In Memoriam:

Goodbye, Ron Thelin


Ron Thelin's memorial service took place Sunday (4/14/96). It was a tremendous event for all who attended, nestled among the gentle rolling hills (green this time of year) of the San Geronimo Valley, Ron's home these past many years. The remembrances that many of Ron's compatriots offered stood as a beautiful tribute to a man whose presence enveloped us all that afternoon. Everywhere I looked I could see Ron's beatific smile -- behind the clouds, in the fields, in the lazy patterns the hawks traced against the sky.

I brought back a few momentoes. Others recorded the event. I hope that someone keeps the pieces of this event from being lost, if only for Ron's family, whose energy in putting this together could be felt so strong walking down that one-half dirt road into the site where the gathering took place.

There were several Communication Company-type sheets that various people produced and distributed at the memorial. A poem of Ron's was tacked to a board of photographs and objects from his life. There were extra copies in a box for people to take. John and Margot Doss put together an edition of The Digger Papers (free). with some lines extracted from various Communication Company flyers. And I brought a broadsheet with my memorial to Ron on one side, and a reprint "from the Archives" on the other.

To be continued.

Photos from Ron Thelin's memorial event, April 14, 1996.

One of many testimonies to Ron's memory

Ron Thelin passed away this week. Joe called me with the news -- he had gotten a call from Jet who read the obituary in the Chronicle that morning (3/22/96). The news quickly spread among our community of friends. All day, I felt Ron's loss. He had always been the compassionate, the wise Buddha. I first met him when Sam and I went to his home in Forest Knolls in 1972 in search of Communication Company papers. Ron gave us spare copies of the broadsides he had kept from that Summer of Love five years previous.

Over the ensuing years, Ron became a familiar presence as we became more involved with the original Diggers, attending solstice and equinox celebrations, Planet Drum mailings, Farm gatherings, Frisco Bay Mussel Group happenings. Ron was always interested in how the commune was doing, always asked about Irving. Though he was obviously very happily married with all the attendant family concerns, he showed no discomfort with a commune that many people thought of as gay (even though a minority of its members actually were!) I always found that special in Ron.

In my mind's eye, I see Ron as the prototype hippie who renounced success in an American corporate lifestyle to follow a different path, one that gave him success in Love, and wrote his name Large in the Cosmos.

I ran a keyword search on the Digger Archives this morning, looking for the word "thelin" and came up with a Communication Company editorial that Chester Anderson (another dearly departed) wrote in 1967. I think it is most appropriate, and a very fitting memorial to Ron's memory. Click here to read this 29-year-old tribute to a man unique among men, and someone we will not easily forget. The subtitle of that ComCo sheet could be Ron's epitaph -- his life epitomized these words:

Public Acts Are Public Knowledge
LOVE IS WHAT YOU DO not what you say.

If anyone would like to add their own comments about Ron, please leave a message in the Feedback Form, or in the Guestbook, and I'll add them to this page. --Eric Noble (24 March 1996)


[From the San Francisco Chronicle (paper and electronic editions), Friday, March 22, 1996, page A22 in the paper edition.]

By Michael Taylor

Ron Thelin, one of the original and most famous hippies during San Francisco's Summer of Love 30 years ago, died of cancer Tuesday at age 57.

Mr. Thelin, who died at Marin General Hospital, co-owned the Psychedelic Shop at 1535 Haight Street, in the heart of the Haight- Ashbury district, when tie-dyed shirts, the Grateful Dead and free concerts in the Panhandle ruled.

The dream merchant of Haight Street, he was also one of the stalwarts of the freewheeling counterculture's notion that everybody should help everybody else. Long before the idea of helping or hindering the homeless became part of the political dialogue of San Francisco, Mr. Thelin was a member of the Diggers, a group of people who gave food and clothing to those who had neither.

He contributed to the Oracle, a counterculture newspaper that flourished during the hippie era.

Mr. Thelin was born in Oakland and raised in San Mateo, San Luis Obispo and Yuba City, earning his Eagle Scout badge along the way. He moved to San Francisco in the early 1960s, after a stint with the Army at a post in Taiwan.

Mr. Thelin and his brother, Jay, opened the Psychedelic Shop on Jan. 3, 1966, and soon had a thriving business from flower children who floated in to buy hallucinogenic paraphernalia and then drifted on through the store for a session in its meditation room, with mandalas on the wall and incense in the air.

Less than two years later, in October 1967, the Thelin brothers declared the hippie movement dead and closed the shop's doors. Mr. Thelin also said they were closing the shop because they were less than enthusiastic about becoming full-time businessmen.

``We're getting rid of all these possessions, in the spirit of Thoreau,'' Mr. Thelin said, referring to the beads, old flowers, copies of the Berkeley Barb and other trappings of the hippie life.

For the past 30 years, Mr. Thelin lived in Forest Knolls in west Marin County and worked as a carpenter, mason and cab driver.

He is survived by his wife, Marsha, of Forest Knolls; a brother, Jay, of Nevada City (Nevada County); two sisters, Sherrill Overholt of El Dorado Hills, and Roxann Thelin of Novato; a daughter, Kira Gapinski of San Anselmo; three sons, Jasper and Ace Thelin of Forest Knolls and Deva Ferar of Mill Valley; and four grandchildren.

A ``celebration of his life'' is tentatively planned for 2 p.m. April 14, at Roy's Redwoods in the San Geronimo Valley of Marin County, Jasper Thelin said.

Ron, we'll miss you, say hi to Emmett, Samurai Bob, and all the rest--en.

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