Gary and Geronimo at KS Wild’s Annual Dinner, 2017

Gary and Geronimo at KS Wild’s Annual Dinner, 2017

Force for Nature

When faced with the death of a loved one, it’s common to feel a renewed urgency. The feeling that it is time to live every day like it’s your last.

Eventually, though, we humans fall back into our old patterns and forget to really live every moment. Slowly we forget that to be truly whole, we must take in every day and focus on what’s most important. We lose sight of our greatest responsibilities: joyfully serving our family, our community, and our planet.

This time, for us, it is different.

As we sat beside our close friend and coworker this past Friday, we knew he was taking his last breaths. We were sitting beside someone that we can safely say lived life like every day - every moment - was remarkable. Up to the very end, he was someone who left nothing on the table.

Gary “Joaquin” Powell was a force of nature. Gary worked on behalf of wild places with dogged persistence and contagious enthusiasm, the likes of which we had never seen before. We had the great honor and pleasure of working with Gary for over 14 years as he built support for campaigns to protect rivers, forests, and biodiversity here in southern Oregon and northern California.

There are many of you reading this that knew Gary. It seemed like he was friends with every soul he ever met. He may have knocked on your door as KS Wild’s Canvass Director. Maybe you knew him as a member of the Elks Lodge. Or perhaps you went on one of his epic mushroom forays into the wild.

The way Gary lived his life is an inspiration to many. He didn’t hide his ideals and those around him knew with certainty that he would act on them without pause or fear. That empowered many people to do the same. Try as you might, he could not be discouraged.

While Gary worked for KS Wild for over a decade, we only recently learned about how much he packed into his short 59 years on Earth. He was an expert sailor and a phenomenal downhill skier. We learned about his broadcasting career and camera work. We recently met his friends from when he ran a bed and breakfast.

What was really special about Gary was not just fearlessness. It was that he was so extremely kind to everyone he met and even to complete strangers. Too often sincere humility and kindness elude those with big personalities. Not Gary.

May we all learn what Gary knew so well. We have one life. We have one planet. We need to make the most of it. We have a responsibility to do right by each other and by nature that sustains us all. Not tomorrow or some distant time in the future - the time to make a difference is right now.

While Gary was a force of nature, he directed this determination to also be a force for nature. As he told us, his work on behalf of wild nature was the most important work of his life.

We will miss him. Many of you reading this will also miss Gary’s smiling face and warm heart. May we all live without fear, in this moment in time, for the greater good that is inside every one of us. Just like Gary.


In lieu of sending flowers, Gary’s family and friends have requested that you make a contribution to KS Wild in honor of his life and his work.