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Two Tributes to Bonnie Tinker ’69

Tue, 2009-09-15 03:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)
group of women smiling at camera
Bonnie organized a reunion of Red Emma, made up of five Grinnellians who moved to Portland in 1971. This photo, taken 11 days before Bonnie's death, includes four of us. From left: Bonnie Tinker '69, Kristan Knapp, Beverly Schnabel '72, Kathleen Clarke, Ann Mussey '72, and Mollie Clarke '71. Courtesy of Beverly Schnabel.

Bonnie Tinker, a lifelong equal rights and peace activist, was killed recently in a bike accident in Blacksburg, Va. A Portland, Ore., resident, Bonnie was attending a national Quaker meeting where she had been presenting her "Opening Hearts and Minds" workshop devoted to nonviolent change.

Bonnie moved to Portland in 1971 with several other women from Grinnell and started a feminist collective, Red Emma. After looking around the community for ways to support women, they started a halfway house for women and a Women's Health Clinic that was a presence in Portland for more than 20 years. In the mid-1970s, Bonnie and others founded the first shelter for battered women in Portland. Bonnie was the founding director of Bradley-Angle House and the first chair of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Bradley-Angle House continues to serve women in Oregon.

At Bonnie's memorial service, her nieces and nephews read from the 1978 Portland Police Intelligence Report as part of the memorial. Bonnie was considered a danger because her sister had been to Cuba and because Bonnie had harbored battered women in safe houses and sought protection for them. Another friend who spoke agreed that Bonnie was a danger, but for a very different reason. Once Bonnie started talking with you, she patiently pursued you to lobby a bill, serve on a board, or do whatever it was she felt you could do, until you agreed.

In 1992, Bonnie put together a documentary, Love Makes a Family, about lesbian and gay marriage in the Religious Society of Friends. She created a nonprofit organization by the same name that works to meet the needs of lesbian, gay, bi, transgendered, and queer families. Public education has always been a need, and Bonnie gave interviews and speeches, even debating the leaders of an Oregon group that initiated a series of vitriolic anti-gay ballot measures in the early 1990s.

Bonnie took a stand for justice and social equality her entire life — on many issues. In recent years she protested the Iraq Surge with Seriously Pissed-Off Grannies at military recruitment centers and got arrested in the process. This was a group that would not yield because as grannies, they had nothing to lose. When Bonnie's attorney spoke to her of entering a plea and going to arraignment, her response was, "I'm a Tinker. Remember that black arm band case on free speech." They went to trial and the judge dismissed all charges on the first day.

There was an incredible sense of energy at the memorial service and moments when those of us from Grinnell felt like we were back on campus in 1968. There was enough history shared that we were reminded once again that we needed to take on the status quo to produce a more just and fair society. Bonnie, of course, took on more than most of us have and did so her entire lifetime.

Bonnie is survived by Sara Graham, her partner of 32 years, three children, three grandchildren, and a menagerie of pets. In 2004, Bonnie and Sara were married when Multnomah County issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples for a period of time.

The diversity at Bonnie's memorial service was high by any measure — age, race, sexual orientation, and shirt and tie/no shirt. Those who spoke, sang, played musical instruments, and performed demonstrated how many different communities and individual lives Bonnie touched. A young man who grew up next door to Bonnie and Sara performed an original rap song that described how Bonnie lived, how she impacted his life, and how he will live now because of her example. Many spoke of her empathy, and through their stories of Bonnie demonstrated how much she helped to expand and foster the common good.

Bonnie Tinker

Four women arm-in-arm at an airport

Taken at the airport following the recent Grinnell reunion (left to right): Susan Shimp '70, Jennifer Riley '70, Barb Duhl '70, and Bonnie Tinker '69.

Photo by Angela Crowley-Koch '00 used courtesy of Jennifer Riley.

I am sad to note the passing of an inspiring Grinnellian, Bonnie Tinker '69. Bonnie made it her life's work to stand up for justice and to do the right thing, no matter how difficult or unpopular.

I met Bonnie in Portland, Ore., when we both ran nonprofits working to end the Iraq War. Working with Bonnie challenged me in many ways, and we did not always see eye to eye. Despite the fact that we disagreed — sometimes vocally — I always had great respect and admiration for Bonnie. Her ability to inspire the same people whose buttons she had pushed the day before is a testament to Bonnie's life and spirit.

In her work for justice, she did what we all felt in our heart was right to do, but didn't have the courage to carry out. Bonnie and her partner Sara stood in front of a tank during Portland's Rose Parade to protest the war. Bonnie was arrested then and other times with members of the group, the Seriously Pissed-Off Grannies.

She fought for civil rights through her nonprofit, Love Makes a Family. In the course of her work for civil rights, Bonnie came face to face with Fred Phelps and his religious hate when defending an Oregon school district's right to display a "Family Diversity" photo exhibit, but she helped the school district stand by its decision to keep the show.

Her participation in causes, actions, and protests are too numerous to list here, but her life was full of noble causes, as evidenced by the Quaker conference she was riding her bicycle to when she was hit by a truck in July. To the end, she lived a dedicated and honorable life. I hope to follow in her footsteps, both now and when I'm a seriously pissed-off granny.

Originally published as an online extra for The Grinnell Magazine, Spring 2009.

Building Excitement

This article appeared as a web extra for The Grinnell Magazine, Fall 2009.

Photos by Jim Heemstra

The beauty of a late summer Iowa day provides a backdrop for the continuing construction on Phase II of Grinnell's Athletic and Fitness Center, north of 10th Avenue.

View of Construction Site

The trail around the soccer fields provides an excellent vantage point to view the construction.
yellow flowers with construction crane visible in the distance

Prairie flowers bloom with wild abandon along the railroad tracks on the east side of the construction project.
Interior of natatorium with concrete, beams, construction workers

Grinnell’s natatorium will reflect the latest technology and design, as well as the highest standards of environmental responsibility and efficiency.
sparks and welders

Sparks fly as welders do their work.
Welder leaning over a beam and sparks falling below

The finished facility will offer the College and the community a place to compete, train, and pursue recreational athletic activities.
fieldhouse beams creating the outline of future roof

A blue Iowa sky offers a dramatic backdrop to the beams of the fieldhouse.
construction crane

A construction crane towers over campus.
Welder on cherry-picker

A welder is intent on his work.
crew hangs suspended from beams

Beams form a geometric design against a brilliant blue backdrop.
arching beams

Beams foreshadow Grinnell’s new state-of-the-art fieldhouse, which will feature a six-lane 200-meter track with an eight-lane straightaway.

