Rest in peace, John

The upstairs of the Lost Coast Brewery was packed full of people tonight.  We were there to drink beer, eat fried food and celebrate the life of a man we were extremely fortunate to know and love.

John Winwood died on Valentine’s Day.  He was well known in Humboldt County – a fixture at the Farmers’ Market, a storyteller extraordinaire, a philanthropist, an artist and craftsman, and a true gentleman.

Although I’d seen John riding his bike around town for many years, I first got to know him when he started coming to the art studio where I work.  Over the last several years John created many beautiful paintings and sculptures – all while spinning stories and telling jokes.  He never had an unkind word to say to anyone.

This is not to say that he didn’t have a dark side.  His life, especially his early years, were fraught with abuse and institutionalization.  At times his stories were full of sadness, and he would become visibly angry while telling them.

John’s gratitude for anything we might happen to do for him was overwhelming.  He brought us garlic, chili peppers and beaded necklaces he made himself out of pine nuts, shells and brilliant cobalt beads.

Every year on the day before Thanksgiving, we have a potluck.  Tables are full of all sorts of food and decadent desserts.  Apple cider flows.  Spirits are high.  This year John  refused to let anyone start eating until he had made a toast.

“I just want to thank you folks, ” he said in his gentle graveled voice, “for having this place where people like me can come.  And thank you for having this dinner.  I don’t have any family, and tomorrow I’ll be all alone, so this is the only Thanksgiving I’ll have.”

I thought about this moment tonight as I looked around the Brewery.  There were at least 50 people laughing, drinking and sharing memories about John.  50 people, and yet not one had  invited him to share in their Thanksgiving meal.

Why the hell wasn’t he at one of their tables? I thought to myself angrily.

Why the hell wasn’t he at my table?

I will miss John dearly.  I only hope he knew that every time he told a wild story, held a door open for someone, whispered an almost-dirty joke or delivered a thankful toast, that he gave a greater gift to us than any of us could possibly have ever given him.

You can see John’s artwork here (as well as in person at The Studio during April’s Arts Alive.)  Dave Silverbrand had this to say about John.

8 responses to “Rest in peace, John

  1. I wish I would have shared my table with him, too. Kristabel. I think there is a lesson to be learned here…………………

  2. I am in shock and I am sad to hear John is gone. I have known John since I first moved to Humboldt in 1974. I remember all the bike rides he would take to the city and back to raise money for one cause or another. He seemed to be everywhere I was over the years. Riding his bike around Old Town, showing off his wooden watch, cleaning up after Blues by the Bay or The Oyster Festival. He could be sweet, cantakerous, funny, and caring, but always fun (well almost always)to be around. The last time I ran into him was at his Doctors office back in December. I asked to see his wooden watch, which he didn’t have. He wasn’t shy about telling me he was “gonna fire that Doctor today” and he had me and others in that waiting room chuckling with his funny commnents.

    Once again not subscribing to the T.S. has caught me off guard when someone I know moves on. I am sorry I didn’t get to be with you folks the other night. Thank you for writing about it Kristabel.

  3. Lefty,

    Thanks so much for sharing your memories of John. I’m sorry you didn’t know about the celebration of his life. On April 3rd at The Studio, there will be a display of his artwork and hopefully a scrapbook as well as a guest book where people can write whatever they’d like about John. Maybe you’ll join us then?



  4. Not available at the moment hispanic model sexy wait a min.. he blasted in both holes. but she cant give a decent head job. and plus she got hardcore in her ass but she wont take a swallowin not even a facial. that does not look good on ur resume

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