Saturday, September 11, 2010

Celebrating Fred Lanphear's Life

Two days ago, we lost Fred Lanphear. He had been diagnosed more than two years ago with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease) and Thursday he lost the battle. Fred was an FIC Board member from 2003-2009, and, more importantly, a friend since I first met him in 1993, when his community, Songaia (Bothell WA), hosted the fall Fellowship's organizational meetings immediately following our six-day Celebration of Community held on the campus of The Evergreen State College in Olympia.

Despite his deteriorating health in recent years, he maintained a positive attitude throughout his final months and was an inspiration to all around him. He died at home, surrounded by his wife, Nancy, and myriad friends. He had lived a full life and went out with grace.

The last time I saw Fred was in June 2009 when I was in Seattle to attend the national cohousing conference held on the University of Washington campus. It was my pleasure to use that occasion to make a public presentation to Fred at his home as the first recipient of the Geoph Kozeny Communitarian Award, given to someone whose life's work promoted community in the spirit of our compatriot who died of pancreatic cancer in October 2007.

The last communication I had with Fred and his partner Nancy was just a week before he died. Nancy assured me that Fred was still reading email messages and they'd just ordered a copy of Rise Up Singing, the best songbook in the universe. Not surprisingly, Songaia (song of the Earth) is a name selected to celebrate both singing and Earth stewardship. Fred loved both and when he was in better health he regularly led songs as part of the opening ritual at Board meetings. When he could no longer attend meetings, we sang for him instead. At the spring 2009 meetings at Kimberton PA, we recorded our rendition of the Shaker classic, Simple Gifts and sent it to him on a CD. What we lacked as virtuoso singers we more than made up for in heart.

Fred always saw the best in people, and it's only fitting that I close this eulogy by posting the good we saw in him. Here is the citation for the award we gave him last year:

The Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) hereby recognizes Fred Lanphear as the 2009 recipient of the Geoph Kozeny Communitarian Award, honoring the indomitable spirit of our fallen comrade, who devoted his adult life to creating community in the world.

FIC conceived of this award in October 2008, just one year after we lost Geoph to pancreatic cancer, at age 57. Fred is our inaugural recipient of this honor.

For the last four decades Fred has lived a life that was remarkably parallel to Geoph's, having devoted a substantial portion of those years to building community in a world that is fragmented and in desperate need of models of cooperative lifestyles, and of the hope that these models inspire.

Fred's community journey started in 1968 with the Institute for Cultural Affairs (ICA), when his interest in ameliorating suffering led him and his wife Nancy to volunteer to do community development work. Over a two-decade period with ICA the Lanphears did stints in the US, Kenya, and India.

Ready for new adventures, Fred & Nancy left ICA in 1989, and helped launch Songaia, an intentional community which continues to be the Lanphears home today, and has proven to be a successful cohousing community in Bothell, WA. Using Songaia as a base, Fred devoted much of the last 20 years to the integration of community with wholistic thinking, alternative medicine, and spirituality.

Simultaneous with the founding of Songaia, Fred became centrally involved with the Seattle-based Northwest Institute for Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (NIAOM), where he served as a top administrator for the period 1989-1999. Fred's tenure there was noteworthy for his nurturing a sense of community among students, faculty, alumni, and patients.

Also in 1989, Fred began an association with the Institute of Noetic Sciences, serving as a group leader and Northwest Board member until stepping back in 2008.

Expanding on his years residing in ICA communities and his early experience with Songaia, Fred helped create the Northwest Intentional Communities Association (NICA) in 1992. This ongoing regional network fosters connections and mutual support for intentional communities in Washington and Oregon. He has been a Board member since its inception and twice served as President.

Taking the challenge of integrative thinking one step further, soon after leaving NIAOM, Fred was inspired to create One Sky Medicine in 2000. The concept was to offer a health clinic that brought together several healing disciplines into one location, offering patients a first-of-its-kind menu of comprehensive options for wellness and health care. Fred served as the One Sky administrator for four years.

Fred first appeared on FIC's radar in 1993, when Songaia hosted the Fellowship's fall organizational meeting, immediately following our successful six-day Celebration of Community in Olympia that August. Because of the post-Celebration buzz, it was one of the highest attended meetings FIC ever had, and Fred and his community did yeoman service in making everyone feel at home, even though our surging numbers strained their capacity.

Though Fred remained active as a community organizer with NICA throughout that time, he didn't join the FIC Board until 10 years later, in 2003. He served two three-year terms on our Board, during which he distinguished himself as convener of the Regional Networking Committee, and as the author of several articles about community living. Of particular note are recent pieces he's written about the opportunities and challenges of aging in community.

In recent years, Fred has gotten increasingly involved in efforts to integrate religion, ecology, and eldering. In 2005 he started a three-year connection with the Greenbriar Seniors, residential care facility where he served in the unique capacity of maintenance man, horticultural "therapist," and song leader. His responsibilities afforded him an entree to regularly meet with residents and combine his passions for connection, gardening, and singing.

As part of the Kirkland Congregational Church since 2006, Fred has been active in the choir and as a deacon. Not content there, he pioneered the role of Earth Keeper, which has included such initiatives as Greening of the Congregation, and Earth Ministries in the Seattle area, where people explore the bridges possible between traditional Christianity and Earth-centered spirituality.

While these are only some of the highlights of a lifetime of service, they amply demonstrate Fred's core commitment to connection, curiosity, celebration, and community. At times he has been an initiator; at other times he has been an implementer. At all times he has focused on what was needed to enhance connections, to bring people together authentically and joyously.

Fred has led an exemplary life in developing and serving a variety of networks, in creating celebration and ritual among groups and individuals, and in uniting spirit and ecology. The FIC salutes Fred on his multi-faceted lifetime achievements.
Goodbye Fred.


Nancy said...

Dear Laird,

Thank you posting this lovely message. Part of his legacy was his peaceful death. He had spoken to each person present (nearly all of our nuclear family) with great intention. He had finished his work.

It has been priceless gift to be his soulmate and wife for over 50 years. Such an AMAZING MAN!

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