Grinnell's Unofficial Mascot: The Fox Squirrel

Love 'em or loathe 'em, you just can't ignore the plentiful and beautiful fox squirrels that thrive on the Grinnell College campus. We asked several of our photographers to catch the many moods of Grinnell's squirrel population.

Squirrel knibbling on a nut at the edge of a mossy rock wall
The fox squirrel is named for the fox-like color on its magnificent tail. by Sarah DeLong
Squirrel anchored by a back foot climbs out towards a nut
Streeeetch! Fox squirrels love nuts, insects, seeds, buds, and pilfered fast food.

by Sarah DeLong
Squirrel anchored by a back foot gets close to a nut at the end of a branch
So close! by Sarah DeLong
Squirrel reaches a nut at the end of a branch
At last -- success! by Sarah DeLong
A squirrel peeks out over a leafy branch
The fox squirrel is found throughout Iowa and most of the Midwest. by Sarah DeLong
Belligerent squirrel faces off with the camera
Whaddaya want?" Grinnell squirrels are assertive to say the least, and exhibit personality to spare. by Sarah DeLong
very plump squirrel lazing around in the trees
Grinnell's squirrel contingent seems to be thriving, as demonstrated by this solid citizen. Fox squirrels are Iowa's largest squirrels. Experts say they range from about 10-15 inches in length, and can weigh up to three pounds (anecdotally, Grinnell squirrels can weigh a lot more). by Sarah DeLong

 
Inquisitive looking squirrel gazed down from a tree branch
It's a tightrope act, but no sweat for this guy. by Grant Dissette ’12
Squirrel pauses to glance over its shoulder to the photographer
"Really? You don't say!" Students frequently become fond of the squirrels, who often boldly take food directly from human hands. by Grant Dissette ’12
Squirrel uses hind foot to scratch its side
"Scratch where it itches." by Grant Dissette ’12
Squirrel perches, up to its shoulders in a hole in a branch
"I know I left it in here somewhere!" Squirrels make their nests in holes in trees, or build the big round leafy balls visible among the branches. by Grant Dissette ’12
Close photo of a squirrel looking directly at the camera
Up close and personal. by Grant Dissette ’12
Squirrel on hind legs in a lawn
"I'm a handsome devil, aren't I?" February is mating season for the squirrels, which accounts for all the wild activity in mid-winter, including high-speed chases and daring leaps from branch to branch and tree to tree. Courtesy of Ben Gordon ’11
squirrel clings to the trunk of a tree with head down and tail up
"Bet you couldn't hang upside down like this!" Courtesy of Ben Gordon ’11
Squirrel with nut in mouth near the base of a shrub
Many gardeners and bird-feeding enthusiasts can attest to the cleverness of these rodents. A Grinnell faculty member of the early 20th century left us this story of the squirrels of his day: "Last year some hazelnuts brought home one day were spread out on a level area of roof to dry in sun and air. The village squirrels discovered them in surprisingly short time and made spirited and frequent predatory excursions to the store. The antics of the squirrels were worth far more than the nuts." (Selden Lincoln Whitcomb describing Grinnell, Iowa in 1902) by Stephanie Puls
Squirrel, visible behind green branches, holds a nut in it's mouth
At home in the trees. by Stephanie Puls
Squirrel with snow on it's face wanders in the snow next to a sidewalk
Squirrels don't hibernate, but they do spend more time in the nest when the weather gets cold. by Stephanie Puls
Squirrel perches on a stump, fluffed-up tail curled in a question-mark shape
"Got anything to eat?" by Stephanie Puls
Squirrel with hands at mouth, looking beseechingly at the camera
The fox squirrel's beautiful tail provides a useful counterweight for acrobatic leaps from branch to branch.
hunched squirrel creeping down limb looks up at the camera
Secret Agent Squirrel! by Jim Heemstra
squirrel against a small branch, facing the camera
Grinnell College isn't the only campus in Iowa where squirrels seem to have the upper hand. On the website Campus Squirrel Listings, Joseph Bauer reports: "The University of Iowa was the first state-supported institution of higher education to admit squirrels on an equal basis with humans. They now constitute about 8 percent of the student body ... Here in Iowa City we know that the squirrels here have a the highest graduation rate in the Big Ten and finish consistently higher in most of the squirrel polls." by Jim Heemstra
squirrel appearing to bitie the bark of a branch
"Grinnell squirrels stick religiously to the 100-mile diet." by Jim Heemstra
Squirrel on branch, facing camera, with three paws down, and one held against chest, tail bushy and upright
"Looking good!" by Jim Heemstra
Squirrel standing fully erect, with tail held upright as well
Ins & Outs, a Grinnell admission publication, once reported that Grinnell College was home to 476,704,685,230 squirrels. Several readers responded, concerned that the campus was some 20 feet deep in squirrels. by Jim Heemstra

 
Squirrel in tree crotch chewing on the core of a red apple.
"I'm ready for my close-up!" by Jim Heemstra

This article appeared as a web extra for The Grinnell Magazine, Winter 2008.

Defying Darkness

Mon, 2008-09-15 16:12 | By Anonymous (not verified)
Holocaust survivors with their familiesClockwise from top: Harold Kasimow (left) as a child with his family after the war; Celina Karp Biniaz '52 as she prepares to begin school; and Sam Harris '58 (front row, left) with schoolmates.

Before the Nazis invaded in 1939, about 1 million Jewish children lived in Poland. After the war, they had virtually disappeared from that country — fewer than 5,000 survived. The odds were not good for Jewish youngsters in Eastern Europe. Too small to work, they were usually killed immediately by the Nazis. Most who survived spent the war in hiding.

The brutality of the Holocaust is considered one of the worst atrocities of human history. How could it be said that anything good came out of such malevolence?

Yet the good can be found in those who survived. In this piece, you will meet three Grinnellians who survived the Holocaust as children: Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies Harold Kasimow, Celina Karp Biniaz '52, and Sam Harris '58. Rather than being overwhelmed by the evil they met at such a young age, they have chosen to see and be a part of the light of the world, rather than the darkness.

As one survivor said, "Hatred is akin to evil. I don't want to be a person who hates."

The Grave

Harold Kasimow's earliest memories are of living in total darkness and silence, with no room to move and very little to eat.

Kasimow, his parents, and his two sisters spent 19 months and 5 days hiding from the Nazis in a hole dug in the floor of a cattle barn, covered over with boards and straw. He was 4 years old when they went into hiding in the hole. They called it the grub, which means hole. Sometimes, they even called it the keyver -- the Yiddish word for grave. "We were already buried there," Kasimow says. "If something happened, that could have been our grave."

