Monday, October 8, 2012

Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Tract: In Memoriam, James Nunya, 1944 -2012

Photo: Diane Edwardson, September 28, 2011.  James Nunya was a community leader who fought to preserve the trees in the Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Tract.  (Click on photo to enlarge.) 
James "Jimmy" Nunya, 1944 - 2012
Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Tract Defender
I first met Jimmy in the early 1990s, when I used to walk the steep hills and public staircases in the Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Tract, as part of a daily 3+ mile trek with my dog, through some of the steepest hills in Elysian Heights. We always said "hello" when I passed his house at the top of one of the staircases.  He was a guardian of the hill, looking out for strangers and people who didn't belong, often scaring off people intent on committing crime.
After a few weeks he stopped me, "Let me ask you something.  You don't live on this hill.  No one who lives on this hill walks this hill.   Where do you live?"  When I told him I live on the hill across the 2 Freeway from his hill, we struck up an ongoing conversation about our hillsides, neighborhoods, development, nature and crime. Every year, we appreciated each other's Christmas lights since we could see each other's homes from our respective living rooms.
We always knew we would one day have to battle developers over the future of the Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Tract "garden lots."   Sure enough the battle began in 2004, continuing to the present.  Jimmy was always there at every meeting asking the questions developers and politicians didn't want to hear.  He kept asking the same questions, over and over, because most developers and politicians are adept at avoiding answering the questions.  In the activist world, this is an invaluable skill. 
Jimmy's enthusiasm to battle for the trees was tireless. Sadly, we lost the battle for the trees in 2011. Almost a year later, we lost Jimmy.  He will be missed.
In Jimmy's words, "Let me just ask one more thing...."