Meg Noble Peterson

Author of Madam, Have You Ever Really Been Happy? An Intimate Journey through Africa and Asia

JON POLLACK – THIS WAS A MAN!

Jon Pollack, my dearest friend and hiking partner, died on January 13, 2018, leaving a huge void in my life that can never be filled. You may remember that I’ve written extensively in this blog of our adventures over the past nineteen years, and know that he was instrumental in introducing me to the beauty of both the Olympic and the Cascade mountains.

Jon at Cedar Creek, Olympic National Park, 1992

2011 Together at the Lewis River

Jon was a truly versatile human being. His musical talent ranged from early dancing and singing in musical comedy to longtime participation in the Seattle Men’s Chorus. After graduating from Columbia College in NYC, while at the same time devouring every play, opera, or art show that graced the city, he returned to the Northwest and spent every fall and summer backpacking. How he loved the forests of the great Northwest!

Jon at Shi-Shi with the Yellow Line Club 1995

Over the years he hiked every trail in the Olympics and tackled the Cascades, summiting some of the highest peaks in both ranges. In the nineties he and his friends, Dennis Larsen and Pat Ziobron, teamed up to form the yellow line club, adding another friend, Kathy Kelleher, halfway into the game. They used the map handed out to tourists, and every time they finished a trail segment it was marked by a yellow highlighter, thus the name. Yes, they did all 628 plus miles over five years of weekends and vacations, rain or shine.

Summitting Mt. St. Helens 1991

1991 Jon on summit of Glacier Peak, 10,500 ft

In the late ‘90’s Jon started leading difficult backpacking trips in the Cascades and Canada with a close group of friends. He was a strong leader and, especially in my case, an accepting friend. There were several times when he dealt patiently with my fear of exposure on some of the cliff-side trails, especially when we would get lost and have to scramble up a scree-laden incline. I remember his shouting, “Stand up, Meg, for God’s sake stand up!” as he reached for my hand, finally accepting the fact that I was going to crawl up the side of a steep incline because I was too afraid to stand and risk falling backwards.

Machapuchare

Jon and I met in 1999 while trekking on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. From the time he helped me remember the final lyrics to De Lovely, I knew we were kindred spirits. We spent the rest of the trail annoying our fellow climbers with show tunes!

Like me, Jon was a theater, opera, and New Yorker addict. We went to the Seattle opera, together, often with two close friends, Christy Korrow and Barry North.  We discussed theater for hours and Jon’s knowledge was encyclopedic. Yes, our interests dovetailed. We were in synch.

At the Seattle Opera 2016

In the summer we hiked from the Olympics to Vancouver Island, and from Assiniboine to Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies. I’ve written many blog posts of our glorious sojourns into the wilderness, whether backpacking or just hiking from our campsite. You can read about some of them HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.  Jon is mentioned in so many places on my blog: you can find them HERE.

Click to start slideshow.

Jon was a rare man. He faced his imminent death like my son, Christopher. He saw what was coming, he fought it, but in the end he accepted it with grace and gratitude for the varied and rich life he had experienced. At 62 he still had a lot of exploring and living to do. But a virulent cancer consumed him and within eight months he was gone.

It was Jon’s inclusive spirit, his joie de vivre, his hilarious sense of humor, his optimism, and his ability to help all those who were fortunate enough to cross his path that drew us to him and will live on within us.

Some years ago I introduced Jon to the beauty of New England—Maine, Vermont, and the vagaries of hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. On our first  climb up the Randolph side of Mt. Washington to Crag Camp, he got his first taste of the rough and boulder-strewn trails in the Whites. They weren’t the predictable switchbacks of the Olympics. In frustration he turned back to me and yelled, “Meg, where the hell is the bloody trail?”

“You’re on the trail, Jon. You’re on the bloody trail….”

And from now on you will be with me on every step of any future trail I tackle in your beloved Northwest. I could never find my way without you.

 

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11 Comments

  1. Claudia George

    Meg,
    Thank you for sharing memories of your dear friend Jon.
    I’m so sorry that he passed away.
    I know you were a great comfort to him.
    Claudia

  2. Ann Norris

    What a beautiful eulogy, Megan. My heart breaks with yours. It is so hard to say goodbye to a close friend. Bless you, sweet friend, as you grieve.

  3. Sandie Miller

    So very sorry to hear the sad news. It is really difficult to lose a dear friend.

  4. judy

    What a beautiful tribute. So sorry for your loss. So unfair.

  5. jerene

    My dear dear Meg…..this is so very beautiful and may it’s creation be balm for your grief. I happen to think that when we post on the computer….the dearly departed can witness what we say and show. I know Jon knows you love him….and this blog exhibits the depth of that love. Special friend indeed!

  6. Christy Korrow

    Meg,
    Thank you so much for introducing me to Jon. He became one of my favorite people. I did not know he was a Columbia grad nor did I know he was a member of the Men’s Chorus. I loved being the third wheel with you two and sitting back and listening to the two of you banter, assess the qualities of the operatic vocal performances, and name drop all the previous opera singers who held the roles in the original productions. I felt like someone special to be included! He loved you so much, it really showed. I know you are really going to miss him. I love you. Christy

  7. Anne Z

    Meg, Jon was truly a gift in your life, a blessing here on Earth and an example of the kind of focused passion for life that gives us joy. Much love and support in your grief, Anne

  8. Eric William Brown

    How devestating… I never met the man, but, after your heartfelt words, I feel too, as if I’ve lost someone very special. I wish I could send a little putty to mend the hole in your heart, but this, being one of life’s hurts, has no such remedies. Like love, it is one of those things that makes us who we really are. And you, my dearest Meg, are one of the greatest of all! I love you.

  9. Lynn Rubright

    Thank you for sharing “the story of Jon” with us so we can always feel a tiny bit in the loop of his circle of friends….or at least among your friends who vicariously LOVE Jon too and appreciate how special and unique his life was. I feel I know him from your years of sharing your adventures. My spirit grieves with you. Lynn

  10. Gullvi Eriksson

    Dear Meg,
    after your beautiful words about Jon I really wished I had met him. I wished I had been on a hiking with you two.
    In all your grief you should be happy you had such a friend in your life.
    Love you Meg.

  11. Yana

    Meg, what a loving tribute to your fabulous friend, adventure addict and culture vulture extraordinaire! 😉 You two seemed indeed “made for each other” and what a great long ‘run’ you enjoyed together. Jon is well-remembered by you…..
    “Think where (wo)man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.” – Yeats

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