"I never saw the sun," he remembers. "It was all strange to me when I got out. I'd never seen the light. I'd never been out of the hole. It was always pitch black."

Kasimow was born in a small village about a hundred miles north of Vilnius, which is now the capital of Lithuania. At that time, it was part of Poland. His father, Norman, was a fisherman and a prosperous businessman who owned houses in two villages, one in Turmantas, which is now in Lithuania, and the other in Drysviaty, which is now in Belarus. He was well known and liked in the area. "He treated people with dignity," Kasimow says.

"My father was quite a heroic figure, actually," Kasimow continues. "He had very good relations with the people in the surrounding area, including non-Jews, many of whom were willing to risk their lives to help him."

Kasimow's family was one of only five Jewish families left in the village after the first year of German occupation. All the others had been transported to concentration camps or killed on the spot. Thousands of Jews in that area were simply shot. Kasimow's maternal grandmother was one of those taken away. "I was very close to her," Kasimow says. "They took her, and she was killed."

In April 1942, the local priest came to warn Kasimow's father that they should hide or run; he had learned that the Nazis planned to finish off the last few Jews in the area. Eventually, 95 percent of the Jews who had lived in that area of Poland before the war were killed. Virtually no children survived. The few who did survive did so with the help of Polish Catholics, Kasimow says.

A Father's Heroism

Through sheer determination, Kasimow's father kept the family alive. "He just never gave up under any circumstance," Kasimow says. With three children under the age of 8, the family's options were limited.

"My father knew the area very well," Kasimow explains. "A lot of people would not turn him in, would even give him some food." For a time, the family moved around, hiding in the forest and in attics and barns. In early 1943, Kasimow's father persuaded a farmer, Wladislaw Piworowitz, with whom he had a working relationship, to allow the family to hide in the ground under the cattle barn. For the farmer, it was not an entirely altruistic act.

"My father promised to give him all the houses that he owned," Kasimow explains. "Nobody expected that the war would go on as long as it did. But once we were there, he was stuck with us. There was nothing he could do. He was afraid to turn us in." To do so would have been fatal for all involved.

Kasimow is grateful for the risks the farmer and his family took. "He was in that very horrible situation, but you know, he did risk his life, and the life of his family."

The hole in the floor of the cowshed was big enough for the family, but with little room to move. A hole within the hole, covered with straw, served as a latrine. Kasimow's father dug a tunnel to the potato cellar of the farmhouse. Through it he was able to slip out at night to find food for the family. Food meant bread and water, and not much of that.

The family had to stay quiet to avoid being discovered. "We were supposed to be silent and not even talk," Kasimow says. He remembers an incident when a Nazi patrol with dogs came to the farm. "Somehow, maybe the barn was open, and maybe a dog smelled something," Kasimow says. "It was probably a German shepherd, and it started to get excited. I know the soldiers had started walking away and just called him off. No one imagined that there was a Jewish family alive in this community, that there was anybody to find any longer."

Into the Light

In the summer of 1944, the Russians liberated 6-year-old Kasimow and his family. "There was a kind of euphoria," he says. "They were not persecuting Jews yet."

Besides euphoria, Kasimow remembers being amazed by the world he saw. "I remember seeing cows eating grass. Light -- I didn't know it existed, actually," he says. "After nearly two years in the grub, everything seemed so unique and strange and amazing."

Nineteen months of near starvation and little or no movement had taken their toll on the children. "We were like skeletons," Kasimow says. "My sister, who is two years older, couldn't walk. ... My father carried the two of us in a sack for awhile."

It was still dangerous, for civilians as well as soldiers. "There was still shooting going on," Kasimow says. "I was almost killed at that point. Someone shot off not the head, but the hat of the driver of a wagon my father put us on."

Kasimow's parents decided to leave the area where they had lived before the war and travel to the American-controlled zone. "My father's brother was with us at the time," Kasimow remembers. His uncle was a guerrilla fighter who survived the war and now lives in Israel. "We were stuck on a train," Kasimow remembers. "Somehow we got disconnected from the rest of the train, and we were just left in the country, somewhere near Lodz. A group of local men came and tried to get into the car. I remember my father standing at the door with a piece of iron in his hand. His younger brother was able to crawl through a window of the train car and get the police," Kasimow says. "They came and said, 'OK, boys, break it up.' There were many such incidents after the war."

Once the Kasimow family reached Germany, they lived for about three years in Bad Reichenhall, a large displaced persons camp in a Bavarian resort area. The camp was a huge improvement over what the family had endured, Kasimow says. "Although we lived in crowded conditions, we had enough to eat," he says. "We were free. Ultimately everybody left. Most people went to Israel, some went to Latin America, some even to Australia. In order to go to America, you had to have a sponsor."

The Promised Land

It took time to find someplace to go. Immigration laws in the United States limited the number of immigrants who could come to the States. "We had my father's sister to guarantee that if we came, she would support us," Kasimow says.

When Kasimow was 11, the family traveled to the United States aboard the General Muir. The journey took 10 days, during which time many people suffered terribly with seasickness. "Everybody was sick," Kasimow remembers. "I was the only person who went to the kitchen to have breakfast! They gave us oranges, which is probably the first time I had an orange in my life."

Kasimow remembers the very day they sailed into New York Harbor -- August 23, 1949. Though he was 11 years old, he looked like a 7-year-old. "I was very tiny," he says. "I'm actually the shortest male in the family, because I guess those were key years when I didn't grow."

The family settled in the Bronx, where Kasimow attended Salanter Yeshiva, a Jewish day school, and sang in a professional choir. He played handball with the neighborhood kids. "I remember being quite happy," Kasimow says. "Except for my own experience, I didn't know about the Holocaust. My parents didn't speak about it to us children, only to other adult survivors. I think a kind of survivor's mentality grew gradually as I got to know more and more about what actually happened, not just to me, but what really happened to the Jews in Eastern Europe."

Kasimow went on to Yeshiva University High School and then to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, studying Hebrew literature and the Jewish tradition. "There wasn't anything being offered on the Holocaust. The Jews basically didn't speak about it," Kasimow says. He went on to graduate school at Temple University, and came to Grinnell in 1972 to join the faculty in religious studies. When Gates Lecturer and Holocaust writer Emil Fackenheim came to Grinnell the same year, Kasimow began to examine his own past.

