Bob Spivey

Oct. 28, 1948 - April 28, 2023

Leaf - Earth Leaf - Earth Leaf - Earth Leaf - Earth

Dr. Bob Spivey (also known as Bobzho to his beloved of 34 years, Beverly Naidus) was born to Tollie Virginia (née) Williams and Thomas Denmuth Spivey in Washington DC on October, 28, 1948. He grew up in both Alexandria and McLean, Virginia with older sister, Becky. He was a descendant of Eastern Woodlands Cree and Tsalogi nation peoples, as well as Welsh, English, Scottish, and French Alsatian ancestors. His life took a very rich & creative turn in high school when some innovative teachers inspired him and a lively cohort of his peers to explore the arts, politics, and spiritual growth. Bob became passionate about poetry, particularly the Beat Poets. He got a small chapbook published with the help of a teacher, and visited Allen Ginsburg in NYC. The story of that impromptu visit is precious, but too long to share here. Bob became deeply engaged in Buddhist meditation while in high school and began studying with Roshi Philip Kapleau, one of the first American-born Zen teachers who founded the Rochester Zen Center. Bob applied to Yale University as a joke, but the irony was that, during that particular year, 1966, they had opened up their admissions to include more artsy students. His published poetry as well as other criteria swept him into the fray. Although he desperately wanted to be a dharma bum, hitchhiking across America, his parents forced his hand and he attended. He hated Yale and all it represented. He was there at the same time as George W. Bush (and the infamous Skull & Bones fools) and he was in the same class as Gary Trudeau (of Doonesbury fame). Partly to weather the repulsion he had for the institution and the Vietnam War, he became a passionate activist, joining Students for a Democratic Society, When he wasn't organizing or participating in protests, he went to Buddhist retreats. This dance between radical politics and spiritual engagement became one of the rhythms of his whole life. Bob majored in literature and creative writing. He told stories about his participation in the protests surrounding the Bobby Seale trial in New Haven in 1971 that so rocked the campus that everyone was given credit for the semester, no matter what they had done or not done. After graduation, he lived at the Rochester Zen Center for a time and worked as a substitute teacher and house painter. After a few years, Bob was able to fulfill his dream of hitchhiking across the country with $35 in his pocket. Thus began decades of different kinds of labor (the list includes working as a sous chef in a French restaurant, landscaping, shoveling elephant shit at the zoo, being a bicycle messenger in San Francisco, work in an eyelash curler factory, and baking gluten-free muffins for the LA-based Zen Bakery) while he lived in Albuquerque, San Francisco, LA, and Portland. After following a girlfriend from Portland to LA (it didn't work out), he decided to study music therapy at Cal State Long Beach, then shifted to studying massage therapy for over a decade and became a licensed massage therapist. He did lots of activist organizing against US military involvement in Central America and traveled to Nicaragua with Blase Bonpane and the Office of the Americas to learn more about the Sandinista movement and met poet revolutionaries. His political work often involved direct actions; he was jailed on numerous occasions and risked harm in order to make a stand against the ecocidal and authoritarian policies. His studies with Sasaki Roshi on Mt Baldy (near LA) introduced him to Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell who both sat there. Leonard borrowed Bob's guitar to compose a song. He sat with the International Buddhist Meditation Center in LA and was ordained by the Ven. Dr. Thich Thien-An as a lay monk in the Vietnamese Zen lineage. A Tibetan teacher at the International Buddhist Meditation Center in LA gave Bob the name of Sonam Zangpo, Bob said that it means, "the one who opens the door for others." He moved to Long Beach, CA to live in a monk's room at a Vietnamese temple to support the work of the head monk, while working as administrative staff at Long Beach City College. He became part of a cohort of social activists doing anti-war and anti-nuclear work, trained with Joanna Macy, and traveled to Nevada to be part of protests at the Nevada nuclear test site. He edited the journal, Green Synthesis, detailing the growth of the Green Movement in the US. In the summer of 1988 he attended the Institute for Social Ecology (then at Goddard College in Vermont) and decided to get his Masters in Social Ecology. Soon after that he met Beverly Naidus through a mutual friend at a benefit for Guatemalan refugees in Santa Monica. They fell in love at first conversation, were engaged after five weeks, and married six months later, in May 1989. Bob decided to focus his Masters at ISE on activist art. They spent almost a decade of summer sessions co-teaching "activist art in community" at ISE's Vermont campus. They also did several retreats with Thich Nhat Hanh, the late poet, peace activist monk, including one at Plum Village in France. After receiving his Masters in Social Ecology, Bob started teaching sociology as an adjunct at various community colleges in southern CA. He worked with a coalition of