Monday, May 30, 2016

Memories of Dad

John Colman Mott, my father, was born 100 years ago, on May 29, 1916.  During his 88 years, his actions demonstrated his passion for ethical principles, interest in world events, and commitment to family. 

Some of this found early expression when he was the editor of the editorial page of his university daily newspaper, the Crimson.  Although authorship is not attributed, I can guess some of the editorials he wrote by his big-picture, philosophical style, advocating for peace and good governance. 

An example of his early pacifism can be found in a 1936 editorial: .  Despite not being a member of one of the historic peace churches, he was a pacifist even during WWII. (His local draft board granted him conscientious objector status but quickly changed this to a health deferment as soon as a hospitalization with ulcers gave them an excuse.)  He later served as a draft counsellor starting with the Korean War to help men consider their options.  During the Vietnam War he anchored one end of the weekly peace vigil in our village downtown park dressed in his business suit and fedora, alongside a line of motley teenagers in tie-dye.    

He also had concerns about maintaining the separation of federal powers as a 1937 editorial illustrates.
In addition, he was dedicated to improving civil rights and race relations.  He helped residents in Ridgewood NJ found the Broad Ridge Housing Corporation, which raised funds throughout the community to rehabilitate three dilapidated buildings and allow minority families to purchase their own apartments.  He took me to hear Martin Luther King’s speech at Riverside Church in NY on April 4, 1967.  He went to the Poor Peoples Campaign March on the Mall on April 22, 1968 (again dressed in his business attire complete with fedora). 

His Wall Street profession was not necessarily typical for a Quaker activist.  For much of his work-life, Dad managed portfolios of investments, many of which were pension funds for labor unions and companies.  I took some pleasure in responding to declarations on the evils of Wall Street by asking proponents whether workers should have reliable retirement income.  In any case one couldn't find a more sober, responsible investment manager than my Dad.  He did not approve of speculation or investment decisions through quantitative formulas, although he had a healthy and knowledgeable respect for the cyclical history of stock prices – include a huge chart on his office wall.   His approach to investment decisions drew on investigative journalism skills – taking into account a broad range of qualitative and quantitative factors that affect long-term growth and income.

It was in the spring of 1944 that he met my mother, a fellow pacifist.  After my brother was born their search for a church led them to become convinced “Friends” and members of Ridgewood Friends Meeting.  During my childhood this meeting became the center of their social life, with its membership serving as part of our extended family. 

Outside interests and work notwithstanding, he always let us know that family was the most important part of his life, and his proudest accomplishment.  He was dedicated to his parenting role.  No Saturday morning cartoons for us – that was the time to work on household chores with Dad.  His lessons on safety drew on actual real-life memories of people he knew and over fifty years later are still vivid for me -- e.g., lawn mowing (images of chopped fingers!), wood chopping (images of chopped toes!), starting bonfires of brush (images burned hair and skin!).  He also (very) patiently gave me batting practice so I wouldn’t be the last team member picked for baseball during 6th grade gym.   

Daddy was affectionate and expressive.  At bedtime he rubbed our backs and told us stories of his childhood.  I remember the quiet of Sunday evening summer Quaker meetings for worship, lying with my head on his lap, listening to chirping birds through the open windows.  His bear hug greetings were famous across the extended family.  One of our favorite games was “monster”, when my two sisters and I would try to pin him down from his hands and knees on the living room floor, but usually he was able to hold all of us down instead.  He always had high praise for whatever we did – music, dance, etc.  -- but if I wanted a more dispassionate appraisal I turned to my mother. During my teen years I called him “mushy” and sometimes squirmed under his attention. 

He often had a relaxed approach to schedules and other details.  He generally relied on my mother to keep him organized and on-time, and this was sometimes a source of tension.  We kids noted with amusement that mom could never send him to the grocery store with explicit instructions, without his returning with other items not on the list, in spite of the scolding he would receive.   From time to time he could get very angry, but with the help of family counseling my parents learned to not bottle-up their disputes until they exploded, but instead affectionately bicker on an ongoing, but much less frightening basis.