Even then, he rarely spoke of being a Holocaust survivor. He didn't introduce topics related to the Holocaust into his classes on Judaism until about 1980, focusing instead on traditional Judaism. "There is 4,000 years of Jewish history preceding the Holocaust," he explains. "You shouldn't make the Holocaust the central event in Judaism."

The little boy who lived in darkness and silence has become a respected religious scholar and a man of peace. Kasimow has devoted his career to encouraging dialogue among the world's religions. His mentor and teacher, Abraham Joshua Heschel, inspired him to promote interreligious dialogue. Heschel provided guidance that helped Kasimow find peace -- within himself, and with the world.

Kasimow's work as a scholar has carried him around the world, forging close friendships with colleagues of many other faiths. One of those friends, the late Brother Wayne Teasdale, asked Kasimow to contribute his personal story of survival to Teasdale's 2004 book, Awakening the Spirit, Inspiring the Soul: 30 Stories of Interspiritual Discovery in the Community of Faiths. "We became very close," Kasimow says. "He was an authentic spiritual teacher." He titled his contribution to the book "To Be a Mensch." It was the first time he wrote about his Holocaust experience. Kasimow's oldest sister, Rita Kasimow Brown, is now completing a book titled Portrait of a Holocaust Child, which will focus on the time the family spent hiding during the war.

Twice during his career at Grinnell, Kasimow taught a class on the Holocaust. Only twice, he says. "It was just too painful. I thought it was an important course, and the students were very serious, and really did their work," Kasimow says. "I put a great emphasis on the actual diaries of survivors."

It was during this course that Kasimow told the students that he was in Europe during the war. But he didn't then define himself as a Holocaust survivor. "Normally, I don't lecture on the Holocaust," he says. "I talk about topics related to interfaith dialogue, with a special emphasis on Abraham Joshua Heschel and Pope John Paul II. That is really my work. Only recently have I begun to realize that my work is related to my experience as a Holocaust survivor.

"Things are beginning to change for me. Last year, for the very first time in my life, I spoke at a synagogue on Holocaust Memorial Day. I'm opening myself up to the impact of my early experiences.

"I guess I'm actually ready now to tell my story," Kasimow says. "I'm moved by the compassionate people I've met -- a lot of compassionate people. During World War II, there were many Polish people who were involved in saving my family." Kasimow says. "I've been back to Poland three times, and I've experienced nothing but real affection from the Polish people I've encountered. I am deeply grateful for that."

When Kasimow was a boy, he didn't understand everything that was happening to his family. He didn't know why the Nazis wanted to kill them. He admits that even now, some 60 years later, he still doesn't understand that sort of hatred. "I just don't," he says. "I don't understand such hatred. And I guess I'd have to say I personally have never experienced it. I've been very lucky."

'Let Me Go'

Celina Karp Biniaz '52 has looked evil in the eye.

She was only 13 when she and her mother ended up in Auschwitz. Their train, which they had thought was bound for relative safety in Czechoslovakia, took a nighttime detour, and the rail car full of Jewish women somehow arrived instead in Auschwitz -- the most notorious of all the Nazi death camps.

At Auschwitz, Biniaz was separated from her mother and with some others was paraded in the nude in front of Dr. Josef Mengele, who was often referred to as the Angel of Death.

He pointed his finger, Biniaz remembers. One way meant life, the other, death. The first time, Biniaz was directed to the death line. Then he went through the line again.

"I just said three words in German," Biniaz remembers. "Let me go." She ran out of the room and escaped.

A Life Shattered

"I was 8 years old when war broke out," Biniaz remembers. Before the war, she lived a happy, relatively privileged life in Kraków, Poland. Her parents were both professional accountants, and the family enjoyed a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. Biniaz attended a private kindergarten in Kraków, and then went to public school for first and second grade.

In 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, and Biniaz's beautiful cultured life was shattered. Jewish families were forced out of their homes and herded into the ghetto. All the nice things her family had worked for were sold, and their sense of security was crushed. Former neighbors now wore swastikas. Education was forbidden for Jewish children.

As professionals with essential jobs, Biniaz's parents left the ghetto every day to go to their jobs. They worked in the office at a factory where uniforms for the Wehrmacht were manufactured, under the management of Julius Madritsch -- a close friend of Oskar Schindler, the rescuer of Jews made famous by Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List.

Biniaz's parents feared leaving their daughter alone in the ghetto all day while they worked, so they arranged for their taller-than-average child to get a "blue card" to allow her to work outside, too, although she was officially too young. She did various jobs, but more important, she was out of the ghetto and away from the Nazi roundups and killings, at least during the day.

In 1942, Madritsch's factory was transferred into Plaszow, a Nazi labor camp. Jews who testified at the war crimes trials after the war remembered Camp Commandant Amon Goeth as a cruel and sadistic man. With his sniper's rifle, he picked off children at play in the camp -- for amusement. Torture and vicious killings were everyday occurrences. Poldek Pfefferberg, one of Schindler's Jews, recalled Goeth this way: "When you saw Goeth, you saw death."

Schindler's List

Into this hell stepped Oskar Schindler.

There was perhaps no more unlikely hero. Schindler's List author Thomas Keneally describes him as an opportunistic bon vivant and businessman at the war's outset, a man who set out to exploit cheap Jewish labor and make his fortune. A master of bribery and a greaser of palms, Schindler used his connections to secure contracts with the Nazi government for his own profits.

And then, for reasons no one really understands, Schindler changed. He began to use his money for the good of his Jewish workers, buying them food and bribing guards to protect them. He established a separate sub-camp for his factory within Plaszow, and insisted his employees sleep inside to save time in transport. The truth is, within this sub-camp, "Schindler's Jews" were kept safe from Goeth's atrocities. Madritsch's employees, though they were not in the sub-camp, enjoyed some protection as well.

"At first ... [Schindler] wanted to enjoy the war and make money," Biniaz says. "Why he changed and why he did what he did, I don't know.

"He kept us safe ... That's what's important."

Into the Monster's Face

In 1944, Plaszow was dissolved. "They knew the Russians were coming," Biniaz says. Schindler devised a plan to move his factory to safety in Czechoslovakia, along with all his Jews.

"He wanted Madritsch to join him," Biniaz recalls. But Madritsch had had enough and refused. Schindler had room for a few more in the transport to Czechoslovakia, so he instructed Madritsch to add some names to the list. Biniaz and her parents were placed on the list. It was a stroke of luck that meant life for the three of them.

Men and women were separated for the journey, and the men reached their destination without incident. For Biniaz and the other women, however, it was a horror that still haunts her dreams.

