Remembering   3 comments

Memorial Video by Nild Sansone.

Leave a message or tribute for John or his family.

Johnny was an artist.

His sharp eyes

caught the edges of the world;

the beautiful, the painful, the true.

His poetry touches each of us

in  the times when we are free

enough to hold his words,

his insight, and his quiet smile.

Johnny was a teacher,

always  sharing what he knew

in quiet ways,

always wiser than we expected,

until we remembered  to think.

So, in these images,

see what Caitlin saw and said

a couple of days ago:

“Look at how often Johnny

is in the middle of these pictures,

holding  us together.”

David Holdt
Watkinson School
Hartford, CT

Feeling so much sadness for a man I chose as my brother, John Harrity. Sadness for his family, whom I love deeply, and sadness for his friends. While sadness is my companion for now, the love gave will be my companion forever. More than all the sadness I feel, I feel gratitude. Thank you John for loving us unconditionally, thank you for being my family. So much gratitude for a young Bhodisattva. Now I know the value of compassion. Because of John Harrity, our lives are sweeter. So much love for my little brother.

Brendan Jonathan-Lusack
Hartford, CT
November 8, 2012

My heart is broken for you and your family at the shocking loss of your precious Johnny. He was such a sweet and loving person.  So smart, so creative, so genuinely kind to others. I enjoyed every single interaction I had with him at Watkinson during our shared years there, in and out of our advisory group.  His friendship with my Kelly was so special to her, and was a joy for me to see.

I hope that during this impossibly difficult time for you that the many, many people whom Johnny touched and impressed with his humanity and gentle humor will reach out to you and let you know what a gift he was on this planet, and in our lives. You and Caitlin are in my heart. And Johnny will remain there.

With sympathy, and with the hope for peace,

Barbara Barron
Watkinson School
Hartford, CT
November 9, 2012

My name is Kris-Anne and I had the pleasure of working with John over the last three years. I must say that it has taken a few days for me to respond to such a tragic and unexpected loss, but I want you to know that I have been praying for you all , and so have all my friends. John was a kind and gentle soul that made me laugh and smile every day I had the pleasure of his company. I know I made him laugh as well, and  I will miss him and I will never forget him. God Bless. Kris-Anne

Kris-Anne Vogel
CT Science Center
November 10, 2012

I am sending you blessings and a heartfelt wish for peace in your heart as you grieve the loss of your dear son. John was always a dear to have in class with his integrity and thoughtful presentation of his “own” ideas. He walked to the beat of his own drum and a wonderful one it was. My son is now a senior at Clark where he has had many positive experiences and it was your son, John, who graciously shared the school with him. John had never met my son before, but kindly spent time with Sean and gave him an honest perspective of the school. They are both young men that care about humanity and our planet.

Loving Thoughts,

Christina Brown (Hutton)
Healthy Living Teacher
Watkinson School
November 11, 2012

I remember Johnny as this bright little boy when we (Joe, Zuri and I) came to visit you guys about 18 years ago. He was so positive and intelligent.  From time to time I’ve read his poetry from Facebook entries and am glad he has left behind such deeply felt, insightful thoughts, far beyond his age.   I am so sorry to hear about this and my heart is with you all…

Amy Hecht
November 12, 2012

I have struggled to find words to express my sadness for you. I feel the mother’s heartbreak – the wrenching, inconsolable sadness of losing the sweet son you birthed. I have the sibling heartbreak for Caitlin and Nick who have lost their dear brother. I feel the father’s heartbreak for John. At some level Johnny’s death is an unacceptable reality that you will somehow spend days, weeks, months, years to reconcile.
Please know how much I loved your Johnny, and how much I hope the love from our whole community can be part of the way to reconciliation.

Sandy Garcia
Dean of Faculty
Watkinson School
November 12, 2012

It seems not long ago when Nick and I were sitting on his parents’ porch, drinking coffee and lamenting about teenage woes.  Johnny must’ve been 4 years old at that time.  A curious child with a grown-up presence. He was one to make you forget about trivial problems, and wonder what was running through that mind of his??