Gardening was a life-long passion.  Each of my siblings and I, at the age of about five years, was in turn assigned the task of planting the carrots, subsequently graduating to harvesting the green beans.  In Dad’s opinion, nothing beat a juicy red tomato fresh out the garden.  He shared his love of gardening with my mother, and this continued until the end of his life.  I continue to appreciate a photo of the two of them in their garden plot, which is still posted in the entrance of their retirement community.

He loved socializing.  My early memories include tugging on his coat jacket seeking to end his conversations at the rise of Meeting for Worship.  He loved to wax on ideas, history and current events.  My Dad tended to pause only in the middle of the sentence, leaving my poor husband at a complete loss on how to politely interject or draw a conversation to a close – those of us in his immediate family tended to just interrupt or even walk out of the room.  Mealtimes were always a favorite time for both conversation and the food. 

His final decade of life was difficult.  He was physically uncomfortable – his internal thermometer didn’t work properly so he often felt chilled even in summer.  His hands and chin shook with his “familial” tremor.  He had little stamina due to congestive heart failure.  And he had a series of mini-strokes, one of which led to temporary period of aphasia and several of which undermined his memory and cognition.   Worst of all he was fully aware of his diminished mental capacity.  But he always knew who we were, bravely tried to be cheerful, looked forward to meals and visits, and expressed appreciation for assistance and attention.   He died in May 2004.   I regret that I did not spend more time with him during his final years, nor be more patient when I was with him. 

Overall, I am grateful to have had him as my father, and for the contributions he made to the world at large.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

2015 Family News

Annual greetings from Keith and Jessica!  We’ve come through the past year on an even keel, and wish the same or better for our correspondents.    

Keith continues leading Bikes for the World.  It has had its ups and downs, generally up, e.g., strong local Washington DC “production” of bicycle donations and shipments, augmented this year by satellite efforts in New York, which shipped its first 40’ container in October, and Pittsburgh and Charleston SC, which hope to ship in 2016.  This expansion is supported by three capable and dedicated staff members, a helpful board of directors, and an active cadre of volunteers.  But there have been setbacks, as with the unexpected loss of a significant corporate partner.  After ending financially in the red for the first time in 2014, Bikes for the World broke even in 2015, better than expected, putting the organization in a good position to afford commercial storage space following the anticipated loss of donated warehouse space at the end of 2016.

Despite one scare in the spring, Keith appears to have stabilized health-wise (see last year’s blog). However, he is no longer as active physically at Bikes for the World, so needs to catch up with Jessica and do more hiking, biking (yes, ironically), and other exercise.

Jessica continues her life as a “dilettante retiree”, albeit with a focus on personal fitness and health.   Beginning in the spring, aided by a Fitbit HR, Jessica lost the 20 pounds she had gained the previous year during Keith’s illness.  When she isn’t visiting her mother in PA, she attends a “core conditioning” class three times weekly at the county rec center; makes a weekly bike ride along the Potomac; and hikes, bikes, or takes other bike trips.  Recently, she has also been doing physical therapy to recover from neuropathy in her left hand and associated cramping in her shoulder and back, which stem from a dislocated front collar bone (an old injury that can’t be fixed).

Another priority of Jessica’s is support to her 94-year-old mother Kay Mott.  During the year, Jessica has been more regularly visiting Kay at her continuing care community some three hours’ distant.  Despite increasing physical limitations and a move this year from the assisted living to the nursing home section, Kay continues to exhibit gumption and cheer as she carries out the basic tasks of daily living.  Not un-relatedly, one of Jessica’s favorite of many books read this year—and recommended to others of our generation--was “Bittersweet Season--Caring for Our Aging Parents and Ourselves” by Jane Gross.

