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In Memoriam

Nathan Osborn

It is with great sadness we commemorate the life of Nathan Osborn, one of ETAN’s longest-running and most dedicated members, who died June 16 2005, six weeks after he was diagnosed with an aggressive sarcoma cancer. Nate was completely dedicated to ETAN's work; as he liked to point out, his name is "ETAN" spelled backwards.

Nate hosted ETAN's very first lobby days training and strategy meeting in the community room of his northwest Washington apartment building in the early 1990s. Nate went on to play a memorable role in many lobby days to come. As ETAN’s resident puppeteer, he provided much-needed moments of characteristically wild humor by creating and staging an annual puppet show - skewering friend and foe alike - during lengthy trainings for ETAN’s activist lobbyists. Street theater was his forte.

Nate Osborn speaking at ETAN demonstration.  

As a 1999 referendum observer with the International Federation for East Timor Observer Project in Same, East Timor, Nate played a special role in supporting the East Timorese people as they struggled to end the Indonesian occupation of their country.

Nate was invaluable to ETAN as a key leader in the organization nationally and in its local Washington, DC chapter. A longtime member of ETAN's Executive Committee, he was always willing to do the hard, unglamorous work necessary to running an effective organization, whether that meant convening the executive committee, helping the Washington, DC office prepare for lobby days, stuffing envelopes, dropping off packets to hundreds of congressional offices, or helping to plan and publicize demonstrations at the Indonesian Embassy or State Department. He was also a charter member of ETAN's punk rock caucus, which formed at a strip mall in Tempe, Arizona.

Successful movements for social justice require people like Nate, who seek change not credit and by their example remind us that activism is not only necessary but, given a commitment that includes sharing humor, enthusiasm, and love of life, can be joyous as well. He will be deeply missed by all of us.

ETAN seeks your remembrances of Nate. Please email them to A representative sample will be posted on our website.

In remembrance of Nate, his East Timorese friends in Same were moved to start a tribute project. They have identified women in the remote sub-district of Alas as some of the neediest in the district of Same. Many of these women were widowed as a result of a massacre in 1998. The women will form a cooperative - to be called Nate's Cooperative. With donated funds, the cooperative will create a small shop where members can buy and sell their goods and basic things needed for life - such as candles, matches, oil, and soap - at a membership reduced rate. They plan to weave and to improve their weaving skills from an already identified trainer. As part of this effort, funds will be used to build a simple community house where the women can gather to weave, run trainings, and set up the shop. ETAN friends who work with nearby rural women's weaving groups report that they can hardly keep up with demand and will assist the Alas women with training and marketing. Because Nate loved to ride his bike, the fund will also provide a bicycle to any woman in the coop who would like one.

To contribute, please make a check to ETAN with 'Nate Osborn' in the memo. Send check to: ETAN  PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873, or click here to donate by credit card: 

A Local Life: Nathan Osborn
Bike Messenger Traversed City, Strove to Improve the World*
Washington Post, Sunday, July 10, 2005

Obituaries:  Nathan Ward Osborn - Bicycle Courier*
Washington Post, Saturday, July 9, 2005

Nate with his partner Daphne protest at Australian Embassy in Washington, DC in June 2004.

Read and sign Washington Post guestbook* - a  permanent site where people can share remembrances, photos, etc about the whole of Nate's life. Daphne would like Nate's friends and colleagues to post remembrances their, as well as send them to ETAN.

*links open in new window

Remembering Nate

Nate and I met in the town of Same, East Timor, where we were observers with the International Federation for East Timor for the historic 1999 referendum on independence from Indonesia.

I joined the Same observer team a few weeks before the vote, and while I can't claim that I became a close friend of Nate's, I can say that we went through as intense and incredible a time in Same and then in Dili as I have ever experienced: when the tension and fear during the run-up to the vote was transmuted to euphoria at the massive 99 percent turnout and the overwhelming result, and then gave way to fear again and anguish at the awful violence and destruction that followed. His presence was a comfort to me both when I'd first arrived, and then later when rumours and threats of violence came thick and fast and we were all scared to stay and yet scared to leave.

So while I didn't get to know Nate very well, I did find out that he was a good man, deeply devoted to East Timor, the wider political cause, but also to the individual East Timorese people that we all came to know and to admire. I believe that through his actions then and especially his long dedication before, he made an important contribution to the independence of East Timor and the East Timorese people.