"Somehow, we were sidelined to Auschwitz," Biniaz says. She remembers the stench of the place -- the smell of burned bodies. When they arrived, she and the other women were told to undress and shoved into the shower room. They all knew what it would likely mean: death from the ceiling. When water, not gas, came out of the showerheads, they gasped their relief.

"That was so frightening," Biniaz says. "But, oh my goodness, we were saved!"

They spent about four very cold weeks in October and November at Auschwitz before Schindler was able to bring them to the factory in Czechoslovakia. The factory there made components for V2 rockets. Schindler told his employees not to sabotage the munitions, for fear his plan to save them would be uncovered.

Mrs. Emilie Schindler holds a special place in Biniaz's memory. She came to the infirmary at the camp in Czechoslovakia each day at 10 a.m. with extra rations. The extra food helped keep them alive. Even under Schindler's protection, everyone suffered malnutrition. At the end of the war, Biniaz weighed only 35 kilos -- 77 pounds.

At one point, the S.S. commandant from Plaszow, Amon Goeth, visited the factory in Czechoslovakia. "We were lined up to greet him, and Schindler walked through with Goeth," Biniaz remembers. Always, always, in the death camps, the prisoners kept their heads down -- to meet the eyes of a Nazi could mean being singled out for whatever horror was next.

At that moment, however, Schindler's Jews had begun to feel almost safe. The war would soon end, and they had faith that Schindler would keep them safe. Biniaz raised her head and looked Goeth straight in the eye.

"It was a good feeling to be able to look the monster in his face," she says.

A Rebel with a Cause

Even after liberation (which brought with it "an eerie feeling," Biniaz remembers), Poland was not safe. She and her parents returned to Kraków, hoping to find family members, but there were none to be found. In September 1945, the Karp family left Poland and made the trek to Germany, where the family spent two years waiting for visas to the United States. Biniaz's uncle in Des Moines, Iowa, sponsored the family.

Feeling as if she had no education whatsoever, Biniaz was anxious to catch up on her studies. "It was incredibly important for me," she explains. Biniaz's family sent her to study with a 90-year-old German nun, Mater Leontina. It was a great blessing for the wounded young woman. Mater Leontina's kindness and wisdom helped heal Biniaz's spirit, as well as nurture her mind.

"She accepted me for what I was," Biniaz remembers. "She showed me things ... changed my feelings about the whole situation.

"You have to move on," she explains. "Some dwelt upon it. ... You've got to end hatred and prejudice somewhere, you know."

While the family awaited their visas in Germany, they happened to meet Oskar Schindler on the street. He recognized them and greeted them with visible joy. "He stopped us and chatted," Biniaz remembers. "He was a wonderful, wonderful human being."

After the war, Schindler was left penniless, all his money having been spent to save his Jews. He tried his hand at other businesses but without success. Finally, he emigrated to Israel, where he lived out his life.

"He is a very interesting person, a rebel with a cause," Biniaz observes.

Moving On

Biniaz was 16 when her family finally boarded the ship that would carry them to the United States. She remembers how she was struck by the beautiful neon lights of New York City when they arrived in June 1947, and later, the peaceful settings of Iowa.

Biniaz, anxious to go to school, attended North High in Des Moines. She found she was not so far behind. "I loved it!" she says. "I just loved it, and I was truly accepted by the children."

A teacher there was a graduate of Grinnell, and encouraged Biniaz to apply. She won a scholarship and soon found herself studying on Grinnell's peaceful green campus.

"I loved the atmosphere of Grinnell," she says. "It renewed my life. ... Grinnell was just wonderful to me."

But as so many Grinnell students discover, the life of a Grinnell student involves a lot of study. "I had to work very hard because my English was not great at all," Biniaz says. "That first year was intense, let's put it that way!" She also worked at a variety of on-campus jobs. "I had all kinds of jobs -- you name it, I did it!"

A class with Professor of Philosophy Neal Klausner ("a delightful human being") was life-changing for Biniaz. Though he knew little of her personal story, Klausner helped her begin to think through the terrible experiences that had obliterated her childhood and could easily have destroyed her adulthood.

She chose to major in philosophy, and the study helped her deal with her personal demons. Still, she did not talk about her experiences as a Holocaust survivor. Biniaz chose not to dwell on the nightmare. She was moving on.

Finding Her Voice

Biniaz continued her study of philosophy on scholarship to Columbia after graduating from Grinnell. There she met the man who would be her husband, Amir Biniaz, a dentist. They married and had two children, Robert and Susan, and later, four grandchildren.

Biniaz taught for many years on Long Island, where the family lived. She focused on children who needed special help. "I felt I had to give something back." She taught for 27 years, and loved it. She and her husband now live in California, near family. "It's been very good," Biniaz says.

For 40 years, Biniaz did not speak of her Holocaust experiences. She had lost her childhood and her faith. After seeing little children brutally hurled against a wall and killed in the camps, her faith was gone. "There was no way that I could accept a benevolent deity," she explains. She is today very much of a humanist, Biniaz says.

In 1993, a film opened the doors of her memory. Steven Spielberg's acclaimed film, Schindler's List, told the story of Oskar Schindler and his transformation from disreputable businessman to heroic rescuer of 1,200 Jews. Biniaz credits Spielberg with her new ability to talk about the past. "He gave me a second life -- he gave me a voice," she says. She was interviewed about her experiences for a documentary released with the DVD version of the film.

Still, she chooses not to dwell on what happened to her as a child. "I try not to think about it," she says. She has worked hard to avoid burdening her children with guilt for what happened. With her family, she took a trip to Poland in 2006. She visited the factory where she used to work, which is now a museum, but she didn't want to visit Auschwitz. The rest of the family went without her, and her 10-year-old grandson came to her after the visit. "Grandma, it was horrible," he told her. "But everyone should see it."

Does Biniaz understand hatred of such virulence as what she saw as a child living through the Holocaust? Perhaps. "It comes from having less than others," she says. "Prejudice comes from not knowing, and from fear."

Fear is something Biniaz understands, too. "The one emotion that has stayed with me in life is fear -- fear of authority."

Biniaz's own philosophy is simple and beautiful: "Don't hate. Try to live with your neighbor. Accept people for what they are. Nobody's better than anybody else."

It's clear, when you see Biniaz smile: Hitler tried, but failed, to destroy her spirit.

The Darkness is Not Sufficient

Sam Harris '58 is a man of hope. He sparkles with it, like the sun emerging from the clouds.