Jessica also became more active volunteering for the Langley Hill Friends Meeting, principally as Treasurer and Clerk of Finance Committee, as well as a member of the Nominating Committee.
If you are on Facebook, look for her.  Although her own postings are still limited, she has moved beyond sporadic, passive “stalking” to checking in more often and increasing her roster of “friends”.

Daughter Kate leads an active young adult life.  She continues to enjoy her job as reference librarian at Arlington Public Library and taking initiative in reaching out to job seekers, college students and young professionals. The American Library Association elected her as the Secretary on the Board of the Reference and User Services division (RUSA), the same division whose committees choose the annual ALA Notable Books, Carnegie Awards and other well-known awards and write the standards for professional reference librarians and other publications.

She is one of three co-clerks of the Young Adults part of Friends Meeting of Washington.  She also spends a lot of time with her boyfriend, Taylor, including numerous weekend trips. Despite all this, we actually see her with some regularity taking advantage of her residence nearby.

For those who may not have received our missive of last year, son Alex and daughter-in-law Carla Cevasco married in August 2014 at Boston City Hall.  The public celebrations followed later, first in late December 2014 here at home in Arlington, and then this past August in the beautiful setting of Carla’s parents’ farm in western Massachusetts.  The summer event took place under a large tent, in a field surrounded by flowers (which Carla’s mother grows professionally), with nearly 100 guests enjoying barbecued pork–an entire animal—prepared on-site by the caterer.

The pair lead busy and dynamic lives.  Alex, after over three years at MIT providing help in the use of “GIS” (geographic information systems) tools to student and faculty projects, is moving to a civil service  position with the John A. Volpe National Transportation System Center (aka “Volpe”), a self-funded research and consulting arm of the US Department of Transportation.  As Volpe is also located in Cambridge, Alex’s commute will change little.  Meanwhile, Carla is well on her way to a Ph.D. in American Studies at Harvard.  With the help of several recent research fellowships off-campus, she continues work on her dissertation on food and hunger in colonial New England.  Recognizing her scholarship, the History Department at Harvard has presented her with an opportunity, rarely offered to graduate students, to teach her own original undergraduate course, titled “The History of Hunger,” during the spring 2016 semester.  However, life is not all work; the couple take time to go on long tandem bike rides, care for their pet cat McGrath, and visit family and friends.

We’ve been spending more time with the mid-west branch of Keith’s family, the Smiths from Kansas City.  Early in the year, his cousin Glenn Smith lost his wife JoAnn to pancreatic cancer and we traveled to Kansas City for the funeral.   Since mid-summer, we’ve hosted Glenn’s daughter Brooke as she returned to her DC job punctuated by travels back-and-forth to Kansas City, and visits from her father.  Amidst this sadness, however, the Kansas City connection distracted and made this year’s World Series a more pleasurable affair.  It also afforded Kate, Taylor, and Keith the unique opportunity to attend--as the guests of Glenn, Brooke, and sister Jamie--a Royals baseball game in nearby Baltimore, and to witness a memorable ten-run inning, with two grand slams…which unfortunately for our hosts was not scored by the Royals.

Each year we struggle to say something constructive about things in the wider world.  We are pleased with the modest progress on confronting climate change demonstrated by commitments made at Paris.  We are trying to do our part, among other things, by installing a 3 mw photovoltaic (solar electric) system on our roof, which we expect to be operational by spring.

We also urge all people, including politicians, to put aside fear-mongering, to work to reduce gun violence, to seek peaceful resolution of conflicts locally and abroad, and to offer compassion and support to all victims of violence.  The examples of the forgiveness of Charleston church members, the diplomacy of John Kerry on the Iran nuclear accord, and the welcoming of Syrian refugees by the Canadian government inspire us.

Wishing you a happy, healthy 2016,

Keith & Jessica

P.S. More photos are attached below.

