Ira Sandperl, a world-class pacifist, teacher and book-lover, passed away early Saturday morning, his friend and former wife Molly Black reports.
Ira had turned 90 in March, but his health took a serious downturn. Molly reported that he "passed away gently into the night at 3:23 a.m. on April 13." The Friends of Ira Sandperl site has a place for messages to be posted.
Everbody knew Ira, it sometimes seemed. From his long-time perch at Kepler's Books & Magazines in Menlo Park, Calif., starting in the late 1950s, Ira held forth and did much more than simply sell books. He entertained, inspired, provoked. On occasion, it is said, he flirted. He was the early mentor in non-violence for young Joan Baez, with whom he helped start the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence in Carmel. With his great friend Roy Kepler, Ira demonstrated against the Vietnam War and went to jail for his beliefs.
As recounted in the book "Radical Chapters: Pacifist Bookseller Roy Kepler and the Paperback Revolution" Ira was "born in comfortable circumstances on March 11, 1923, the second child of a Jewish doctor and his younger wife." Ira graduated from a St. Louis prep school and enrolled at Stanford in the fall of 1941. He did not graduate, embarking instead on a journey that eventually brought him to the teachings of Gandhi.
Never one for the straight 9-to-5 world, Ira taught at the Peninsula School for a time before he joined Kepler's. He taught, as well, at Palo Alto Friends Meeting, where he came into contact with Joan Baez, Sr. and her daughter, Joan, junior.
"We, who sat in that circle, all loved Ira," Joan Baez, Sr., recounted in a memoir. "Perhaps it was the bard-like beard that belonged to his thin face, his electric eyes that focused on a questioner. Perhaps it was the limp he had lived with all his life."
Ira loved Leo Tolstoy. He told stories brilliantly. He could gossip with great flair. He had a robust sense of humor, including about himself. He loved the stage, and he loved to hear what other people had to say. He was smart as a whip, and unconventional as could be. For several years, well into his low-income retirement, he would take a seat at Cafe Borrone, next to the latest edition of Kepler's, and chat with all comers.
"He was fabulous, one of the great teachers," recalled Lee Swenson, who ran the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence in its latter years.