A child survivor of the Nazi death camps, Harris is now leading the efforts to build a museum dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust. The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center will open early next year in Skokie, Ill. Harris has committed years of his life to building the museum, which he hopes will counter the "Holocaust deniers," who claim that the Nazis' plan to exterminate the Jews never took place.

"The best way to solve a problem like this is through education," Harris says.

Today he is an active spokesman who talks frequently about his experiences as a child. It wasn't always so, however. As a Grinnell student and for a good deal of his adult life, Harris did not speak about the camps. "I wanted to put a cement wall around my head," he explains. He had built a happy, prosperous life for himself and his family, and he put the past behind him.

With the help of his wife Dede, Harris was able to reclaim the memories of the child he had been. He even wrote a book for children about his experiences in the camps (Demblin and Czestochowa), titled Sammy: Child Survivor of the Holocaust (Blue Bird Publishing, 1999). He speaks frequently at schools, and his message is straightforward: life is good if you let it be.

Harris saw that the old Holocaust museum in Skokie was simply too small for the crowds of schoolchildren who wanted to visit. He remembers thinking, "We need a new museum, and I am the perfect person to do something about it." With the support of his family, he has made the museum his priority.

"I wanted to pay back the good things that had been done for me," he explains.

The new museum will be "spectacular," Harris says. The board has hired award-winning architect Stanley Tigerman; Michael Berenbaum, project director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.; and Yitzchak Mais, chief curator of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. The design takes a two-sided approach. Visitors enter on the left and move through the story of the Holocaust, beginning with Kristallnacht, "the night of broken glass," and moving through the ghettos, the cattle cars, and the camps. There, says Harris, they learn of "all of those terrible things."

But the journey doesn't end there. "On the right side, we will emphasize positive things," Harris explains. "In my opinion, a lot of goodness has come out of people due to the Holocaust." The right side of the museum will tell those stories of hope.

An example, Harris says, is the story of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. "He stuck his neck out and saved hundreds of Jews," Harris says.

"That's what we want to leave them with," he explains. "Hope. ... The darkness is not sufficient for me," he says. He's also proud of the special children's museum for kids 12 and under.

Many survivors have donated their artifacts, and Harris, too, has a special object he will give to the museum, when he can part with it. It's a little belt -- the only thing he has from his childhood. He takes it with him when he speaks at schools, and when he tells the story of the little belt, there's rarely a dry eye in the house.

"I am very, very attached to it," Harris says. "You can understand why."

He uses the cracked and broken belt to show that he himself is not broken -- the human spirit is strong, stronger than those who would crush it.

"I want to make sure that what I went through doesn't happen to any other child," Harris says.

Originally published as a web extra for The Grinnell Magazine Summer 2008.


Read the full story of Sam Harris' survival, Survival: Outwitting Evil, previously featured in The Grinnell Magazine.

You can also read One Man's Odyssey: A Grinnellian's Flight from Hitler, about John Stoessinger '50.

Campus Mystery

darly lit loggia with bikesGrinnell Magazine Wins National CASE Award

For the first time in its 40-year history, The Grinnell Magazine has been honored by the CASE Circle of Excellence Award program. The magazine won a silver award in the "Best Articles of the Year" category for "Campus Mystery: My Search for the Duclod Man," by freelance writer Sarah Aswell '04. Like a number of Grinnell students and alumni over the last 15 years, she received a disturbing anonymous letter from the "duclod man." Read the fascinating story of Aswell's search for the letter-writer through some of the darkest, most shadowy corners of the Internet.

As early as 1992, students at Grinnell College began receiving strange, anonymous letters in the mail. The letters contained homemade greeting cards with crudely drawn pictures -- men crawling, toilets and trash cans, twin closet doors -- and jokes that didn't make sense. Q: What would a duclod like about the land of the giants? A: Standing in two closets without touching either knob.

In one mysterious letter, the sender defined the made-up word duclod as the fusion of two words, dual and closeted, a person who hides his or her sexuality from both gay and straight people. Another letter described duclod as "bisexual, homophobic, heterophobic, confused."

The letters were sent in groups, four to seven cards reported at a time. They were postmarked from different, seemingly random parts of the country, and always sent during school breaks. Mostly, the letters targeted gay and bisexual seniors.

That's all anyone knew for 14 years.

Spring 2004

I receive my duclod letter during spring break of my senior year. There's no return address, but it's postmarked Hartford, Conn. My address is scribbled in big, rough block letters. Inside the envelope is a piece of paper folded like a greeting card. Inside the greeting card are sheets of paper with photocopied text running crooked off the page. On one side, a strange message: "if you like shaving cats, try shaving crayons." On the facing side: "it takes two hands to handle a duclod."

I'm alone in my apartment. Reading the letter, my muscles tighten and my face heats up. I turn on the TV and all the lights.

I'm familiar with the duclod mystery -- it's Grinnell's rural legend. A few friends have received letters, and I tell myself they're probably nothing more than an elaborate, albeit malicious, joke.

The next morning I walk to the student affairs office. An administrator shakes her head and shows me the letters they have on file, from the crisp white letters of recent vintage to the aging, creased pages from the early '90s.

"These are just the ones reported," she tells me.

She fills me in on everything they know. Campus security has been investigating the case with no luck. The Grinnell police have been informed. She tries to take my letter for the file, but I hold on to it. It was sent to me; it's mine.

I call an old friend, Fred, who received a letter a few years ago (even though he's straight). He wrote an article about it for the school newspaper in February 2001. He tells me the letters were often sent from Boston and Worcester, Mass., and Memphis, Tenn. For years there has been duclod graffiti in the men's bathrooms on campus. "Duclods die twice," was scrawled on a wall in the library basement. Fred said everyone had pet theories. He had to be a student -- how else could he know who the bisexual students were? He had to be a Grinnell staff member -- he had been sending letters for more than a decade. "He" had to be a group of students, a sort of sick club, passing down the tradition as members graduated.

Fred also tells me I can find duclod jokes on the Internet -- someone named Chamo Howards posts them in random online forums and on message boards.

It takes me two years to find him.

"Chamo Howards" isn't his real name, of course. Neither is "Red Kuller," "Professor Xlhoip," or "D. Trapper." I track him through dozens of fake names and websites. Each new page reveals something darker about the man I am looking for. He is obsessed with bodily functions; his favorite drawing is a crude toilet seat with beans balanced on top.

I begin to recognize patterns -- the way he constructs sentences, his diction, the types of sites he visits, his calling cards. A picture of a jack-o'-lantern. Puns that don't quite work. Posts at 4 or 5 in the morning.