Fast forward 12 years…I ran into Johnny at Tisane’s, while having coffee with Nick once again. He was 16 or 17, I  believe, still with those gentle eyes of curiousity. Unfortunately, I can’t recall words other than the usual pleasantries. Nor do I remember what Nick and I worried about as children. However, I do, and will always remember Johnny’s lasting impression. No words were needed. Those curious eyes will echo in my memory eternally.

Love Mag

Maggie Maher
Watkinson class of 1998
November 13, 2012

John was an incredible friend, and I’m so sad to lose him. I had always thought John would be the kind of friend that would always be in my life. I allowed the gap between phone calls to become too large, and i wish i was able to speak to John more before he died. It’s hard to imagine life without him now, but I am so glad I got to have the good times I had with John. John was so intelligent. He was a no bullshit kind of guy. Sometimes he would forget to be polite and completely destroy peoples arguments in conversation. I miss watching that happen. John’s personality was so legitimate. He was dark at times, but would still reach out of his darkness and assure you the world was a beautiful place, and he believed it too. When John was down I wouldn’t take it. I’d make him come out to a show, or go to the movies and smoke pot in the parking lot, or just on my couch! When I was down John would listen to every word I had to say and then deliver the most eloquent and understanding response. He made me feel better not by sugar coating the issues, but by contrasting them with his immense knowledge. He would quote ancient monks, or just tell me he knows how much it sucks, but that you have to keep going. He made the world beautiful, even if he was talking about terrible things happening in the world. John had hope, and it rubbed off. I’ll miss him so so so much, and I still can’t believe he’s gone, but I am confident that John’s spirit is so good and so strong that it can’t possibly be gone, and is out there, somewhere, waiting for us to join him. But let’s take our time, and maybe we can learn to see how amazing the world really is, the way John saw it.

Once John told me a proverb he learned.

“After a particularly poignant lesson, the student said to the teacher:

‘Your Knowledge is like a bright lantern burning in the deepest recesses of the darkest caves for 1000 years.’

The teacher responded:

‘Why do you speak of 1000 years?’ “

I laughed when he first told me this, but now I get it, I think.

why speak of 22 years?

All my love,

The master

Adan Parker
Olympia, WA
November 15, 2012

This one’s for you, Yansan.

No Buredi (Bread) – Fela Kuti (1976)

Brendan Jonathan-Lusack via Facebook
Hartford, CT
November 16, 2012

I’m writing you from Cambodia where the devastating news of your loss reached me through Arn Chorn-Pond and John Bracker.

Memories of Johnny reside here by the Mekong, and I know his connection to this country was important to him – and to us. Arn was so fond of Johnny and he and Sreyma have sweet memories of their time with him.

I can’t fathom the depths of your loss, but now I’ve become a father and grandfather thanks to Cambodia I can feel for you in a way I could not quite have when I was Head at Watkinson. So from here my heart goes out to all your family.

Love- Charley

Charley Todd
Watkinson School
Cambodia Living Arts
November 28, 2012

…and there is also this surrender, to the pain and grief and guilt and loss and despair…and the love behind all of it, the care within it….to this place where our will is towards the suffering…and we fear letting the suffering go, because it might be like we didn’t care, or not enough….because then we fear our child will be really gone, gone from us, gone from our inner world as well as the outer world, and that is unbearable…the whole thing is unbearable…Johnny was and still IS real, Linda. He does not become less real because he died. Maybe one day, I hope, we can feel they way that they go on…it doesn’t fill the hole, but I wonder, too…this giant gap in the world, where Johnny belongs, has a place in the world…

and you have done so much to help his place in the world be visible and grow…like a song, given to the world, in all its beautiful and intense complexity…a wholeness in which the love and the pain all have their place, nothing is denied in the tender beauty and awesome strangeness of it all… not just horror, but horror and wonder and love and despair….

and so, in a way, you go on for Johnny, maybe not so much struggling, but growing into the wonder and complexity of the wholeness of Johnny and his life, like a koan…always taking you further, if you let it…because he does go on dear Sis, he does, and the hole in you and in your life is somehow paradoxically and uncomprehendingly a part of that…”

Kathi Buchanan
Seattle, Washington
November 29, 2012

“As awful as it is, this sudden, shocking, unexpected death… something wonderful gets released into the world..”

