Hundreds march, mourn Richard Jaeggi

by VALERIE A. YOUNG

The late Richard Jaeggi, a man who “embraced a life of love, justice, and mercy,” received a standing ovation as family and friends celebrated his courageous and inspirational spirit.

A memorial service held Saturday, June 7 at Christ Congregational Church, A United Church of Christ, glorified Jaeggi’s life-governing principles. Jaeggi passed away May 25 following brain tumor surgery. He was 60.

St. George Headshot[2]

Richard Jaeggi. Photo by Isaac Jaeggi

Friends, supporters, and Gandhi Brigade members marched from the Silver Spring Civic Building to the memorial service. Marchers wearing T-shirts imprinted with Jaeggi’s image entered the church singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” holding signs that stated “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Gandhi Brigade Youth Media is a nonprofit organization founded by Jaeggi to “offer young people opportunities to use the media arts as a developmental path for personal and community growth,” according to the organization’s website.

Approximately 350 mourners packed the pews and the overflow of supporters were seated in the balcony. Remembering Jaeggi’s wardrobe, men wore Hawaiian shirts.

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March to the memorial service. Photo by Valerie Young

Holly Brooks, Christ Congregational Church moderator-elect and Gandhi Brigade founding board member, said, “He was a great man who was able to build community collaborations where other people couldn’t. The difference he made for the youth and the community is pretty amazing.”

Recently, Jaeggi’s community leadership raised awareness about Silver Spring’s inequities in public resource allocation, helping to establish the Community Access Pilot Program for Silver Spring Civic Building affordable rentals and laid the groundwork for the creation of a multi-tenant nonprofit center, said Jaeggi’s friend Busy Graham by email.

The crowd laughed and cried as Gandhi Brigade members and long-time friends told stories of Jaeggi’s personality and leadership. One of Jaeggi’s friends said, “Life is a performance. Richard performed a spectacular life,” which brought those assembled to their feet.

Jaeggi Memorial Service 6_provided by Alan Bowser

Memorial service for Richard Jaeggi. Photo by Alan Bowser

Cynthia Rubenstein, Jaeggi’s 15-year friend and the executive director of the nonprofit organization Passion for Learning, said, “He was known as El HJefe (the boss). He was a leader who stepped back and put the youth forward, he never put his self forward, he always put them forward.”

Quotations, readings, and music personified Jaeggi’s life. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s words,“Love is the only force that can change an enemy into a friend,” opened the service. Lisa Jaeggi provided a musical offering to her father.

Susan Bratten, Board of Social Witness co-chair, a Christ Congregational Church board where Jaeggi was treasurer, said “Richard was a humble man, very funny, real laid back, and we enjoyed him very much. I feel his dedication to this purpose of just peace; and just the very name of Gandhi Brigade says a lot; and leadership for kids. He was a real force in our community here at church.”

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Display of Richard Jaeggi photos following the memorial

Ending the service, the senior minister preached about love, nonviolence and nonresistance, principles that guided Jaeggi, who he called a “spiritual activist.” The benediction, a quote from L. Griswold Williams said, “Love is our doctrine, the quest for truth is our sacrament, and service in our prayer.”

Guests attended a reception following the service. Light hors d’oeuvres were served and pictures of Jaeggi with family and friends were displayed.

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Richard Jaeggi wrote a Takoma/Silver Spring Voice column The Big Acorn until 2005. A re-post of one of his columns is here. Another column about Jaeggi’s three life heroes: Robin Hood, Don Quixote, and Gandhi is in pdf form.