Kate giving a toast at August marriage celebration
Keith, Jessica, Carla, and Alex with Peter and Elaine,
Carla's parents

Carla and Alex with Jessica's relatives
Carla's childhood home &
site of August marriage celebration
Alex and Carla with Keith's relatives

flowers at the farm during celebration

On top of Monadnock, NH

Monadnock Mt.

Jessica with sisters Margy and Bethany and mother
Kay who was recovering from severe anemia

Jessica and Kay back at Kendal

Jessica, Keith, Kate and Taylor
during birthday dinner for Kate

Dinner out during fall visit of
Carla and Alex 
Christmas Eve with Kay at Kendal

Botanical Gardens
Botanical Gardens Xmas exhibit

Keith's sister Jory and
nephew John
Post Christmas visit to Great Falls

Monday, December 7, 2015

On December 3, 2015 I (Jessica) posted a remembrance of my brother on Facebook.  I'm posting it again here, so that it is accessible to friends who are not on Facebook.

"I am thinking of my brother, Jeremy Mott, who would have turned 70 today, had he not died in 2012. He was knowledgeable, responsible, and committed, but he could also be unhappy, dogmatic, and intimidating. Having him as a brother was interesting, but not always easy. I loved him. Some of my fondest memories from my childhood include his showing me how dictionaries include information on etymology, and the variety of sounds that Louis Armstrong made with his trumpet. More recently I counted on Jeremy as a major reference source about our personal history, and regret that I postponed many of my inquiries until it was too late. I miss him.
In going through old family photos, I have been struck by how often he smiled during his younger years, and how devoted he was to his sisters, wife, and daughter. I attach a few of these photos here. I’ve also attached a copy of an obituary that we wrote for Quaker publications, since I was not active on Facebook at the time of his death."

Expanded Obituary on Jeremy Mott for Quaker Publications
February 19, 2013

Mott – Jeremy Hardin Mott, 66, died of an intestinal hemorrhage on September 2, 2012 in Roanoke, VA.  Jeremy was born on December 3, 1945 in New York City to Kathryn Hardin Mott and John Colman Mott.  He was the eldest, with three younger sisters.  When Jeremy was still a baby, his parents joined Ridgewood Friends Meeting as convinced Friends and also added him to membership.  Growing up in Ridgewood, NJ, and Rochester, NY, he actively participated with the rest of his family in the local monthly meetings as well as New York Yearly Meeting.  Summer sessions at Farm and Wilderness Camps, VT and three years at Sandy Spring Friends School, MD (class '63) also shaped his early Quaker experience. During the late 1950s and early 1960s he attended the Easter peace vigils in Times Square and in the summer of '63 he joined the March on Washington, just before attending Harvard University for two years. 

Since early childhood, Jeremy was fascinated with trains.  At age 8, after being interviewed by the station master in NYC, he was allowed to take the train by himself to visit grandparents in Florida.  As a teenager he once rode the entire NY subway system on one token, and also began a collection of timetables which enabled him to give detailed advice on passenger routes for any destination.  When he took a break from Harvard, he followed his life-long love of railroads, working for the Erie Railroad.  

No longer protected by a student deferment, he was drafted in October 1966. He obtained conscientious objector status and joined the Brethren Volunteer Service, serving three months at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, MD and four months at Bethany Brethren Hospital in Chicago.  However, to strengthen his protest against the Vietnam War and the draft, he burned his draft card at the April 15, 1967 Mobilization Against the War in New York City.  Together with others, he founded the Chicago Area Draft Resisters, CADRE, whose members still treasure how much they learned from him about Quaker ways of working well together in groups.  In his individual witness, he resigned from BVS writing:  “Both the joy which comes from acting in accordance with one’s conscience and the agony which comes from facing the risks of such action obscure the real agony of the Vietnam situation…By affirming the value of the lives of people and denying the righteousness of murder and slavery we can at least help keep some vestige of brotherhood a reality among men.”  His letter to the Selective Service System stated “My job, as a pacifist and as a person opposed to this war in Vietnam, is to resist our warring government, including the Selective Service System, rather than to seek special privileges from it.”  In December 1967, he was one of the first in the country to go to trial for resisting the draft.  He was the first to receive the maximum prison sentence of five years, which was reduced on appeal to four.