Fall 2005

I've entered graduate school, but I haven't forgotten the letter I received before leaving Grinnell. A big break comes the day I find Red Kuller's home page.

When I click on the link, and my mail client automatically opens and tries to send a mass e-mail from my personal account. The heading reads, "The bad machine doesn't know it's a bad machine." I close the message without sending it, and a website pops up: Welcome to Desolation.

The website is full of conspiracy theories and ramblings. But in between the creepy gibberish, I find my first real insights into the person who sent my letter. He likes the Red Sox, linking him to Massachusetts. There's also a link to Camp Arrowhead, a small summer camp in Massachusetts. It's a tiny glimpse of normalcy. Did he work there?

Each discovery of a new fake word or new fake name leads to more pages, jokes, fake words, and names. I've learned to navigate the Internet's maze, the forgotten pages in ancient HTML, the boarded-up houses of the World Wide Web. I've trolled joke sites no one has visited since 1996. I've lurked in guest books no longer connected to home pages. But none of it links to a real person.

I've formed him completely in my mind. He's male, middle-aged, awkward-looking. He's single, outwardly quiet and polite. He grew up in Massachusetts and has family in Memphis. Too many letters came from these two places for it to be otherwise. He is, I decided, bisexual. He is a duclod.

I don't have any solid evidence to back up that last point, but I feel the truth in it. He sends the letters to shame, to out, to accuse, but the issues seem personal.

Winter 2006

A duclod joke is found scrawled in a bathroom at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Fred forwards me an e-mail from a student at the University of Kansas who received a letter and had no idea what it was about. Chamo is widening his field.

I begin to collect the dozens of e-mail addresses Chamo leaves in his wake. I write to them from a fake address I've created, calling myself "Maggie Pie" or "Maggpie." "What is your real name?" "Answer me." My e-mails don't bounce back, but he never responds.

My next break comes in February. It's 3 a.m. and I'm on one of Chamo's many webpages. As with the Red Kuller site, my e-mail client opens, and Chamo attempts to e-mail people from my account. I scroll through the addresses that automatically appear, as I have a hundred times before. This time I notice one address that is always, always on the list. I nervously type the address into Google, and a single page pops up. Her name is Melanie Owings, and she lives in western Massachusetts. I have the real name of a real person.

I Google her full name, and what I find scares me. Melanie is mentioned in many of Chamo's strange forum postings. He writes hidden messages about her, matching the color of the font to the color of the background -- when I highlight the pages, the messages pop out. "My name is Melanie," he writes, and I know he's lying.

I e-mail her. "I'm looking for someone who wrote me an anonymous letter," I write vaguely. "I know this is strange, but please write back."

She writes that she doesn't know anyone connected to Grinnell College. I write back, stupidly, "Are you sure?" She doesn't answer. I wish I had asked her about Memphis, about Camp Arrowhead, about any shy, awkward middle-aged men she might know.

Suddenly I realize what I've been doing -- e-mailing strangers from an anonymous, fake address and harassing them. My big break is a dead end and a wake-up call. I'm no better than Red Kuller.

Early Spring 2006

I find him on a Friday. Chamo's newest character, "Pilldown Man," leads me to the home page of "Chillee UmGum." I highlight the page and find a secret message. It's a link that says, "This is my maker." I hold my breath and click.

His name is Richard. He likes to farm, and his real-life webpage is about organic farming. The image at the top of the home page is the jack-o'-lantern I've seen so many times. I click on the "résumé" link, and his life pops up before me.

His picture: an awkward-looking, overweight, middle-aged man with glasses. He lives in Memphis. He went to college in western Massachusetts. He grew up in Lawrence, Kan. His father had taught at the University of Kansas, where the latest duclod letter had been sent. He links to Camp Arrowhead. I look at the web address and see the term "shavescats." I remember well the strange message in my own letter.

I have my guy. And he loves gardening.

I had thought finding him would satisfy me, but almost immediately I'm thinking about what to do next. I now have his name, address, phone number, and real e-mail address. I want to out him somehow.

I call Grinnell College and talk to the administrator again. She's intrigued, but points to an obvious flaw -- I can't connect Richard to Grinnell College. He doesn't mention it on his home page, and he isn't an alumnus or a former employee.

I call him. I don't plan on saying anything; I just want to hear his voice, either in person or on his answering machine. But when the machine picks up, it's just an automated female voice.

I e-mail him. I use my alias because I'm still scared and because Chamo has taught me how to act like him. More and more I want to conceal and confuse; I want to find out about him without him finding anything out about me. I write him three times: "Are you Chamo?" "Why do you do this?"

He is silent.

I e-mail him again, taking a different tack. I write him something I think he will like. I make sure it's nonsensical, make sure it's not actually funny. I wonder if this completes my transformation into Chamo.

He writes back within the hour: "Pretty funny." I write him back two more times: "How are you connected with Grinnell?" "Why do you do this to people? Are you a duclod?" He never writes back.

Grinnell's spring break ends in a week, and I imagine letters trickling in from some strange corner of the country. If even one of the recipients feels shame for who they are, did I fail?

April 2006

I take my duclod letter out of its worn envelope. I write across it, big: "This is Maggpie. Stop sending letters, Richard." I put my duclod letter in a new envelope with Richard's address on it. I mail it to him.

Fall 2007

The letters didn't stop. A senior at Grinnell received one over Christmas break, postmarked Memphis, Tenn. It had all of the telltale signs -- an odd joke and childish, disturbing illustrations. More jokes were posted in abandoned Internet guest books.

Revisiting Richard, I felt like an alcoholic who makes any excuse for another drink. I told myself I'd stop after I found his name. Then I told myself I'd stop after I sent him back the letter. Now I wanted to talk to him.

First I found the Duclod Man's father, or rather, his obituary. He was a chemistry professor at the University of Kansas, the only other school that received a significant number of letters. The obit listed his surviving relatives. Duclod Man had a sister, Janis, in Memphis, and a brother, Allen, in Albuquerque. His mother, Mary, lived in Memphis, and his stepmother, Catherine, in Bennington, Vt. The locations matched the postmarks I had scribbled down more than a year ago off the Duclod Man's envelopes.

I called his mother. I didn't know what to say. She was elderly and didn't ask why I was calling. He lived alone, she said, and I could call him at work -- a doughnut shop. I thanked her and hung up. A doughnut shop?

I called his sister-in-law, Elaine, and his sister, Janis. This time I was able to stammer out my story. They were shocked and surprised, but perhaps not as much as I expected.

