This time of year there always seem to be a greater number of people passing, it’s hard to know if the numbers rise, or they just take on more significance because of the time of the year.
Three people I met only briefly, died over the holidays. I met Bernie Wilson, baritone singer from Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes a couple of times, once when I was an intern at Capital Radio in London in the mid-1970’s, and a couple of years later at the California Ballroon in Dunstable in the UK. His voice was as smooth as Barry Whites’s, but in many ways, it carried much more emotion. The Love I lost remains to this day, my all time favorite track, the hairs stand on the back of my neck everytime I hear his voice. According to the NY Times, Bernie, age 64, passed on December 28th following a heart attack and a stroke.
My neighbor and long time Austin Realtor and Commissioner of the Austin Historic Landmark Commission and Zoning and Platting Commission, Board Member for the Austin History Center, Mexican American State Employee Association, Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce National Association of Hispanic Realtors, and Board Member for Teach Quest, Terrie Rábago passed on December 20th, aged only 59. The Statesman has a full obituary and guest book.
While Bernie was widely known around the world, Terrie was influential but relatively unknown in Austin, Susan Bright was well known by many, but by not enough. Susan was a daily swimmer at Barton Springs, a poet, writer, and a campaigner and advocate for the trees at, and for Barton Springs itself. In many ways, I’m grateful to Susan, Terrie and Bernie in many and different ways.
The following remembrance of Susan was posted on the Save Our Springs Alliance email group.
Susan Bright, May You Rest In Peace
Susan Bright, poet, daily Barton Springs swimmer
Today Barton Springs lost its most eloquent, knowing, loving, and irrepressible friend and defender.
Susan Bright, poet, publisher, activist, educator, mother, grandmother, friend, feminist, and Barton Springs lap swimmer passed away this morning following a short illness.
Since the 1970s Susan has been a force of nature among Austin’s writers and activists. Susan authored 17 books of poetry; three won Austin Book Awards. Tirades and Evidence of Grace won the Violet Crown Award. In 1990 Susan was selected as Woman of the Year by the Austin Women’s Political caucus. For more than 30 years she has been the editor and driving force behind the small, fiercely independent Plain View Press.
In her book Breathing Under Water and in many other works, Susan revealed herself to be the oracle of Barton Springs. At critical turning points in the struggle to save Barton Springs, Susan would recite her work as testimony at public hearings before the Austin City Council. She always told us the truth in ways that no one else could. In 2009 she recruited children and families to spring to the defense of Barton Springs’ heritage trees. Her poem from that time, “Legend,” concludes:
It is said the thirst of Earth's
great trees calls water
from depths which are invisible
causing springs to flow.
Susan named one of the trees marked for removal, the one closest to the Philosopher’s Rock statue at the front gate, the “Poet’s Tree.” See a photo of Susan in front of the Poet’s Tree, and read about some of her work to save the trees at Barton Springs HERE.
Susan’s words, love, and caring will live on forever. We will remember her at the Polar Bear Splash at Barton Springs on New Year’s Day. A special memorial service at the springs will be scheduled in the weeks ahead.
We extend our deepest sympathies to Susan’s loving family.