Upon his release from prison in 1969 on parole after 16 months of imprisonment, he worked for more than three years for the Midwest Committee for Draft Counseling, the Chicago office of the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors.  There he wrote and published a regular newsletter about draft law, which was sent to 5,000 counselors nationwide who helped young men consider alternatives to military service.   He and his new wife also were living below-taxable income in order to avoid supporting the military. Both before and after prison, he was an active member of the 57th Street Friends Meeting.    

Jeremy met Judith Franks at New York Yearly Meeting in 1969. They married in 1970 under the care of Summit (NJ) Friends Meeting and settled together in Chicago. Their daughter, Mary Hannah was born in 1974.  Jeremy obtained his BA from the University of Illinois-Chicago in 1975.  The family moved to NJ in 1976, living in Hoboken, Ridgewood, and then Hackensack.  He worked for Amtrak, as a dispatcher.  During this period he rejoined Ridgewood Friends Meeting and was active in New York Yearly Meeting.  He also served on committees for what is now the Center on Conscience and War in DC, and also for the Farm and Wilderness Camps in VT. 

Jeremy was extremely knowledgeable about many subjects and passionate about sharing his interests. His daughter notes that she could happily listen to him talk for hours about history, geography, transportation, and music, and that many of his interests are now hers.   
He was a one-man Quaker information center, a constant reader of the Quaker press with contacts in every corner of the Quaker world, and he often provided unique insights.  Before he adopted e-mail, several Quaker periodicals would receive letters-to-the-editor from Jeremy in his novel format: a series of post cards. He would start writing on one post card, then continue on with as many as it took for him to express the complete thought. Eventually he joined the online world, and contributed comments to various blogs and discussions. 

Especially during his final decades, he faced serious health problems. In the 1990s, he was belatedly diagnosed with bipolar disorder and then developed problematic blood clots and Parkinson's.  In spite of several hospitalizations, he continued to work until he retired on disability in 2000.  As his health deteriorated, Jeremy and Judy moved in 2009 from NJ to a new home in Roanoke VA to be nearer to their daughter.  Although he had not yet transferred is formal membership, he was active in Roanoke Friend Meeting, where he struggled in with his walker and shared his knowledge of Quaker history with members and attenders, several of whom were relatively new to Quakerism.  In spite of his health problems he also maintained his online communications, until his unexpected sudden death.
Besides his wife Judith Franks Mott and his daughter Mary Hannah Mott, he is survived by his mother, Kathryn Hardin Mott, his sisters Margaret Mott, Jessica Mott and Bethany Joanna Mott and their families, and Mary’s partner, Jacob Wise.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Family News

Keith, Jessica, Carla, Alex, and Kate (photo by Dee Rietveld)
Dear Friends,

Alex and Carla on day of the wedding
The next day, their "Just Married"
 sign was on the back of the tandem
We have had an eventful 2014. Perhaps most significant came on August 22, when son Alex and girlfriend Carla Cevasco married in a small civil ceremony at Boston City Hall. Eschewing the pressures and consumerism of a large-scale wedding, they had no guests other than a photographer. 

We are delighted to have Carla as our daughter-in-law. We hosted an informal open house for them here in Arlington in late December, one of several low-key celebrations they are having with friends and family.

Another significant, but much less positive development, came in the fall, when Keith learned that he had a rare, often-fatal fungal infection. [Spoiler alert; he survived.] Since the previous winter, he had been suffering a chronic “runny nose”, thinking it no big thing and hoping it would go away on its own. Then, once he finally decided to do something about it, it took nearly two months for the right appointment. Tests revealed it to be mucor, a fungus that is usually invasive with a high mortality rate.  At this point, the surgeon moved quickly. Fortunately, it was not invasive—Keith joins only three other cases in the medical literature --and the surgery appeared to have removed everything.