Richard was autistic, they explained, or a mixture of problems, possibly indefinable. He grew up in the 1950s, before anyone knew much about such conditions. They hadn't even heard about autism until Richard was in his 20s. He was intellectually normal, Janis said, maybe even above average, but emotionally he functioned like a 10-year-old. He was much better at written communication than conversation. He liked numbers and making up words. He was, she said simply, odd.

Elaine was a little more descriptive about his mental health: Richard spent his days watching black-and-white science fiction movies, tinkering on his computer, and possibly drinking too much. He didn't quite know how to take care of himself -- you had to tell him to bathe and change his clothes. He probably shouldn't live alone, she said, but his mother had always been in denial about his mental health. We have our own families and careers, Elaine said, and we're all used to the way he is. Most of the time we leave him alone.

I looked through letters -- borrowed from a Grinnell student affairs file -- spread out in front of me. I was searching for anything from Albuquerque, where Elaine and Richard's brother, Allen, lived. There were two postmarked in late November. Did Richard ever visit for Thanksgiving? Yes, said Elaine, a number of times.

The family helped me put together other pieces of the puzzle. Richard's connection to Grinnell, which had remained a nagging mystery, stretched back almost 100 years. His grandfather had been an organic chemistry professor there and raised his family in town. Richard's mother and aunts attended Grinnell. Over the years, his mother had taken him to summer reunions to visit friends and family, which gave him the chance to write duclod graffiti on campus and perhaps snag a campus directory.

I told the family what I knew, and they told me what they knew. First of all, they said, he's not Richard. He's Rick. I had to repeat it to myself: he's Rick. For hours on the phone, I listened to their stories and watched their Rick come to life while my Richard dissolved into the background.

This is Rick: his one true love is organic gardening, and, Elaine explained, he's extremely talented. As his small house disappears under years of unopened mail, his backyard thrives. What does he do with the excess vegetables? The same thing he does with the leftover doughnuts from his job -- he takes them to a food bank.

This is Rick: he spends much of his time rocking in an old rocking chair. The slats are broken from overuse. Rick's rocking has worn through the carpet, through the floor, and polished the concrete. The image stays with me. As I read about autism, I learned that rocking is a classic comforting behavior.

It wouldn't be appropriate or helpful for me to speak with Rick, Janis insisted. As much as I felt I needed to hear his voice and ask him questions, everything I learned told me Rick wasn't in control of his actions or his words, and his slow, stumbling speech wasn't a true representation of who he was. At the same time, I saw them protecting him.

They showed me Rick, and I tried to show them Richard, the Duclod Man. I sent them links to the webpages where he wrote as Red Kuller, Chillee Ugum, and Professor Xlhoip. All three family members said the same thing: I would have never guessed he would write these things, but I can tell it's him. All three are convinced he's harmless. His health is failing. He's obese. He has heart, cholesterol, and sleep apnea problems.

Regardless, I want the letters to stop.

Janis agreed to talk to Rick and tell him to stop what he was doing. I couldn't wait to hear what he said, but when she called back she didn't have much to report. He denied sending the letters, but his body language told her otherwise. He admitted to coining the word duclod and confirmed its meaning -- bisexual, closeted, confused. She told him to take down his websites, and he agreed.

Rick did what she asked, kind of. He posted an apology, then took it down and added some disturbing links. It's as if he can't help it.

When I read the apology, I was thrown back to the starting line emotionally. In a long letter titled "I Went Postal" (a pun and a perfect calling card for Richard), he tries to explain himself. I see the man I spent years searching for, but I also see the sadness and the complexity of living with a mental illness. He talked about his deep fear of dogs. He talked about his struggle with Christianity. He talked about a cousin who killed her mother.

The letter wove in and out of reality, between Richard and Rick.

For a moment Rick peeked out. "My father told me I was born with autism, a disease for which the prognosis is never very good, but my mother told me that when I was a few months old, my father flung me across the room like a rag doll and I landed on my head," he wrote. "I have always been one to lose it easily, and I was on the psychiatrist's couch from age 5 to 12 for this. My mother told me time after time 'get well,' 'get well,' 'stop thinking sick thoughts.'" Rick seems aware of his issues.

Then Richard appeared in the letter: "Once I signed my fate in blood over to the Tabular Turtle, a turtle with a tail at both ends and no head, I knew I was not a Christian."

This is Richard: paranoid, mischievous, scared.

I called Janis, and she confirmed some of it. Their cousin Alice smothered her mother to death during a paranoid schizophrenic episode; their own mother sometimes blamed Rick's condition on a childhood accident, sometimes on a difficult two-day labor. Elaine alluded to a family history of mental illness and social difficulties, and explained that Rick's mother is a Christian Scientist. In that faith, when you're sick it's your fault, she said, so how can you reconcile the fact that your child has a disability?

Janis also told me Rick was sent to a state hospital for two weeks when he was 13. No one can quite remember why or what happened to him there. But being sent back, Allen told me, is Rick's biggest fear.

As the years passed, all three agree, it was easier for everyone to let Rick be. On the surface he lived a quiet life. Even now, Janis worries therapy would be disruptive for him. But the more I read about autism, the more I'm convinced he'll sink deeper into his disturbed world if he continues to go untreated.

For me, everything over the last three years of my search -- and everything back to Rick growing up with autism in the 1950s -- comes down to a lack of understanding.

I can imagine Rick biking down some quiet street, 40 years ago, being teased and not understanding why he was different, and his mother still not understanding there are better options for him. "I now fail to see the value of being human," Rick wrote in his apology. "Some have told me I would never become a man. I always looked for others to feel superior to and really thought I could build myself up by putting others down, but it just doesn't work that way over the long haul."

This is Rick becoming Richard -- reading conspiracy theory webpages for years until he learned to make his own, writing hateful things in strange letters he dropped in the mail genuinely not knowing why, his mental illness left untended and undefined, his self-esteem low, and his sci-fi tapes in meticulous order.

My hatred for Richard ended when his anonymity did. Talking to his family strangely makes me hopeful. If my Duclod Man had been sane and reasonable and still filled with hate, I would feel hopeless. Rick simply doesn't have the tools to understand his dark places, but perhaps now has the opportunity to find some peace.

And this is a good place for me to leave him -- not on the Internet and not with a letter, but with his newly aware family hopefully taking some new steps with him, his rocking chair, and his garden.

Editor's Note: Names and places in this story have been changed. A longer version of this story originally appeared in The Advocate.