Walt Rave: An Appreciation

I note with sadness the death, early Saturday morning, December 10, of Takoma Park resident Walt Rave, the result of severe burns he suffered in a December 7 fire at his house at 29 Holt Place.

According to the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, “The fire is ruled accidental.” MCFRS also stated, on Saturday December 10, that the service’s “Fire and Explosive Investigations Section along with Takoma Park City Police are continuing the investigation.” I contacted section head Kenneth Korenblatt to ask that findings be reported to the City of Takoma Park.

Walt was a Takoma Park fixture, tall and hard to miss, often carrying a dead fox dangling from the jaws of a steel trap. Walt was a quiet provocateur. The fox was like an anglerfish’s lure, conversation bait, designed to get you talking and thinking about abuse of animals.

A sign sometimes displayed on the tailgate of Walt’s pickup truck said, “Only people have a right to exist. Animals don’t! You, eating meat, make it so.”

Another of Walt’s truck signs said, “Selfish? Have Babies”: Similarly provocative.

Walt stood outside the Discovery Communications building in Silver Spring in the wake of the September 1, 2010 shooting there of James Lee, who entered the building with metal canisters strapped to his body and armed with what turned out to be starter pistols. James Lee, post the incident, was characterized in the press as an “environmental militant.” Walt held a sign that said “James Lee was right.” He was quoted in the Gazette newspaper as saying, “if you look closely, he had very noble beliefs. Sometime, people will wake up and realize we are breeding ourselves extinct.”

Walt Rave served the world, and our community, in his own, distinctive way. The Gazette quotes him: “Since the day I got back from Vietnam in 1970, I decided I was going to try to make a difference wherever I was, however I could.”

One way was as a part-time Takoma Park city employee. Walt staffed the city’s tool library for 17 or so years until it closed in 2005. An April, 1994 Baltimore Sun article about Walt and the tool library quotes him, regarding tool borrowers but stating what was clearly a core belief for him, “I guess that anything you don’t sweat for isn’t valued.”

Frankly, Walt made me sweat (figuratively), given the challenge to act posed by the elements of truth in his strongly stated views. I am among the many who valued him for that challenge and for his contributions to our community, even though I rarely spoke to him.

He did earn for himself a group of close, loyal, admiring friends. Zoe Kyriakos posted on Saturday to our neighborhood e-mail list —

“Walt passed away at 1:30 this morning. The room was standing room only with about 15 people there for support. Walt was responsive and able to answer a few yes/no questions with nods of the head. Everyone talked to him about their good times together and it was clear that he heard them. It took him several hours to pass after life support was removed. The doctor thought it would happen much more quickly, but Walt was an incredibly strong man right to the end.”

I understand that Compassion Over Killing, an organization that works to end animal abuse, is planning a memorial service for Walt Rave, to be held on January 8th at the Silver Spring Regional Center building. I hope our memories of Walt will spur us all, in our own ways, to try to make a difference, wherever we are, however we can.

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