Just to be safe, he was also started on a powerful anti-fungal medication. Unfortunately, Keith and the chemo-like drug did not get along. Not only did he have nausea (a common side effect), but after five days on treatment he received an alarming call to immediately come in to the hospital emergency room (and stop taking the medication), after lab tests revealed kidney damage. He ended up four days in the hospital on an IV, until his kidneys began a slow recovery. 

Keith loading the 100,000th bike with staff and a representative of
the recipient non-profit
Even at home, however, Keith continued to struggle with digestive discomfort from a replacement medication, unstable blood sugar from his diabetes (common when under stress), and low potassium.  He lost 10 percent of his original body weight in about six weeks.  Thankfully, he has now regained his appetite, is happily on a diet of “good fat” (nuts, avocado, some meat, etc.) and slowly regaining weight, strength, and full kidney function.  And in mid-November, although still fragile, Keith was well enough to participate in the long-planned celebration of Bikes for the World's shipment of its 100,000th bike.

Keith and Jessica in front of new French doors and bay window
While Keith was seeing medical specialists (eight different at last count), Jessica was dealing with house repair contractors – ten so far. By stroke of luck, the house work bracketed rather than coincided with the worst of Keith’s health crisis. Beginning in September, to address the rotten wood, leaky air flow, and crumbling chimney of this 78-year-old house, we added a bay window and wider French doors to the “sun room” (an enclosed back porch), replaced siding and gutters, repaired the chimney with masonry and a new liner, and ameliorated radon. We tightened the building envelope, replacing most windows, the dryer duct, and attic pull-down stairs, putting in new HVAC registers, and re-insulating and sealing our AC ducts. In early December we completed an unnecessarily long and expensive bureaucratic process to secure approval of a zoning variance, to move the HVAC compressor from the sunny back yard to the shady but narrow side yard. We still have a few more replacement windows, shutters, and back steps on order, but the house is now much more energy-efficient, aesthetically pleasing, and functional.

A happy beneficiary
Earlier, in the spring and summer, Keith had immersed himself in transformations at Bikes for the World, adding two new staff (for a total of five), managing a record influx of donations, and leasing a first-time office, just in time to keep the auditors out of our dining room (and pleasing Jessica no end). With staff, Keith is beginning finally to focus on management, strategy and longer-term planning, and less on physical labor. The office move also proved to be a good incentive for him to sort through and dispose of the piles of paper that had accumulated in his home office – a process now thankfully nearly completed.

Our August vacation delivered not only an important break from the stress of Keith’s office changes, but in retrospect provided a humorous anecdote that preceded Alex and Carla’s marriage.  It was during this holiday that the couple planned to tell us of their plans to marry. Finding the right time to make the announcement during our time together proved more difficult than expected.

On top of Camel's Hump in VT
After initially rendezvousing and lunching at a restaurant in Greenfield MA, we caravanned to our guesthouse destination north of Montpelier VT. Upon arrival, we discovered that Keith (still under stress from work?) had left his backpack at the lunch stop--with insulin supplies and passport. Rather than relax and enjoy a home-cooked meal where, we were to understand only later, the couple planned to break the news, Keith, accompanied by Kate, immediately had to drive the five-hour round trip to reclaim these critical items.  So much for day #1. The following evening, after a vigorous hike, saw us spontaneously join a friendly community supper, enjoyable but with little conversational privacy. So much for day #2. Only one evening remained together before we were to part, with Jessica and Keith to head north to a planned rail-trail excursion in Canada, and Alex, Carla, and Kate to return south. That Saturday, we enjoyed another hike, this time up Vermont’s Camel’s Hump, with glorious weather and views, only to descend and discover that the front passenger window of our vehicle had been smashed (in a very crowded weekend parking lot) and several items (fortunately of little value) stolen.

