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Tribute by Joanne Marqusee

Eulogy, 20 January 2015

I’m Joanne, the 3rd of the 5 siblings in age. Over the last few years, I’ve read a number of research articles that show that how a person relates to the world is shaped more by their siblings and the relationship they had with their siblings than how their parents raised them. I think that’s true. And the influence that your oldest sibling has is perhaps the most significant.

In the last several months – and particularly the last couple of weeks – I have spent so much time remembering a range of experiences in my life in which Mike was so central. I’d like to share just a few.

Until the age of 10 or so, Mike and Jeff teased me mercilessly. But something changed when Mike started high school and I started junior high. Mike became a teacher to me. I remember staying up late watching the 11 pm news. Mike explained to me that I should watch different newscasters and notice what kind of vocabulary and language structure they used. And that from this, I would learn to be a better writer. He presented me with a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden when I was 12 years old and explained why it was critical that I read it before I turn 13.

But his lessons were not all intellectual. That was the same year, he patiently taught me how to smoke dope. And a year later, he allowed me to accompany him to my first protest march in Washington DC against the Vietnam War. I wandered off and almost didn’t make it back to the bus. When I told my parents, they blamed Mike. He didn’t argue with them. He didn’t tell them that he had specifically told me where to stay and that it was not his fault. That was a theme. Mike was someone who would take the fall for me.

When I was 13, still in junior high school, some girls in high school decided to take the radical action to wear pants to school, in defiance of the rules. It was Mike who instructed me on how to organize my friends to take the same action on the same day in the junior high school and what to do if and when we got in trouble. It was perhaps the quickest political win I or Mike ever had…from that day forward, girls wearing pants to school was permitted.

When we moved to London and Mike was in university, he was the person who most treated me like an adult. We all know that Mike was really, really good at talking. He could go on for hours about any of the many, many topics about which he was so knowledgeable. But I also always found Mike to be a special kind of listener. He was the one who would take seriously my angst as a 17 year old and years later, my worries about my children. He never dismissed somebody else’s pain or anxiety as being trite, even when his own was so significant.

Finally, like Jeff, it would be a real omission to talk about Mike’s life without talking about Liz. I believe my entire family first met Liz when she came to my wedding. It was obvious from then on how right they were for each other. Mike loved and respected Liz so much. As Jeff said, Mike had his demons. While I respected the choices he made to spend so much time and energy on trying to correct the evils in the world, it was sometimes hard to see him struggle to be happy. But Liz was the constant source of joy for him. We will always love her.

Let me go a bit off topic. Although we had a large family, the relationship each sibling has with another is unique. So I want to be clear – nobody will replace what each of us had with Mike. But his death should certainly remind us of how much our siblings mean to us. And although we have our spats, we are an unusually close and connected family. So Jeff, Sue and Ellen, let’s remember to enjoy and support one another.

It has been overwhelming to see the kind of reaction to Mike’s death. To be honest, I didn’t know what a public figure he was. I feel honored to have been his sister and thank him for all the richness he brought to my life.