -- he pulled an enormous assemblage of boxes and suitcases containing books, papers, a VCR and who knows what else, on a large dolly, wherever he went: on subways, buses and on foot. I could never comprehend how he managed to do it physically.

Erling was a unique original, a great Pacifican, a great humanist, a comrade to all of us.

Paul Surovell