I was deeply saddened when I heard the news of his death. I send my sympathies to Nate's family and loved ones.

Ramie Blatt

IFET-OP Team photo as they observe the ballots being taken by helicopter to Dili for counting from Same, East Timor, August 31, 1999. Nate is on right. Photo by Ramie Blatt.

July 14, 2005

I still can't really believe Nate is gone. Living on the other side of this continent (the U.S.) from him, I didn't get to see him enough after meeting him circa '96 or so at some ETAN-related event, undoubtedly my first lobby daze.

Nate was a really special person that I have to admit I took for granted a bit. I took for granted that there would always be, at some point, another wild mix tape or CD, along with a screamingly funny, drop-dead deadpan, but never arch, message that would always be, above all, endearing.

I can't think of too many other activist buddies that I could talk to about both London Review of Books and Eugene Chadbourne's LSD C&W. In fact, I can't think of many humans other than Nate that could stradle both those poles and many other equally improbable extremes.

I hugely regret not getting to spend more time in his always interesting, enlivening company, but I most definitely appreciate having had the chance to know him. As I talked about him to mutual friend Ed, we both realized what a straight ahead unpretentious bohemian (in the absolute best senses of that overused word) Nate was, and a real working class intellectual to boot, no mean feat. As Ed said, he was a well-adjusted oddball, and a consummate team player who never puffed his ego at the expense of others. He was an inspiration to both of us, and lately I'm realizing how much he will continue to be a huge inspiration to me.

What a great guy. My deepest condolences to all his family and friends.


Ben Terrall (San Francisco, CA )

I was fortunate to have been part of the the same observer group as Nate and many other good friends in Same, East Timor in 1999. Nate brought a brightness to the world we lived in there, and he connected in a genuine, caring way with our local friends. I never knew or asked Nate how old he was: his youthfulness was one of the things I'll always remember most about him.

I knew Nate as a humble man, who cared deeply about a cause, and worked for it tirelessly in his own creative and passionate ways. On his own -- and in solidarity with many others -- Nate took on the US and Indonesian governments for East Timor, and he won.

Sending my condolences to Nate's family and loved ones.

- Aaron Goodman

Dear Nate

The one comfort I have is hearing from all your friends. Dads always know their sons are the best but they don't very often hear that from people they never knew. You lived the life I would have loved to have lived. Thanks so much for revealing it to me.

My claim to fame is having two great sons and a great daughter. Social consciousness runs in my family but you showed how to live it.



(Howard Osborn)

Nate! How to talk of you except in metaphors! You came to me like sunshine - spread a smile through me from the inside out. warm, essential, god-given. Being with you in the semi-dark in the late night and the way you would listen to me and the gentle and intelligent and unexpected, always, things you could come up with to say. You were talking like the earth talks. you held me and my life, like the earth holds me- what an earthquake not to have you here with me. What's not to smile about you Nate? Even still. with your spirit, vision, friends, and family I get your smile and your love. and I am emphatically yours, and with great love, my darling. and great thanks.

always in love, Daphne

As the mother-in-law of Nate, I wanted to add a few comments.During the almost three years that Daphne and Nate were married,I didn't meet Nate often,and when I did it as at family reunions and holidays with many people around. Nate's deep love and adoration of Daphne was self-evident.  They were seldom apart --and yes, I also learned that Nate had a passion for East Timor, and liked yoga, biking, bus rides (especially Chinese buses), hiking, grilled  lamb,and on several occasions I was fortunate enough to taste the pizza and cinnamon buns for which he was famous...but I didn't really get to know the other side of Nate until the last few weeks of his life.  

As I sat by his bedside in the hospital, to give Daphne a rare break, we talked and I read to him--The Great Gatsby, poetry (Blake was his favorite),and various book reviews. Nate never complained about his physical condition, never wallowed in self pity,in spite of the pain he was in and the obvious deteriation of his muscles and ability to move. He showed a quiet inner strength in his courageous struggle against this terribly aggressive cancer that raged through his body.  He never gave up hope that he would recover, even when the conventional treatments failed.  

   Nate´s last words to me were "Well,I think I've finally figured it all out". I regret that I never had a chance to ask Nate what he "figured out".--I hope at some later time I will.