Kathi Buchanan
Seattle, Washington
November 29, 2012

“Out beyond all right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a place, I will meet you there.”

Kathi Buchanan, quoting Rumi (John’s favorite)
Seattle, Washington
November 29, 2012

it has been one month today since I came home to find my little brother slipped away. my mother wrote a beautiful obituary on his behalf that I have had yet to share. I would also like to share the last message he wrote me on facebook, from Spring, 2011, because I believe it to be a real testament to the kind of brother and best friend he was to me, all the time, everyday. love you johnny boy:

 hey cait. thinkin about you tonight, wish i could give you a hug. heard this song (the video is pretty saccharine so pay no mind to it) and it made me think of you, myself and how hard life and change can get. i believe in you kiddo. steel yourself and remember how strong you are. turn towards the things that scare you and look them in the eyes, you’ll see they are like sheep pretending to be wolves, and they will run away when you step forward to move through them. and then when you breathe the air will feel that much easier to breathe and you’ll see a glint of your own light ahead of you, and even if you get knocked back down, you’ll know it’s there, on the other side of any darkness in front of you, and that if you keep moving, you will make it to brighter places. i love you so much. i’m here for you always. we never stop learning, if we keep listening and loving each other. grey skies are gonna clear up, and remember again that even if the rain comes back harder than ever, the stars are always right above, in the same place, waiting to see us again.

Caitlin Harrity
December 7, 2012

I just heard the news. I worked with John at the Evergreen State College in Photoland. I always enjoyed sitting and talking with him.

I am so truly sorry for the loss of such a smart, funny and kind human.

The world could surely use more folks in it like John.

Gary Lappier
Olympia, Washington
December 15, 2012

sorry linda, for your loss. i miss your son, my good friend who was with me through good times and bad so very much. john was a real beacon of light for me during some dark times at evergreen and there are people all over this country whos lives he touched. im more than happy to share some stories about the short time i knew john on his website. again, so sorry, these are sad times

im so happy to hear that john was at peace at the end and that he was happy and ready to move forward and achieve. he taught me so much in such a short period I will never forget him. I want to follow in his footsteps and lead by example and try my hardest to make something special of this life I have been gifted with… though he is gone, he will never be forgotten by those who knew him well.

Wayman Irwin
San Francisco, CA
January 15, 2012

I am so sorry about your son. I didn’t know him well but he was such a caring person. It was so refreshing to talk to him. I remember one time we were hanging out with a big group of people and I didn’t really know anyone there. I was kind of moping around and John came and introduced himself and asked me a question. We ended up talking for a long time about feeling awkward and our insecurities. After feeling like I had one friend in the room, he helped me tackle my social anxiety and introduced me to some of his friends that were there. It was one of those random acts of kindness that gives me hope and makes me believe in the goodness of the world. He was so selfless. You truly raised an amazing son. Smart, funny, beautiful, and kind. Its a shame he’s no longer with us. I will keep him and your family in my prayers, and I look forward to reading his blog and seeing what else I can learn from his life that was unfortunately cut short. RIP John. Thanks for being there whenever you were around.

Kelsey Hendershott
Olympia, WA

Dear Linda,

There are no words adequate to tell you how brokenhearted I felt hearing about John. He was a tender-hearted, sweet, complex, talented, one-of-a-kind young man. I had the pleasure of knowing him briefly at CCY and also during the Hartford Library’s project on aging. He was a true poet, and by that I don’t mean only one who writes poems. “True poets” have a sensibility, powers of intense observation, and deep thoughtfulness which do not lead to uncomplicated lives, but do lead to rich lives,even in the young (who are sometimes too young to appreciate the richness for what it is). I saw that complexity and richness in John (and in his work).

I am so, so sorry for your loss. It is unimaginable. My heart wants to stand, somehow, with yours in this terrible bereavement.

With love and greatest sympathy,

Pit Pinegar
March 25, 2012

Posted November 28, 2012 by Anna

3 responses to “Remembering

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  1. From Virgil Finley, reflecting on the passing of John
    (friend of Richard Dobratz, partner to John’s mom, Linda)

    My November Guest by Robert Frost

    My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
    Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
    Are beautiful as days can be;
    She loves the bare, the withered tree;
    She walks the sodden pasture lane.

