April 13, 2008 Tulsa, OK
Preston (Bob) Luitweiler (89), founder of United States Servas, Inc., pacifist, war-resister, civil-rights and international peace activist, died at 9:30PM, PST on April 13, 2008 in Bellingham, WA.
Bob is survived by his two daughters, Sonja Sweeny and Anita Farrell; their mother, Anne Grauzlis; four grandchildren, Sonja s children Brenna and Connor, and Anita s children Sienna and Keaton; and Bob s brother and sister-in-law, Jim and Erica Luitweiler. A celebration honoring Bob and his life will be held in late summer, 2008.
Bob s life can be characterized by his passion for peace-building. After a year at Antioch College, in 1942 Bob Luitweiler, a Ghandhian-inspired conscientious objector began serving time in prison in the US for his objection to being drafted to fight in World War II. Bob spent two years in confinement where he turned his experiences of being jailed with other social out-casts, now including other conscientious objectors, into two years of study and sociology seminars. Bob studied Esperanto while in prison, and before his release was teaching this intended-to-be global language to fellow inmates.
After his release, Bob worked odd jobs, living and experiencing the lives and hardships of many under-represented people who were performing the labor that was fueling growth in America. In 1946 Bob read an article about Ghandi in a small folk school paper written by a Quaker, Esther Harlan. He sought her out at her home in the hills of Berkeley, CA. Their conversations planted the first seeds of a precious friendship, and what was later to become Servas.
The beginning (of Servas) is not a date or a place. Peace builders began as a movement and not as an organization.
Pat Knowles, Servas: an Experiment in Peace Building
Bob made his first trip to Europe in 1948, and returned to Denmark in 1949 with a general idea that soon became the basis of Servas (Esperanto meaning service, that of a Work-Study-Travel scheme with a strong educational aspect for young adults. The Folk High School Movement in Denmark of the 1940 s contributed directly to these ideas. This included not only a practical adult education, but knowledge of one’s roots, the history and culture of one’s country, which Bob believed gave stability and cohesion to a people, independent of the size of their country, their organization, or of its power. When combined with an international point of view, these ideas spoke directly to peace, although it was never stipulated that a Servas member needed to be, or should be a pacifist.
All over the world there are small groups and individuals who are working for a Society based on Creative Vocation, Non-Violence and Social Responsibility.
Bob continued to believe that our only hope to turn us away from the greed that is destroying our cultures and our planet is to mentor young adults. His vision of this was simple, plant the seed with a small group of college-age students, provide a space in which they can gather and talk and eat together, to get acquainted, share ideas and become a physically active force of volunteer peace activists. Bob wanted to introduce these young adults to the ideas of peace builders , Bob s phrase for people meeting people, bridging cultural and class differences with compassion, love, work and gratitude. Then these people would reach out as a group into their own communities, volunteering and teaching about peace building. Bob described this as being as simple as helping an older person to clear an over-grown yard and help plant a vegetable garden. This might also manifest as an afterschool mentoring program for poor and immigrant children. The only limitations on these Peace Builders would be their own imaginations.
Bob worked till the moment he closed his eyes to convey this vision of what work he saw as necessary to keep us from our own destruction.
In 2009 Servas, now a global network in more than 100 countries, will be celebrating its 60th year.
Beyond his involvement with founding United States Servas, he was an inventor, a business man, an educator, and a writer. He wrote prolifically about peace building, volunteerism, sustainable building and agriculture, and devised a method to teach people to read.
Bob was asked late in his life Bob, what do you want to be remembered for ? and Bob s characteristic reply was You are missing my point! Bob Luitweiler was sometimes abrupt, out-spoken and impatient, but he did not want to be remembered for himself, he wanted to be a part of the future, to be a part of a grass-roots movement of young people taking back their power to create a peaceful and sustainable world.
Bob Luitweiler will be missed by friends all over the world