Remembering Warren, Part II
August 2 was a wonderfully special day for Shadowcliff. We celebrated and remembered the life of Shadowcliff co-founder Warren Rempel. The Shadowcliff Chapel was filled with family members, long-time friends, colleagues and others. Sharing stories and memories, people laughed, cried, embraced and sang. It was a joyous time.
Many words were used to describe Warren during the celebration: friend, inspiration, mentor, Father, Grandfather, Husband and curmudgeon. Daughter Sue shared Warren’s comment to her, “Don’t let your Mother tell them I was all sugar sweet, but that in the end, I always did what I believed in.”
So many memories and thoughts were shared by family and friends who spoke of Warren’s great love of people and how he made people better. Warren maintained a life-long intolerance of injustice and bigotry. He appreciated place, nature and a strong sense that as individuals, we are all connected to the natural world. To underscore Warren’s life-long commitment of advocacy and involvement, Warren’s last letter to his Congressmen was written with Sue’s help two weeks before he died.
Warren Rempel was remembered as a man who touched and taught so many lives. A man who served as a constant reminder through his words and deeds of how good humanity can be. Without question, Warren left the world in a better place.
Many know of Warren and Patt’s vision to create Shadowcliff as a mountain sanctuary where people could go to “recycle your spirit and come alive in the mountains.” It took 17 summers, more than 600 volunteers from 42 countries, and lots of blood, sweat and tears to bring the vision alive.
Some may not know that in the 1960’s, Warren stood tall against racism in Manhattan, Kansas, even going so far as cutting up choir robes to create arm bands as a symbol of protest. Attending protests was a family activity for the Rempels during those times.
In the 1980’s, Warren led the charge to keep casinos from entering the Town of Grand Lake, a challenge made more difficult in tough economic times with the gambling industry promising jobs and revenues. Sue Rempel recalls her Father telling her, “Can you imagine not seeing the stars at night and instead seeing the twinkling of casino lights?” I certainly can’t, and I am grateful.
Later in the 1980’s and beyond, Warren and Patt responded to their son Scott’s death from AIDs by creating and promoting a series of HIV workshops and retreats, programs intended to educate and support individuals impacted by this disease and recognize the dignity of all individuals. Shadowcliff’s HIV workshops continue to this day.
Before he died, Warren created his Shadowcliff celebration. His Family faithfully and lovingly carried it out. The musical selections say much about Warren, nearly as much as the words and memories. What did we hear? What words of song filled the Chapel rafters: Pete Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “Simply Bach,” and as guests left the Chapel, the theme from Man of La Mancha, “(To Dream )The Impossible Dream,” more commonly known as the story of Don Quixote.
Bob Mann, who with his wife Judith, so capably followed Warren and Patt as Shadowcliff co-directors offered another quote from the Man of La Mancha: “Too much sanity may be madness, but maddest of all—to see life as it is and not as it should be. “ As noted above and below, Warren understood the world as it is but never lost sight or avoided the opportunity to create a world as it should be.
The term “legacy” was used by a number of speakers throughout the program, many examples of which are described above. Perhaps the greatest legacy of Warren and Patt is the Rempel Family gift of Shadowcliff to a nonprofit organization. As Bob Mann noted, “This selfless, loving and sacred offering of Shadowcliff—giving something of such great value away—is the true legacy.”
For those of us who have found Shadowcliff as a place to renew, reflect, create and reconnect with nature, thank you Warren and Patt. For those of us who have come to Shadowcliff and learned something about ourselves or the natural world around us, thank you Warren and Patt. For those of us who believe that Shadowcliff is indeed a sacred place filled with the energy and spirit of all those who have visited Shadowcliff , thank you Warren and Patt. For those of us who marvel at the many images of Don Quixote found at Shadowcliff and dream of a world as it could be, thank you Warren and Patt.
Finally, one last quote from Warren’s celebration: “Warren is here, and he always will be here.” Enough said.