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Michele Hobart Obituary

August 31, 2015

Michele Hobart Obituary

Michele Louise Hobart
Michele Louise Hobart

August 19, 1957 – August 30, 2015
Resided in Cayce, SC

Obituary

The quest for the end to suffering and the elimination of injustice among humans lost a dedicated and passionate advocate with the death of Michele Hobart of Cayce, SC.

Born in New Orleans to a liberal librarian (Mary Mitchell Hardy, Red Lodge MT) and a libertarian ex-Marine (Robert E. Hobart, deceased) and raised in oil boom towns large and small throughout the western US, Michele had an innate kindness, a natural curiosity, a zest for understanding, a staunch independence, a Bill of Rights bookmark, and an uncompromising compassion-based vision of what that document implied for the responsibilities of her country and its citizens in pursuing peace and justice.

Americans grow up regularly reciting our pledge of “liberty and justice for all”. Most of us don’t often reflect on what that really means while some say the words but hear “liberty and justice for those just like me”. Michele, with an unwavering clarity of purpose, fully embraced that clause as written and knew that until the last two words, For All, become universally practiced, then we have not truly achieved liberty and justice.

While her greatest joy was as a single mother helping her daughter, Rachel Rhiannon Hobart (Pullman, WA) grow to become another strong, passionate woman with a beautiful heart and a clear sense of right and wrong, Michele dedicated much of her free time to seeking nonviolent paths to peace and justice. Her kindness, her laugh and her smile were revered among those who knew her, but her fierce compassion and empathy for the powerless is what guided her throughout her life.

At age 15 in Denver, Michele graduated from high school, achieved “Emancipated Minor” status, and headed off to save the world. First stop was as a volunteer for Cesar Chavez in the United Farm Workers movement, traveling the country in support of UFW efforts. In 1975, at age 17, she participated in a peaceful, informational picket line around a liquor store in suburban Denver, urging patrons to purchase UFW-friendly wines. All the picketers were arrested, but Michele and two other women were singled out to be strip-searched and held in solitary confinement. The women were awarded compensatory and punitive damages in a civil-rights lawsuit after a jury trial. Michele and her co-plaintiffs used their monetary award to set up the End Police Abuse Fund, the balance of which was recently transferred to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (http://www.naacpldf.org) to support efforts to change the culture of police forces in a continuing effort to truly end police abuse. She spent the ’80s pursuing, primarily, labor causes while also raising awareness of social injustices around the world.

In the early 1990’s, Michele and Rachel moved to Seattle, where Michele developed two new passions that would be major influences in her life: Buddhism and her future husband, Tom Owens (Cayce, SC). Buddhism spawned a spiritual element to her desire to end human suffering. In Tom, she found a kind, kindred spirit who became an ever-tolerant and (mostly) silent partner in her quests while sharing her wanderlust and her desire for quiet solitude. Their relationship relied on a unique bond of strongly independent souls with a similar zest for life and firm grasp of the absurd that allowed them both to laugh, thrive and grow over the next 20 years. Tom’s job brought her to South Carolina, where she first put energy into building a Buddhist community. Around the turn of the century, she pursued this effort to the tune of over 1000 miles/wk driving “The Monk Shuttle” from a then-nascent, now thriving, Buddhist Meditation Center in Atlanta (http://meditationingeorgia.org) to Columbia, SC and Asheville, NC to bring teachings to introduce her Buddhist tradition (http://kadampa.org) to the Carolinas. Those efforts bore fruit and 16 years later there are thriving communities of Buddhist practitioners at the Kadampa Meditation Center in West Columbia (http://meditationinsouthcarolina.org) and the Vajradhara Buddhist Center in Charlotte, NC (http://meditationcharlotte.org). Through these centers, Buddhist teachings are provided throughout the Carolinas and many individuals will benefit from her efforts for years to come. To develop her personal meditation practice, Michele spent the winter of 2002-2003 in a 4-month silent meditation retreat in Scotland.