    Her pleasure will not let me stay.
    She talks and I am fain to list:
    She’s glad the birds are gone away,
    She’s glad her simple worsted grey
    Is silver now with clinging mist.

    The desolate, deserted trees,
    The faded earth, the heavy sky,
    The beauties she so truly sees,
    She thinks I have no eye for these,
    And vexes me for reason why.

    Not yesterday I learned to know
    The love of bare November days
    Before the coming of the snow,
    But it were vain to tell her so,
    And they are better for her praise.

  2. Spreading John’s ashes on July 4, 2013, at the source of the River of One Thousand Lingas, in the ancient home of the Ankorian Empire, the holy mountains of Phnom Kulen, Cambodia. (Posted by Regina Maledy, July 4, 2013, on the Watkinson Cambodian Travelers 2013 Blog,

    “Hello! This is Regina blogging from Siem Reap… Today we all ventured to Phnom Kulen, a area of holy mountains and rivers and the birthplace of the Ankorian Empire about an hour and a half outside Siem Reap by Magic Music Bus.

    At the top of the mountain was a reclining Buddha carved into the top of an enormous rock with a structure built around it only accessible by a steep flight of stairs. At the River of one thousand Lingas, Steve spread a bit of Johnny Harrity’s ashes. Although I never got a chance to meet Johnny, I know that he was a fellow Cambodian traveler and from what Steve and Karen have said, a wonderful person. The ashes were spread at the start of the river, which flows throughout Cambodia and beyond.”

    David Holdt, poet, teacher, friend, wrote, in response:

    “The water will run into the ocean, where the sun will absorb it into the sky, the clouds will pick it up and drop it on other mountains, where it will run into other rivers, in a universal cycle touching the world, gently.”

    Soon, in a couple of weeks, we will go to the water again, to John’s favorite beach in Watch Hill, RI. Under a rising moon, we will launch sky lanterns out into the ocean, and be thankful for the time we shared together with John, and with his so gentle spirit.

    Linda (mom)

  3. There is little that can be said to console those left behind when a loved one dies un-expectantly. Even if the person has lived a long and full life, words are inadequate to express one’s grief. It is even more difficult when someone dies young before his/her parents. This is not the way life is to happen.
    Few images are more tenderly than a mother holding and cradling her child. Joy and peace surround them and is the perfect image of peace and joy, comfort and safety. It is the perfect picture of both divinity and humanity together. Pain and suffering are forgotten. A baby is born and the entire family celebrates this one-of-a –kind event.

    We die in the motherly arms of God. We are forever held in love, gentleness and tenderness as we first experienced in our mother’s arms. All the saints and those who have gone before us rejoice this union between the one who died and the Creator of all, the Source of all Being. It is ok if we died before our time, still needing to be nurtured by a mother’s arms. We are forever safe in the arms of God.

    However, consoling this might be, it does not take away the pain of losing a loved one to death. Nothing takes our pain away. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wants wrote: “Nothing can make up for the absence of someone we love. … It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; God doesn’t fill it, but on the contrary, God keeps it empty and so helps us keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain … The dearer and richer our memories, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude changes the pangs of grief into a tranquil joy. The beauties of the past are borne, not as a thorn in the flesh, but as a precious gift in themselves.” Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community.

    It was my privilege to help John during his brief stay in Olympia, Washington. He was kind and gentle. He suffered from an illness that was relentless and profoundly affected his mood and attention. Yet, he moved on with courage. He trusted me. Together, we planned a treatment strategy. In spite of our best efforts, John needed to return home to a more safe and familiar environment than at school.

    John taught me how to live with something I cannot fix; how to trust others and to wait patiently and hope for the future.

    With warm affection to members of John’s family left behind, I remain yours in Christ Jesus.

    Fr. David Gerardot , Ph.D.
    Emmaus Ecumenical Catholic Community
    701 Franklin St.
    Olympia, Washington

    Fr. David Gerardot

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