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Sangha News

Jack Van Allen Memorial page

Interview with Jack Van Allen            Photos of Jack's lay ordination

Jack died last night    Cremation report  and Ceremony

6-21 - Loring Palmer's Memories of Jack

6-22-07 - A small service for Jack Van Allen, led by Allen Senauke of the Berkeley Zen Center, will be held this morning at 9A.M. This will be followed by the cremation. A few friends and family will attend. Jack is survived by his wife Ellen, his children Michael (8/2 1968) and Lea Van Allen Sweet (7/16 1970), his grandchildren - Michael's Haley (8) and Kelsey (6) and Lea's Dein (2) and Elizabeth (6 mo.). Yesterday at his house I met Lea and her kids and Jack's half-sister, Dotty Finfrock, whom he has just made contact with in recent years. He always kept up with so many people. - DC

Funeral and cremation report -

Read the ceremony

A few family and friends of Jack's met at nine this morning at Pleasant Hills Memorial Park in Sebastopol. Dennis Samson, son Clay, and I drove together. Alan Senauke, in robes, led the ceremony. Beforehand he said that he'd known Jack a long time and that his wedding ring was made by Jack and that all over his home were statues and ornaments that Jack had made. He put together a small altar in front of the cardboard box that Jack's body lay in. He said there was no statue on the altar because, in this case, Jack's body was the Buddha. He read a brief statement, chanted the ten names of Buddha, and read another statement. Then the ten or so of us walked around Jack's body chanting the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo seven times while placing flowers and sprinkling incense on him.  Attendants carried Jack in the cardboard coffin to the oven in the crematorium while those of us who remained watched through a large glass window. Alan said:

Upon starting the fire
Now Jack bows over the flames.
Flare up! Complete this existence.

We chanted the universal eco and left the room. Oh yes, before leaving one guest showed off a belt buckle Jack had made for him, Dennis showed his wedding ring, Ellen her pendant. We said farewell for now to Ellen and each other.

And farewell Jack. I have a few thoughts about you now. One is that, to quote Dennis, you were not only a fine craftsman but an artist. I'll put examples of your work up here on your memorial page soon. The next comment is that, and Dennis agreed with this, I never heard you complain about your MS. You took it in stride. It barely slowed you down. I remember you telling Clay that, as a kid, you used to hide on Fridays because your father would get paid and then get drunk and come looking for you to beat up. That hard childhood you had a lot of scrap metal to deal with and sometimes I'd wince at the scraping sound, but with your dauntless effort you turned that rusty iron into polished gold.

I've asked Alan to email me this ceremony. I'm off to Green Gulch for the night and a one day sitting. - DC

6-20-07 - Jack Van Allen died last night
at 5:29.
His MS took a quick turn for the worse. He'd been pretty active and social right up to the end. I got a message from Dennis Samson yesterday that I'd better see Jack right away, that he was having trouble breathing and that he didn't think he had long. I was in the city and planned to go see him later this morning. The day before Jack was visited by Mel Weitsman and yesterday by Alan Senauke, also of the Berkeley Zen Center. Mary Mocine of the Clear Water Zendo in Vallejo was there as well. After Jack died she stayed the night to keep Jack's wife, Ellen company and to be with his body. Jack was born in October of 1935 - the 24th I think.

Just a couple of months ago, if that long ago, Gempo Merzel gave Jack lay ordination in Salt Lake City. Friends and family came from all over the country, people he hadn't seen in a long time. His wife Ellen joined him as did son Michael with wife and two kids, good friend Hank McClean, attendant of over three years Ratu Osborn. He asked me to go but I just couldn't.  I'm not sure if there was anything special about it. The reason I say this is that Jack started studying Zen with Suzuki Roshi back in the sixties. Suzuki married Jack and Ellen. They stayed together till the end - 39 years next month. Through the years he had involvement with many Buddhist teachers and groups. His skillfully made Jizos and other sculptures are all over the Buddhist landscape. Dennis Samson called last night and told me that he'd seen Jack and that he was having trouble breathing and that I'd better get over there. I was planning to be there later this morning. Still am. Last time I saw Jack was a couple of weeks ago. We were looking forward to his yearly viewing of the Santa Rosa fireworks which can be seen so well from his back yard. Farewell Jack - what a character!

Jack's body will be at home in for three days for people to come by and be with, sit with, or to tell stories about Jack with each other. Santa Rosa CA at 1052 Bush Street which runs from E to Brookwood between Sonoma Ave. and Highway 12. I'm going right now. - DC

6-21 - Loring Palmer's Memories of Jack

dear friends,

memories of my old friend, jack:

jack came from out of the blue. coming home to the buchanan street pad in japantown, sharon, the young single mother who managed the flat, said that there was a visitor who wants to meet you. this was my introduction to jack, who had just been released from jail for writing bad checks. he was homeless and destitute but was so excited by just being alive and talked a mile a minute. my brother john and his wife, cindy, lived upstairs. we had dinner together, and jack convinced us that he wanted in on all that we were into: pot, acid, and zen.

we dropped some of owsley's best lsd the next evening. among the sounds we played was "the way of eiheiji," the chanting of soto zen monks. this blew jack's mind. and then we made it over to the 5:45am zazen at sokoji, 2 blocks away. this turned jack around and was the beginning of his journey with soto zen.

it was gratifying that jack was finally accepted for lay-ordination, this spring. he felt that this was the most important event in his life and invited everyone he knew. he urged me to come to salt lake city for the event and even offered to pay for my plane ticket. i felt so happy for jack because what began as a trippy glimpse of suzuki roshi became fulfilled at the end of his life with this soto zen ceremony.

jack and his wife ellen became "family" to me when they took in my astrologer mother, mary lou, and her carpenter, partner, kent, as house-mates in sterling california. jack had somehow managed to get this roomy home from some dealer who had to leave the area. they shared the place for many years and i was able to visit often. jack and i drove up there after SR's funeral to share our grief.

jack became the jeweler to the SF rock-stars, especially the grateful dead.

he gave away as much as he charged for his turquoise and silver rings and belt buckles.

jack-the-jeweler knew buddhists all over the country because of his authentic, and well-detailed rupas/buddha castings in bronze.

so we're speeding down the highway from santa rosa in his red sports car, listening to baroque opera cranked up to full volume, on our way to a talk at green gulch on a sunday morning. we make it in plenty of time. everyone greets jack. after the talk he sets up shop and displays his exquisite wares and brings a select few over to his table. sales are made and everyone is happy. yes, this was materialism, the other side of jack's spiritual involvement.

when the ms ended his ability to create jewelry, his intention to evolve spiritually became the most important thing in his life.

now jack has graduated from this bardo. and the crown of victory was bestowed in salt lake city this spring. may his evolution continue.

may all beings experience the bliss of enlightenment.

cheers to jack,


See the interview with Jack Van Allen.

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