Janet Lynn Rutherford
An original activist bringing the terrible human consequences of war to public awareness, Lynn was a woman who lived her life as a full human being, ignoring every restriction of our culture and times. She used her spirited talents in music and art to communicate her message.
Long before the internet, she organized global conversations by computer and radio transmission on the anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki genocide, between friends in Vancouver, California, and Japan as well as Russia. She initiated a walk for peace to Russia and did that, with several friends, by foot and train to Moscow and St. Petersburg, at a time when cold war tensions were high. Her energy for connecting people informed her life.
She connected with me: showed this alienated, conservative person how to go ahead and do what means most to you. My family having narrowly escaped WWII in Europe, with infant me, the trauma of war and displacement has been integral to my being. Her work to connect people and bring messages of healing and action gave me new vistas of possibility. Her untimely death is a great loss to us all.
Peoples’ Search and Rescue was her storefront in Vancouver’s downtown East Side before activism caught hold there. Everyone was welcome to visit, make friends, participate, check the extensive bulletin board for jobs, occasional work, lost dogs and cats, a place to stay. It was there I learned not to fear the disadvantaged: kind people, victims at home of our conflicted, war-torn world.
Throughout her life, her various homes and properties also welcomed whoever arrived, becoming spirited centres of mutual learning. Her music and art encouraged us all to participate whether we knew how or not. She played her guitar there and at demonstrations; sang songs of awareness few of us mainstream folks had heard of. Richard and Mimi Farina’s ‘If somehow you could pack up your sorrows and give them all to me…’ still resonates in my mind. Lynn taught me this round song that still speaks of the activist class—‘nouveau pauvre’:
‘Ego sum pauper. Nihil habeo. Cor meum dabo.’
Invited to several of her trips to the San Francisco Bay area, where she partly grew up, I learned radical politics. Informal lectures at the University of Berkeley, initiated by students and innovative professors, blew my straight-laced mind with discussions of the complications of democracy—right in the heart of the institutional beast. The creative counter-culture chaos enriched my imagination with new art and music, and my understanding of proactive organizing.
Lynn was always ready to discuss and argue perspectives; we were both strong-minded and passionate about our opinions, but her persistence in coming to a common appreciation of our differences never faltered. She was my best friend—through an astounding fifty years of working at mutual understanding and empathy. Her spirit informs my work today. She would be right onto this ultimate threat to humanity with all her light energy.
Thank you, Lynn!