john_ross.jpgThe streets of the Mission filled with song and poetry to celebrate the life of journalist, poet, activist and general rabble-rouser John Ross. Ross, who died in Mexico at the age of 72, was the rare outsized personality whose passion matched his talent — and nowhere was that in better evidence than in his will, where he made an unusual, Muni-related request regarding his remains.

But “unusual” is nothing new for a guy who, at the outset of the Iraq war, went to the war zone to act as a human shield.

This is a guy who, when the Zapatistas started making noise in Oaxaca, traveled on foot into the backwoods of Chiapas and got an interview with Subcomandante Marcos and, on his way back to the States, gave an impromptu speech denouncing the Mexican government in the airport that lead a severe beating at the hands of Mexican police.

This is a guy who turned down the San Francisco Board of Supervisors attempt to declare a “John Ross Day” in 2009 because of a fight he had with police over his eligibility to run for a seat on the board 40 years ago that allegedly lead to the loss of one of his eyes.


Ross, who wrote extensively for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, was beautifully memorialized by editor Tim Redmond.

Ross’s crusading, irreverent spirit is present even in death — as noted by Mission Local, in his will, Ross instructed that his ashes be divided and:

“sprinkled atop the gravesite of my old comrade, E.B. Schnaubelt, a noted anarchist…strewn along the Mission 14 route between 24th & 16th Streets…dumped in the ashtrays outside the Hotel Isabel…[and] the remainder of my ashes should be rolled into marijuana cigarettes and smoked by participants in these scatterings.”

It’s likely that neither you nor I can compare to John Ross — they do not make them like him anymore; and he will be missed.

But his will makes us think, how do we want our ashes to be disposed of? How do you want yours to go?

Photo: IndyBay

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  • Jeremy_ofSF

    God bless John Ross, still setting the bar high from the great beyond. Equally awesome was his New Orleans-style funeral procession from the church to Cafe La Boheme with a brass band leading the way. Someone could make a hell of a movie about that man’s life.