Here the story took two tracks. The first, of course, was that this represented one more interruption to sharing the news. We picked up the worst of the shattered glass, headed down the mountain, attempted to report the crime (not easy on a late Saturday afternoon in northern VT), vacuumed the remainder of the glass, and purchased some high-quality plastic sheeting and duct tape at a local hardware store.  Still emotionally on edge from the car break-in, we finally reached a local restaurant and began to relax…whereupon Alex shared the news of their marital intentions.  A welcome distraction!  

Bikes getting loaded on the shuttle
We still had a second challenge. It was Saturday night, we (i.e., Keith and Jessica) were departing the following day for the long drive northwest of Montreal. Early Monday morning, we were scheduled to park our car in an open lot, shuttle ourselves, bikes and gear to the north end of the rail-trail, and begin a four-day return by bike. Without a secure car, how could we store our excess baggage? We had to get our window fixed…
Keith along the Le Petit
Tren du Nord rail trail
how, given the location, limited availability of Prius window glass, weekend timing, and tight schedule? Fortunately, the small family firm providing the shuttle service generously offered to store our extra bags in their small office (housed in a picturesque caboose at the end of the rail trail) and arrange to have someone repair our window during our trip. As a result, we were able to enjoy an uninterrupted, worry-free, romantic excursion, biking 200 kilometers through beautiful scenery, and including gourmet breakfasts and dinners at each of our overnight stops.    

On Milford Sound
Lest we forget, we did go to New Zealand back in January, sandwiching a tour of the more rural, glacier-dotted South Island, with visits to a former colleague of Jessica’s in Christchurch and ending in the capital, Wellington, with a relaxing and enjoyable reunion with Keith’s high school exchange student “brother”, Stuart Macdonald. The combination of personal reconnections and breathtaking scenery made for a delightful three weeks. 

Along the Routeburn Track
Another view of the Routeburn Track
Highlights of our independent trip by car, bus, boat and foot included a leisurely overnight cruise on the Milford Sound (thousand-foot vertical cliffs and waterfalls!), a three-day supported (with first class lodging!) trek across the Southern Alps on the Routeburn Track, and two days at the base of Mt Cook. In general, we were fortunate with the weather, blessed with the summer’s first consecutive string of sunny days for the alpine Routeburn as well as for Mt Cook. 

Back home, when not dealing with medical and contractor appointments, Jessica continues to enjoy biking, hiking, exercise classes at a county recreation facility, and to participate in the Finance and Nominating Committees of Langley Hill Friends Meeting. In coordination with sisters Margy and Bethany, and daughter Kate, she is regularly visiting her mother Kay Mott, who turns 94 in January. Jessica also continues to read – her favorite book this year was Betty Medsger’s The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI.

We see Kate regularly despite her rich professional and social life. At work, the library has increased her supervisory responsibilities. She was a primary mover behind an extremely successful library program, Late Night Recess, where over 200 twenty- and thirty-somethings blew off steam by playing four square, tug-of-war, capture the flag, nerf and other games after hours. She has increased her participation in Young Adult Friends, and continues with her book club, seeing friends and dating.

Despite the personal distractions of this year, we remain concerned about issues such as global warming, inequality, and violence in all of their many contexts, keep trying to do our bit, and have deep appreciation and gratitude for the efforts of others.

Margy, Kay, Kate, Carla, Alex, and Jessica
We have hosted Alex and Carla as well as Kay and Margy over the holidays. We hope to hear from you and would welcome the opportunity to provide hospitality should your travel plans ever include the nation’s capital.

Wishing you well for 2015,

Keith & Jessica

John and Kay Mott on
top of Mt. Washington
in late July 1944
Alex and Carla on top
of Mt. Washington
in late August 2014




Sunday, December 15, 2013

2013 Family News

Dear Friends,

This has been an inward-looking, family-centered year.

