Blind and wheelchair-bound, Pat Loveless never stopped fighting for peace and justice
By Linda Pentz Gunter
Takoma Park, Maryland, the US city where Beyond Nuclear is headquartered, was one of the first nuclear-free cities in the country. It is known for its individuality, its progressive politics, and a few eccentricities as well.
Takoma Park is a Sanctuary City. All residents can vote in city elections, regardless of their immigration status. Local youngsters successfully lowered the city voting age to 16. It once had a socialist mayor after whom the city hall is named.
On the quirkier side, it also had a motorcycle riding cat, replete with leather helmet, a man walking around with a dead fox in a trap to protest that cruelty (he also ran the local tool-lending library), and a wandering rooster, Roscoe, who is immortalized in bronze in the town center.
Utne Reader named Takoma Park “the Leftiest burb in America” — satisfying those eager to one-up Berkeley, CA.
And we had our own Peace Delegate. Pat Loveless, a familiar figure, blind and in a wheelchair, carrying a giant peace sign, died on March 20 at age 64. A cause was not given. He was an unmissable presence in Takoma Park for 24 years. And he was indeed the official Takoma Park Peace Delegate, declared so in a May 17, 2010 city council resolution.
Pat’s last name could not have been less appropriate — everyone who knew Pat loved him, even as he challenged us all to do better and to do more. And everyone knew him, at least by sight, with his ubiquitous peace symbol. He went to almost every city council meeting for 17 straight years. Often he spoke, too. Former Takoma Park City Councilman, Ruben Snipper, remembered how Loveless “used to come every session and give his take on current events and the agenda. Always supported and encouraged the best in Takoma Park. His heart was in the right place.”
“We should stand up for what’s just,” Loveless often admonished the council. (The video below is one example of many issues he championed.)
As current Takoma Park mayor, Kate Stewart, observed, “Council meetings and our City will not be the same.”
And Pat’s story was an extraordinary one.
According to U.S. Representative, Jamie Raskin, a Takoma Park resident, Pat, an inveterate champion of civil rights, went to the South to campaign, “where he clashed with the KKK in the 1980s and lost his sight after the Klan savagely attacked him.” Allegedly it was a thrown brick, followed by inadequate medical care, as Loveless was without funds.
Pat was also born with only one thumb and finger on each hand and struggled with diabetes. In his later years he relied on an oxygen tank. But he got everywhere. Someone was always sure to give him a ride, “due to his persistence,” recalled councilman Terry Seamans, who was often the object of Loveless’s particular power of persuasion. “He was very intelligent and outspoken,” Seamans said.
Those rides also extended to the Takoma Park July 4 parade and to farther flung ventures, including an anti-death penalty walk from Baltimore to Annapolis.
In an article on mymcmedia, Raskin described Loveless as “an irrepressible champion for the poor, unstoppable enemy of capital punishment, anti-war fire brand and Takoma Park’s official Peace Ambassador,” which about sums it up.
If there was a good cause worth fighting for, Pat was there, despite the immense effort it took him physically. Psychically, he had energy to spare.
In addition to his passion for the anti-nuclear cause, Pat was an avid opponent of the death penalty. This took him to one of the annual Fast and Vigil events against the death penalty outside the US Supreme Court where current State Delegate, Lorig Charkoudian, remembered meeting him and how much he was “an incredible activist for peace and social justice.”
When word of Loveless’s death became public in Takoma Park, many rallied to post comments on social media sites, remembering his favorite catchphrase, “Love it, love it!”
“It seemed an inappropriate response to such sad news, but ‘Love it!’ was the first thing that came to mind,” wrote Katya Partan. “He’ll be missed.”
Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear. She is also a member of the Takoma Park Nuclear-Free Committee.
Headline photo of Loveless with fellow protestors, courtesy of Bruce Wolf Facebook page.