With love,

 Liz af Jochnick


Dear All,

It's with great sadness that I learn that one of the friends of East Timor has passed away. I first met Nate in Washington in 1997 while I was at UPENN (University of Pennsylvania) doing research. We met up in his flat in down town Washington preparing for a demo in front of the White House. He was committed to the cause and I know that he made a great contribution to the struggle of the East Timorese in the dark years of the Resistance.

We will all remember him with fondness!

Estevao (Cabral)


A brother like Nathan is precious!  I thought only Corwin and I had a brother like Nathan, but I see from the many, many comments here at ETAN and elsewhere that not just Corwin and I, not just the dear ones in Same, East Timor, but folks in many corners of the world felt and appreciated Nathan’s brother love.  How wonderful—Nathan’s love was deep and broad enough to embrace the whole world, yet active and supportive with his close family.  Someday, I look forward to hugging those sisters in the Alas, East Timor weaving cooperative!


Victoria Grace Osborn Rockman,
Sister of Nathan Ward Osborn


Firstly I want to tell Nate’s extended family, and especially his wife, that in 1999, Nate together with us struggled for our independence in East Timor, specifically in Same, and together we experienced the fierce behavior of the Indonesian military and KOPASUS (Indonesian military intelligence agency) as well as the ABLAI militia.

It was with great fear and having to face many difficulties that Nate and his friends, who were not Timorese, stayed with us until we gained our independence. At that time Nate and his friends from the IFET observer team worked hard in giving us support and courage and a feeling of trusting in ourselves in order for everyone to come down to where the voting polls were for the referendum, because at that time, we who were pro independence were threatened by the Indonesian KOPASUS in order to keep us from casting our vote in the referendum. Together we traveled to remote villages using an old car.

In the beginning of September 1999 Nate and his friends from IFET received a death threat by the TNI (Indonesian military) and militia. The threat said that their hearts would be eaten. Even though the situation at that time was very dangerous, Nate and his friends from IFET, and their team leader Inge, continued to struggle for the people of East Timor. Therefore, on behalf of the people of East Timor, and specifically from Same, I want to offer a small gift and our deep appreciation to our friend Nate who has passed on.

In August 1999 in Same, Nate asked me, ‘Do you think East Timor will be independent or not?’ But I did not answer him, and only responded with another question, ‘What do you think Nate, do you think we will gain independence? And Nate answered ‘I am sure that you will be independent!’ And it was at that point that I made a promise to the IFET team, that if we really would gain our independence, we would all together celebrate independence of East Timor on the top of Mount Ramelau, the highest mountain in East Timor. But until today we have not yet celebrated our independence together with the IFET team on top of Mt. Ramelau. Therefore with this occasion of the celebration of the life of our friend Nate after his passing, I am planning and would like to ask you to invite the entire IFET team and Nate’s wife to bring his name and a picture, which would be written in a marble stone to be placed on the top of Mt. Ramelau. The plan for this is to be between October and November 2005, depending on the request from Nate’s family, so that Nate’s name will always remain in Same.

Also we are forming a group of eight to ten  women in the village of Alas. This group will receive training in making ‘tais’ (traditional East Timorese weavings) for one to two months. This group will be called ‘NATE’S COOPERATIVE’. And because Nate loved to ride his bike, each member of Nate’s Cooperative will receive a bicycle and one permanent house will be built for the work of the cooperative. In order to build this cooperative we are estimating to need between ten and fifteen thousand U.S. dollars.

We have planned this, but don’t have the funds, and therefore by means of this letter we would request from all friends and family of Nate’s to assist in making this plan come true.

Our prayers go to Nate’s family and friends, and we trust that God has embraced Nate.

 Same, 20 July, 2005

Signed by 

Quito Costa Marcal

My heart goes out to Nathan and to all those who knew and loved him for he truly helped many others in his short but remarkable life. I may not have known him but I am one of the many Timorese he helped when he selflessly volunteered to help us cast off the shackles of tyranny and achieve our freedom as an independent nation of East Timor. My husband and I having lived in Same and Dili know of his work and contributions very well. He will long be remembered in the prayers of many Timorese. Obrigado Barak, Terima Kasih, Thank You for your sacrifice in helping us achieve our dreams of freedom.   

