With a great sense of sadness and regret, I must report that a great, if unsung, hero of our movement passed away this morning, surrounded by many of his fans, from critical burn wounds suffered apparently while attempting to save his cats from his house fire.
At 6'3", with a bushy red beard, Walter Rave was an imposing figure, even at his ripe age of 66. After returning from Vietnam in 1970, Walter decided to devote his life to nonviolence, and particularly to animal advocacy. He spent most of the next 40 years doing things that some of us merely fantasize about.
He was one of the founding members of PETA and participated in a number of DC area demonstrations, especially those dealing with fur. For several years, he conducted a lone weekly vigil at a downtown DC fur store carrying a donated fox stole (complete with head) caught in a massive leg hold trap with welded-on steel teeth. A talented artist and craftsman, he designed and built a number of sets used in local demonstrations.
Several years ago, he became convinced that people didn't believe him, and that he could help animals more by appearing to speak out against them. At various times, the lettering on his truck would declare "Animals have no right to exist!" or "Being an animal is a crime punishable by death."
In January of 1981, during the Reagan inaugural, Alex Pacheco and I were staffing the PETA table in Lafayette Park next to the White House. Alex left to scout out the parade route for an optimal location of our banner, when off in the distance, I spotted a large menacing figure on a bicycle heading straight for our table. I ducked thinking this cowboy was really gonna get me. But he stopped just short, hugged me, and exclaimed "I was so hoping to find you guys here." That was my first encounter with Walter Rave.
In January of 1985, a bunch of us were sitting in my living room strategizing about how to deal with a U.S. Senate resolution declaring National Meat Week, when Walter exclaimed "why don't we launch a Great American Meatout?" This was the birth of what was to become the world's largest annual grass roots diet education campaign, still celebrated throughout the world each March 20th (first day of Spring).
A few years later, still in my welfare reform mindset, I did a three-day vigil confined in a veal crate behind the White House. Walter, of course, chose the night shift for guarding me. As darkness fell, we were approached by a K9 Park Police officer who informed us that he was there to arrest me, if I violated park regulations by falling asleep. Walter responded by telling the officer how much he admired his dog. Next, they were swapping stories from their common service in Vietnam. Needless to say, I did get to sleep.
Walter has been and will continue to be an inspiration to those of us who
were fortunate enough to know him.