IN MEMORIAM: Walt Rave — An appreciation


I note with sadness the death, early Saturday morning, December 10, of Takoma Park resident Walt Rave, the result of severe burns he suffered in a December 7 fire at his house at 29 Holt Place.

According to the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, “The fire is ruled accidental.” MCFRS also stated, on Saturday December 10, that the service’s “Fire and Explosive Investigations Section along with Takoma Park City Police are continuing the investigation.” I contacted section head Kenneth Korenblatt to ask that findings be reported to the City of Takoma Park.

Walt was a Takoma Park fixture, tall and hard to miss, often carrying a dead fox dangling from the jaws of a steel trap. Walt was a quiet provocateur. The fox was like an anglerfish’s lure, conversation bait, designed to get you talking and thinking about abuse of animals.

Walt Rave with fox

Photo by Julie Wiatt.


A sign sometimes displayed on the tailgate of Walt’s pickup truck said, “Only people have a right to exist. Animals don’t! You, eating meat, make it so.”

Another of Walt’s truck signs said, “Selfish? Have Babies”: Similarly provocative.

Walt stood outside the Discovery Communications building in Silver Spring in the wake of the September 1, 2010 shooting there of James Lee, who entered the building with metal canisters strapped to his body and armed with what turned out to be starter pistols. James Lee, post the incident, was characterized in the press as an “environmental militant.” Walt held a sign that said “James Lee was right.” He was quoted in the Gazette newspaper as saying, “if you look closely, he had very noble beliefs. Sometime, people will wake up and realize we are breeding ourselves extinct.”

Walt Rave served the world, and our community, in his own, distinctive way. The Gazette quotes him: “Since the day I got back from Vietnam in 1970, I decided I was going to try to make a difference wherever I was, however I could.”

One way was as a part-time Takoma Park city employee. Walt staffed the city’s tool library for 17 or so years until it closed in 2005. An April, 1994 Baltimore Sun article about Walt and the tool library quotes him, regarding tool borrowers but stating what was clearly a core belief for him, “I guess that anything you don’t sweat for isn’t valued.”

Walt Rave at the Entrance of the Tool Library.

Frankly, Walt made me sweat (figuratively), given the challenge to act posed by the elements of truth in his strongly stated views. I am among the many who valued him for that challenge and for his contributions to our community, even though I rarely spoke to him.

He did earn for himself a group of close, loyal, admiring friends. Zoe Kyriakos posted on Saturday to our neighborhood e-mail list —

“Walt passed away at 1:30 this morning. The room was standing room only with about 15 people there for support. Walt was responsive and able to answer a few yes/no questions with nods of the head. Everyone talked to him about their good times together and it was clear that he heard them. It took him several hours to pass after life support was removed. The doctor thought it would happen much more quickly, but Walt was an incredibly strong man right to the end.”

I understand that Compassion Over Killing, an organization that works to end animal abuse, is planning a memorial service for Walt Rave, to be held on January 8th at the Silver Spring Regional Center building. I hope our memories of Walt will spur us all, in our own ways, to try to make a difference, wherever we are, however we can.

Photos by Julie Wiatt.

9 Comments on "IN MEMORIAM: Walt Rave — An appreciation"

  1. We love you Walt.

  2. WALT RAVE WAS RIGHT! | December 14, 2011 at 1:37 am |

    I only met Walt once at the TkPk festival but he was a great man. Just that one brief interaction was awesome especially after hearing stories about this almost mythical creature. He was someone who was just willing to say what needed to be said especially if people didn’t want to hear it. He spoke his mind in a way nobody else really is willing to do. He was a true hero and a great guy and I am sad to see him go.

  3. What a beautiful tribute, Seth.

    FYI, the Compassion Over Killing memorial celebration of his life will be at the organization’s headquarters: 9th floor of the Takoma Business Center (right across from CVS in Takoma Park). More details to be posted online soon, but it’s Jan 8 at 2pm.

    I was with Walt in the hospital during last week, including when he died early Sat morning. As horrible as his predicament was, and horrible doesn’t come close to describing it, I’m glad he at least got to hear what so many people thought of him, something that generally only happens after we die, and I’m certain he appreciated all the kind words. I’m sure there will be more kind words and stories about him at the COK celebration of his life.

  4. Thank you for a lovely article about Walt. Also, his family of 6 cats is likely to have died and it is believed that Walt stayed in the house looking for them until it was clear they could not be found alive. When he was first able to communicate with friends he asked about the cats. Friends are still looking for them, but it is believed they died in the fire. We are told that firefighters found the remains of at least two cats in the house.

  5. Mary Finelli | December 14, 2011 at 1:16 pm |

    Walt was right, we don’t need more people. We need people to be more like Walt: thoughtful, compassionate, and willing to stand up for the oppressed no matter how uncomfortable or unpopular that may be. Thank you, Walt, for being a good friend and a great person. Thank you for teaching by example, a life well lived.

    Respect Life, including your own – Go vegan:

  6. I first met Walt Rave in 1983 when this tall, red-haired, bearded man strode across the grass and led me to the animal rights tables on display in Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on World Laboratory Animals Day. That was the day I pledged to fight for animals and their rights for the rest of my life. I loved Walt for his feisty activism, his dedication to justice for all, and his strong and generous spirit, He was a vigorous force for the best causes.
    Karen Davis, President, United Poultry Concerns.

  7. Walt was selfless, compassionate, courageous, and humble. Walt was a one of a kind advocate for the animals and the planet. He said that he was never good at convincing people of anything, and so he often argued the opposite of his beliefs, in the most offensive way imaginable, just so people would disagree. He was unafraid of confronting tough, taboo topics such as human overpopulation. He had such courage in protesting the Discovery channel, at a very sensitive time and attention-getting manner (agreeing with the underlying message of James Lee). I’m glad he did that, not just for the planet, but for me, because it prompted me to tell him I loved him. I’m glad I let him know that before he was gone.

  8. Walt was an “eccentric”, but I admired his spirit, always trying to challenge the injustices of a world gone too greedy and too mad. He was a colorful and memorable fellow. God rest his soul. Walt was not particularly religious, but since he passed on, I hope he has a spirit which continues to guide us, by his past examples, at the very least.

    Hip Hip Hooray, for he was a jolly good fellow. We remember and appreciate your legacy.

  9. Walt Rave was a noble person, because he stood up for what he believed in even when it made him unpopular. To him, telling the truth was more important than being popular. He told people the truth about their food choices which was often difficult for them to hear. Nevertheless, because of his inspiration, many people did stop and think about how their diet affects other sentient beings, and the planet as a whole. We love and miss you, Walt, may you Rest in Peace.

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