Dedication

My Friendship With Jeff San Marchi – Editor and Publisher of The Ojai & Ventura Voice

Jeff95lcBack in the 90s Jeff did a series of articles on a local developer who transgressed all boundaries of environmental decency.

He researched the developer’s history extensively and found out that he was accused in several trials for alleged connections to organized crime.  During this time he received a letter from the developer’s lawyer with scathing threats. Not only did the letter threaten Jeff with litigation, it also demanded an apology and that he rescind everything he wrote. If he did not comply, he would definitely regret it, which was a not so subtle threat to his physical wellbeing.

“How you gonna handle this, Jeff?”

“I ain’t apologizing for the truth… never !”

I screamed at him, “Are you f__ing crazy man? You’re not in the little league of the Ojai City Council here. You’re messing with the big boys. They’ll put your ass down in a heartbeat… and who in the hell in their right mind would publish my articles then? At least write no more about this.”

“Peter, this is an important issue for me, I’m of Italian-American descent myself. I’ve researched every minute detail, the article stands as written…period!”

Not only did he not apologize or rescind, he continued to report on this issue and the developer’s alleged mob connections.

Jeff was not only one of the most stubborn men I’ve ever known, he was also one of the most courageous… he had huevos! He never kissed anyone’s ass, not from the right, not from the left and never for profit. He lived by his own code of honor.

Unfortunately, my friend was a slave to the commitment he made to his newspaper. He’d often work fifteen hours a day. He literally worked himself to death and I’m still bloody pissed off at him for that. I knew he needed a break and getaway, so early on I asked him, “Maddawg, we’re heading out this week-end, it’s on me. We’ll hit the cantinas in Tijuana and Ensenada and dance with the girls. Do you know how to Salsa? No? Well, go take a yoga class from Suza before we go, she’ll help you stretch your muscles. Be ready at four a.m. Friday morning.” “Naaah Peter, I gotta get the paper out.”

I asked him again six months later with the same results. Soon this dialogue became an ongoing joke. In the last two decades I asked him at least forty times to hit the road and take a few days off. The answer was always the same, “Naaah Peter, I gotta get the paper out.” The only time he took off in twenty years was to be with his daughters, Ana and Rosa. Whenever he would talk about them, which was often, love would beam through his eyes. I’ve known Ana and Rosa since they were little girls. They are truly beautiful souls, which is a compliment to Jeff and their mother, Catherine.

I first met Jeff shortly after I moved to Ojai. In the early eighties, my brother and I would hike the local trails. In the evening we’d hit The Hub, listen to good music on their jukebox, hoist a few brews and then head down to the jail in Libbey Park to crash in our sleeping bags. I first fell in love with Ojai when I woke up one morning with the sun rising and took in the soulful vibe of Libbey Park. Many of the people I know fell in love with Ojai, that’s why they moved here.

Ten years later I arrived to put down roots. During my second week I attended the music festival with a bottle of wine in my cooler. I believe the symphony was from Johann Sebastian Bach or Ludwig van Beethoven. At that time, my musical leanings were towards Rock, Bluegrass, Folk and the Blues. This was my first attendance in a symphony. The music was awesome, transcending and absolutely beautiful. When the music stopped, I got up, applauded whooped, hollered and screamed “Bravo! Bravo! Bravvvooo! I was the only one. All of a sudden people around me hissed, “Psst, psst, be quiet, sit down, psst, psst.” Apparently, one doesn’t applaud until the symphony is totally over. I thought I was in a snake pit. I embarrassingly sat down, my ‘in love’ state with Ojai got immediately challenged.

I put my first symphony experience down on paper and sent it to Jeff. He loved it and put it in ‘The Voice’. At that point our friendship started and it would slowly deepen like a river over the next two decades.

Now that Jeff has passed on, the god or goddess of grief has descended. I know enough to lean into grief and not push it away. Many times during my daily walks through the streets of Ojai, I go by his old house. A memory of Jeff always flashes on and a tear rolls from my eye.

Jeff, my writings in this new paper will always be dedicated to you. I will draw on your warrior spirit who fought relentlessly and uncompromisingly for freedom of speech and freedom of the press, a gift given to us in The Constitution by our forefathers. I love you and I miss you – God Bless!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John Anthony Miller II August 14, 2009 at 9:49 pm

“JEFF SAN MARCHI. MY SMALL TRIBUTE TO HIS MEMORY.”

