Those of you who live in Worcester will perhaps have learned by now that Paul Ropp, founding member and former Chair of the Board of Directors at the Center for Nonviolent Solutions died April 14 of metastatic melanoma. His rapid demise shocked all of us at the Center. We are feeling at sea by his sudden absence.
Paul was very much present at our last board meeting. I can see him now, yellow legal pad at the table, industriously jotting down ideas about the Center’s future. He was still sending emails in late February. His exit is similar to that of several board members who worked on the Center’s behalf right up until their death – Bill Densmore, Lan Goodwin, Ruth Rowan. Their fortitude is a reminder that peace is the lasting desire for many human beings.
Paul’s passing leaves a huge hole for us at the Center. A man of many accomplishments, he was the ever reliable servant leader who possessed the skills and perseverance needed to build a culture of peace. It was Paul who helped shepherd the Center through the process of becoming a 501c3; Paul who oversaw the hiring of our executive directors; and Paul who organized so many local programs featuring experts in nonviolent solutions. He remained chair, then co-chair of the Board of Directors, long after he wished to retire from that assignment.
Paul was also one of the Center’s dedicated and knowledgeable peace educator. With Libby Westie, he designed and taught a 10-week course in peace-building for high schoolers. He designed and implemented an outstanding Teachers Institute on Nonviolent Social Movements. A professor of many years and an author of several books on China, he was not too high-brow to spend time teaching young summer campers or rambunctious middle schooler skills in conflict resolution. Last November, he was drafting an outline for a day-long symposium at an area college that we hoped to host in the spring. (It has been postponed to next fall.) Paul’s tentative title for the event was Why Peace Studies? A Conference on Breaking Cycles of Violence.
In his energetic peacemaking, Paul embodied hope, a virtue that sometimes seems in short supply these days. He worked dispassionately, without ego, and was the man people on both sides of any divide could trust. He was always the one to step in and fill the void when others were unable to do the work. An eloquent writer, he preached, as well as practiced peace, in op-eds that he wrote for our local newspaper. I loved his reliability, his work ethic, his ready laugh, his vitalizing fury over the stupidity of foreign policies that destroyed whole countries, and yes, his delight in football. I loved how he concluded every email with, “Cheers, Paul.”
All of us at the Center will miss Paul greatly. Even in this time of sorrow, we are hugely grateful for his endeavors and companionship of the past decade. He was the best of fellow travelers on the peacemaking road, an unassuming guide and mentor for many who gave us courage by his presence. He exemplified the Ghandian maxim: Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Farewell and “cheers” to our dear friend and peacemaker, Paul.
Program Director, Center for Nonviolent Solutions
A memorial service for Paul will be held at the First Unitarian Church of Worcester, 90 Main Street on Saturday, April 27 at 3:00 p.m. followed by a reception.
No obituary can fully capture the beauty and marvel of a human being, but the one published in the Sunday Telegram and Gazette does a fine job of conveying the sweeping goodness of Paul’s life. You can read it here https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/telegram/obituary.aspx?n=paul-ropp&pid=192422220&fhid=6741