activists to develop community gardens for the growing unsheltered folks in LA. He started to make good living as a massage therapist in LA, but Beverly developed a disabling environmental illness from the aerial spraying of Malathion, and after years of trying all sorts of cures, including moving to Venice, CA for cleaner air, it was clear that moving far away from the smog was necessary. At the same time, Beverly became pregnant at age 40. Soon after Sam Oak Naidus Spivey was born, they moved to Shelburne Falls, MA. Bob went back to school to study Occupational Therapy, getting his second Master's at Springfield College in MA. In 2003, after Beverly was hired as a professor at the University of Washington in Tacoma, the family moved to Vashon Island where Bob worked full time for various rehab places, including running a program for Vashon Community Care where he specialized as a hand & shoulder therapist. While on Vashon, Bob formed the non-profit SEEDS (Social Ecology Education and Demonstration School) facilitating soil remediation projects, a town hall called Visions for Vashon, an international social ecology colloquium, and the Vashon Green Map. He got training and certification in permaculture design with a group in Tacoma, and that was helpful in developing Beverly's eco-art project on Vashon, Eden Reframed. In 2011, the family moved into Seattle where Sam was attending high school. Bob started working with various activist groups including Race and Climate Justice while beginning his PhD work with University of Roehampton in England. In 2016, the family moved to Tacoma. For Bob's 70th birthday, Beverly chose 70 poems that he had written to her for birthdays, solstices, and anniversaries, compiling them into the book, '"Not Just Words: A 30-year Exhortation to Love and Resistance." Each poem was accompanied by a visual response by Beverly. Bob continued working as an OT until 2018 when he retired to provide more support for Sam's challenges with mental health. At age 72, Dr. Bob completed his PhD. Due to the pandemic, his orals were done on Zoom. His dissertation committee suggested that he might want turn his diss into a book. He threw himself into the rewriting process, while continuing to help Sam navigate more challenges. While Sam was attending young adult transition programs, Bob and Beverly co-facilitated SEEDS discussion groups and talks on Zoom with socially engaged artists around the world during the first year of the pandemic lockdown and in the summer of 2021, they initiated the Tacoma Story Hive project in their neighborhood. At the same time, Bob participated in an online socially engaged Buddhist training with the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, bringing in the story hive project as his practicum. Bob's cancer diagnosis in November 2021 interrupted the vision to take SEEDS to a storefront space in Tacoma, but he continued to write and participate in whatever he could while doing chemo, immunotherapy, Reiki and quantum energy healing. Other aspects of Bob's life that folks may not know about: he was a skilled jazz pianist, a hilarious performer, an avid amateur astronomer, a devoted fan of basketball (particularly the WNBA), a practitioner of T'ai Chi, and was intensively studying French and Portuguese on Duolingo to prepare for upcoming trips during his 18 month cancer journey. Bob & Beverly created a Buddhist meditation group (a sangha named the Bad Buddhists) in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh to support in his healing as well. It continues to meet every Thursday night in a remodeled garage (now a Zendo) in the backyard. Bob was deeply admired by the sangha for the depth of his knowledge and his kind heart. One of the terms used frequently in Thich Nhat Hanh's dharma talks and writings is the idea of interbeing, that we are all connected via both material elements (like water and air) and non-material ones (energy). Bob understood this concept deeply. He recognized how important healthy organic soil is for healing many of the challenges of ecocide, including the climate crisis, so the fact that human composting now exists in the state of Washington was a lovely way to honor his passion. The nutrient-rich soil that his body produced is now nourishing seven columnar apple trees, next to the backyard Zendo. His book manuscript, “Recovering a Future: A Critical Inquiry into Social Ecology,”is now in the hands of his nephew, Dr. Clayton Crockett, a tenured professor and internationally known, published author, and will eventually find a publisher. Bob brought light into the lives of so many through his activism, compassion, and behind the scenes organizing. He was a true Boddhisatva and a mensch, as well as a gifted teacher, a critically thinking scholar, a skilled community art facilitator and healer, a playful dancer, an awesome father, a loving collaborator & a devoted partner. His spirit lives on in all of us who loved him, including family members: his beloved life partner, Beverly Naidus, his son, Sam Oak Naidus Spivey, his sister, Becky Crockett, his nephew, Dr Clayton Crockett, and his other nephew, Clint Crockett. To honor his social justice spirit, please keep reimagining the world you want to live in and take actions in your community to make that happen.


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