South Carolina is not without its own social justice challenges and so Michele marched and sang in 2000 with 46, 000 others to pressure legislators to finally remove the Confederate Flag from atop the State Capital and was pleased to live to see the symbolic job completed this summer, although saddened that such a tragic loss of life was necessary to move forward. In fact, Michele spent many hours on the State House grounds, standing in silence regularly on Wednesdays with the Women in Black (http://womeninblack.org) protesting the continuous state of war in which we have lived almost since her arrival in South Carolina, joining the Carolina Peace Resource Center (CRPC; http://www.carolinapeace.org) to support numerous marches and protests, and sleeping on the steps of the State House during the Occupy Columbia protests. Her long-held concern for the plight of the Palestinian people became a focus of her activities over the last decade of her life. She was active in the CPRC efforts on this issue, wrote often and met with her senators and congressmen or their staff in both Columbia and Washington, DC to address concerns, served as a local contact for the American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights (http://www.aaper.org), hosted educational lecturers from the Jewish Voice for Peace (http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org), and sponsored and helped organize Palestinian Film Festivals and film nights. In 2009, she traveled to Egypt as part of the Gaza Freedom March (http://www.gazaark.org). While she did not make it to Gaza, the young people of Egypt and the March participants she met in Cairo from around the world (often through shared time under house arrest!) were inspirational and provided Michele hope that the rest of the world may eventually come together to solve the unjust situation in Palestine at a time when her faith in her own government’s commitment to contribute constructively was at a low ebb. She also mounted clandestine incursions into local retail outlets to strategically place educational information about manufacturers who engage in unjust practices toward the Palestinians (Some displays lasted weeks; Walmart and Target were oblivious!). She was a strong believer in the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement (http://www.bdsmovement.net ; http://www.endtheoccupation.org). Michele’s last action was in July of 2014 in Five Points where she struggled to overcome the effects of chemotherapy to join others from the Carolinas in protesting the bombing of civilians and children in Gaza.

Michele died on August 30, 2015 at age 58 of small cell lung cancer. Yes, she smoked for a couple of decades in her youth and she wishes she had not. True to form, her self-education into her disease over the last year left her concerned that lung cancer’s Marlboro Man image is detracting from research efforts to save others, both non-smokers and smokers alike. Did you know that lung cancer is the #1 killer of women in this country, surpassing breast cancer more than 3 decades ago? She had immense respect for the commitment and focused efforts of those working to eradicate breast cancer, but she also learned that, take away the “evil” smokers, annual deaths in woman who have never smoked a day in their life may be only 20% less for lung cancer than for breast cancer. Lung cancer is among the top 10 causes of death in this country for non-smokers. Yet, research expenditures on breast cancer per annual death are about 10 times more than spent on lung cancer (the same is true for prostate cancer). Remember that when the celebrities and the pink football shoes disappear at the end of October each year. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Anyone who has ever had sweet nothings whispered in their ear knows that the lungs are also a sexual organ. #savethelungstoo

There are no words to describe the love Michele feels and the debt she owes to her parents, her daughter, and her husband. Michele wants her siblings Lee Hobart, Art Hobart, Wanda (Dotty) Hobart, Eric (Elaine) Hobart, and Craig (Sabrina) Hobart, her dear Auntie Clare Witcomb and uncle Sam Hardy, and her cousins Jennifer Robeson, Claudia Hauser, Chris Hardy, Lisa Patton, and Ed Kleemola, and her sister-in-laws Ann Owens and Christie Balsam to know that she is humbled by the friendship, love, and support that they provided during her life. She misses her step-mother Judy Kleemola Hobart, who died in April (also of lung cancer). Nieces, nephews, their children, her many co-workers, and all those who have helped her, befriended her, and taught her during her lifetime are also thanked with love.

To the tens of thousands of people who stood with her over the last 40+ years to change the world: Thank you; You must carry on. To those who have yet to free their Inner Activist, ask yourselves: Does your inaction advance the causes and values in which you believe?

A traditional Buddhist Powa Ceremony (transference of consciousness) for Michele was performed at her bedside beginning shortly after her death. Powas have been and will be held on her behalf at Kadampa Buddhist Centers and by individual practitioners around the globe during the 49 days following her death. A traditional American Memorial Service may be held at a future date, likely in Red Lodge, MT.

In lieu of flowers, those who are so inclined are encouraged to contribute to the Kadampa Meditation Center in West Columbia (http://meditationinsouthcarolina.org), any of the organizations cited by URL above or any other organization that advocates for non-violent change in the world.

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