Monday, February 11, 2008

Remembering Ralph DiGia

It is hard to imagine the War Resisters League without Ralph DiGia. But Ralph is taking a break now. His 93-year old body passed away on February 1.

When I was in college, during the first Persian Gulf war, there was an incident one day in which a visitor to our offices unleashed a loud verbal tirade - the usual litany of charges about how unpatriotic we were, la la la - and stormed out as loudly as possible. In the man's wake, timed as the loud stomping down the stairs toward Lafayette Street began, Ralph called out: "Have a nice day!" without a hint of nastiness.

That was Ralph. Mischievious yet affectionate, feelings that embraced all of humanity.

The New York Times wrote a lovely story about Ralph in 2003.

Even more moving is this reflection by David MacReynolds, another senior staff member at the WRL, someone whom I admired very much.

Some of us are pacifists and nonviolent in theory — we can talk a good game. But one afternoon, as I looked out my window at 339 Lafayette...I saw a gang of youth approaching a man, clearly fearful and backing away, as the gang swung clubs. “What”, I thought, “would be the right pacifist response — after all, here we are, the national office of a pacifist organization”. While I was pondering the theoretical question, I saw that Peter Kiger and Ralph DiGia had rushed out from our building and were putting themselves between that single frightened man and the mob.

Yes, that was Ralph.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

I'm Ralph's son, Daniel, and I happened upon your blog entry while searching through links. I loved the story about the angry man at the WRL and my dad's response. I can hear the tone with which I'm sure it was said and I can't help but chuckle. Though this is a very painful loss, it's been so great hearing all these little stories from people I don't even know who liked my dad. We've set up a website if you'd like to have a look. Thanks again for sharing this memory.