Keith, Jean, Jory, and Jim
Keith lost his mother Jean in early April of complications from open heart surgery at the end of 2012.  Supporting her and then dealing with her death dominated our time and attention (and that of Keith’s sister Jory and husband Marty even more so)  -- and strengthened Keith’s bonds with his two siblings and extended family.  Jean was 91, but until her final illness had maintained a high level of energy and social engagement, chairing her continuing care community’s Activities Committee, introducing wii bowling, playing bridge, leading a painting group, reading to the blind, etc. Even in the post-surgery intensive care unit, she amazed staff by playing word games and making silly Christmas hair decorations out of hospital supplies. But during subsequent rehab, she suffered a stroke and then an infection. We feel her loss strongly, not the least because she was "much the same Jean” to the end. We miss her.  And celebrate her life.

Family gathering on the day of Jean's funeral

Family gathering with Kay
 at Thanksgiving
Jessica made regular visits to her mother, Kay, resident in the assisted living part of a continuing care community in southeastern PA.  Kay at 92 makes use of a walker and wheelchair to remain mobile, gardens (on her hands and knees), reads the New York Times editorial pages, and enjoys contributing to various causes.  However, she is increasingly frustrated with declining short-term memory.   Jessica is grateful that her sisters--especially Margy but also, in spite of a full-time job, Bethany--are also devoting significant attention to Kay.

When at home, Jessica has continued hiking, working out at the gym, and participating in several bicycling groups.   She’s also read more (including a range of books on neuroscience, as well as her old staple – fantasy/science fiction “candy”).  She has tried to stay professionally informed in natural resource management and land tenure developments, but for the time being she relishes her flexible schedule and has had no “drive” to return to the job market, or even spend much time at a computer.  She is beginning to re-engage with her Quaker meeting.

Keith returned from attending to his mother to a hectic spring collection season at Bikes for the World.  Highlights include receiving 5,000 trade-in bikes through a partnership with a national retailer.   By the end of this year, 14,000 bikes will have been shipped, and three corporate partnerships will have been formed.  With a strategic plan in place and a fourth salaried employee hired, Keith is feeling increasingly confident that the program will “take off”, but challenges remain.  A professional video on Bikes for the World produced by a Texas foundation can be found at

Together, we found time to enjoy a broad range of music -- folk, reggae, and Broadway musicals including John McCutcheon, Bobby McFerrin, Soja, and Showboat --overcoming what was in retrospect several years of cultural drought, and lifting our spirits.

Kate and Alex at Iguacu Falls
Kate still enjoys her apartment and her work as a reference librarian. Living and working nearby, she visits regularly.  A favorite family activity is watching taped Jon Stewart programs.  In November, Kate traveled to Brazil for tourism and a friend’s wedding in Rio de Janeiro, joined by Alex for a second week visiting Iguacu Falls and the Amazon.

Alex and girlfriend Carla moved to a new, more satisfactory apartment—with a responsible landlord—last spring.  They acquired a cat during the summer.   Alex continues to enjoy the work at the Geographic Information Systems “help desk” at MIT while Carla began her third year of a PhD program in American Studies at Harvard.

Keith, Jessica, Carla and Alex
overlooking Crawford Notch
Keith, Jessica, Alex,
and Kate overlooking
Mount Washington
All of Keith and Jessica’s personal travel this year has been by land.  We drove twice to New England last summer– the first in June for Keith’s 40th Middlebury College class reunion and then over to New Hampshire for hiking, the second in August back to New Hampshire for more hiking.  The kids were able to join us for portions of the hiking.  We spent Labor Day with Quaker friends near the beach in Chincoteague VA.   After 35 years of countless airline trips, mostly long flights for the World Bank, Jessica has enjoyed a 22-month respite from airports and planes.  We will break this hiatus, however, flying to New Zealand early next year.  While we face the economy fare flights there and back with some trepidation, we look forward to enjoying the 19 days in-country.

Speaking of the world…   May we all witness one that in 2014 is more peaceful, equitable, and environmentally-sound.

With affectionate best wishes,   Keith and Jessica