I knew Jeff San Marchi for years. Hmmm. Words that come to my mind when thinking about Jeff. Brave, self-reliant, unique, savvy, thorough, super-individualist, super-opinionated, atomic eye-opener, super-workaholic.

Knowing him was one of the unique highlights in my life. To try to get into his brain was, for me, usually an impossible frustration-because he was so smart (and abstract many times) and so ahead of things. And, damn, he knew what he was talking about. Yet there was no one who could be more friendly or human. He “got” it. His brilliant, almost supernatural insights into the warped and twisted social and political conditions around us (locally and nationally) were absolutely spooky.

The value which really impressed me then (but now know it helped hasten his untimely passing) was his sense of duty, or — his “passionate obsessive mission” — which was to publish THE VOICE; exposing the evil and corruption around us…and to document and actually publish it, without regard to any possible consequence. Wow! A bullfighter in a ring. Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Nathan Hale, Anton Chekov, Jack London and Upton Sinclair all rolled up into one guy. A Tezuka “Black Jack”- like character who played by his own unique rules of honor, all for the betterment of mankind and standing up very tall for the principles honesty and true commitment to help others.

Or maybe it was “Superman” posing as Jeff San Marchi, samurai reporter, fighting for truth, justice and the American way. Hard to define, he was definitely a Hannibal of journalism crossing the alps, dissolving the rocks before him so the “elephants of truth” could stomp out the vermin of injustice and corruption. What’s that old Frank Sinatra song called…something about ‘doing it my way…’ Jeff most definitely did it his way.

He also had an offbeat sense of humor combined with a twisted brilliant insight into “political twistatorios,” as evidenced when I had shown him some of my silly spoofy predictions about future political and social events that “were to occur in the future” — “Nostradamus style”; and he actually published them serially in THE VOICE! It was all for fun of course.

Those days seem a million years ago. My last memory of him was talking politics with him in an antique shop in Ventura, where I take photos of such and art, and try to hawk them on the great Internet juggernaut highway. That little chance encounter with Jeff happened a week or so before he passed away. I told him he look tired and worn, a bit grayish and to…”try and take it easy.” I took a somewhat fuzzy picture of him with my cell phone camera. He walked out the door with his usual bill cap and fisherman-type vest on. Shortly thereafter, I thought to myself that that was one hell of thing to say to the guy in another person’s shop. That was the last time I saw him. I must have sensed something. It had to be one of the last pictures taken of him. I have that small photo of him on my little altar here. I know what he would have said about that!

So, once in lifetime, if we are real fortunate, we have a Jeff cross our path in life. But, like I mentioned before on Dr. Peter’s site, I believe nothing happens by chance, including having met and known Jeff San Marchi. Brilliant, brave, honest and true. A sort of lighthouse beam shining in the foggy murk we are try navigate our way safely out of. Did I say safely? (Wrong word I believe.)

Upon his passing, he left a big void and is still missed by many, many people on a daily basis. Yet, every time I see THE VOICE sitting in a newsstand or on a table, I see his face and remember him. That to me, is a sort of immortality, yes?

As impossible as it is to replace him, we now need people like him now more than ever in this really screwed-up sociopathic “power-suit” driven environment.

I would like to think he is looking down on all of his friends, and people who would have been new friends right now, and saying something like this with a smile…”give ‘em hell guys, there is still a lot of work that still has to be done. It’s important, and you don’t have to have Italian blood in you, but it helps…” — With love noble knight, John Anthony Miller, artist, (half Italian, semi-burnt-out rebel-relic from the 1960′s, apparently getting geared up again for something big, because I have to. Thanks, courageous Jeff. I think I “get it” now more than before, although I sure do wish you were around so I could tell you to “take it easy…”)

Peter Milhado PHD August 15, 2009 at 9:29 am

Thank you John Anthony. Absolutely great profile on our mutual friend. I felt Jeff s presence.

John Anthony Miller Ii August 15, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Yes, I believe Jeff is still looking over
some us “rebel-types” even now. He
is an extremely strong spirit.

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