Durvalina Guterres Anawalt (Dili, East Timor)


I met Nate in 1998 through activism. I was listening to WPFW and heard about an East Timor demonstration down at the Indonesian embassy. I’d been reading about East Timor for a while and so I left work immediately and headed down to the embassy for the showdown. Nate was one of the first people I met there, and we both proceeded to go to jail for a couple of hours for crossing the police line. In hindsight, I think Nate was more concerned about losing a Suharto puppet than being arrested. One of the first things that I remember was that Nate was so laid back and genuinely nice. When you talked to Nate you felt like you were the only person in the world that he cared to listen to at that moment.

Soon after, I became an East Timor activist, even trying to join Nate in East Timor as a UN observer (I didn’t end up going for personal reasons). It was so inspiring to have done activism with Nate. For a while many of us kind of thought in the back of our minds that East Timor might not gain its independence but through the dedicated leaders like Nate at the forefront of the movement, East Timor is now its own country. I remember one time that we held a really small protest outside the embassy. I think it was just Nate, me and about five other dedicated protesters. A Portuguese reporter happened to be there and got a photo of Nate holding up a blood-spattered sign that I’d made. We heard later that that photo made the front page of the Jakarta press and had a big effect on the changing politics at that time in Indonesia. I remember feeling proud to have been a part of a movement that had so much momentum and even though there weren’t that many people in DC that knew the issues and were active on it, we were getting the job done.

Nate and I went to a conference on East Timor in Vermont and we were the only two people to run and dive off the end of the dock into the cold lake beneath. If Nate hadn’t been there, I don’t know if anyone would’ve gone swimming that night. It was uplifting to have someone always wanting to have fun no matter how serious the occasion.

Nate was also an active member of a small DC film club that I’d started called “The Polish Club”. We’d watch political films and discuss them afterwards. It was great to have Nate at the discussions always lending level, experienced thoughts to some of the other crazy, radical ideas that were being thrown about.

From the Polish Club, we started the Anarchist Soccer League (ASL) where Nate gained the nickname “The Blizzard of Os” after his highly energetic soccer playing skills. Nate came to almost all the pick-up matches we had and even joined us when we went to the Philadelphia Mumia Abu Jamal protest in which the ASL played soccer in the streets.

I will miss Nate tremendously. I hadn’t seen him as much as I would’ve liked in recent years but it was always comforting to know that he was out there fighting the good fight and doing exactly what he wanted. He wasn’t concerned about making lots of money or what zip code people lived in. Nate was the kind of person that makes you want to live a better life.

Nate, I’ll never forget you.   

Damon Fodge (Washington, DC )

I'm really sad to hear about Nate's death.

I didn't get to know him well, but I always had a deep admiration for him. Alot of people seek the spotlight and Nate just seem to want to do what was necessary to get something good to happen.

I remember at a dinner celebrating the independence of East Timor I happened to end up sitting closer to the "center" than Nate and I felt really dumb since Nate had done all of this crucial work on the subject and just helped out in a tangential way. I don't even think he worked "full-time" on the issue -- he had a regular job as I recall. It's just a testament to what a few people can do -- especially those here in the capital of the "empire" in DC -- if they really set themselves on a positive goal. Some people collect stamps in their spare time, Nate helped save and free an oppressed people.

-Sam Husseini

Nate -

I never met you but I wish I had.

Having read about you only after your death, I can only admire your sense of social justice, your physicality, your imagination, your dedication to the cause especially for the East Timorese people, your preparedness to do the mundane tasks as well as the spectacular.

At least you lived to see massive progress in the Timor struggle, beyond our wildest dream during the dark days of the 24 years and including the mid 1990's.  All volunteers like you, Nate, to observe the election in August 1999, defying the intimidation of the Indonesian military and their militias, are to my mind heroes, and none of these heroes have been acknowledged by governments, but we do. You are a hero Nate.

The Timor struggle has made bonds across the world, and I feel a deep sense of loss on your departing.  Please your family should know the respect in which you are held.

Rob Wesley-Smith
Australians for a Free East Timor

A brother like Nathan is precious! I thought only Corwin and I had a brother like Nathan, but I see from the many, many comments here at ETAN and elsewhere that not just Corwin and I, not just the dear ones in Same, East Timor, but folks in many corners of the world felt and appreciated Nathan’s brother love. How wonderful—Nathan’s love was deep and broad enough to embrace the whole world, yet active and supportive with his close family. Someday, I look forward to hugging those sisters in the Alas, East Timor weaving cooperative!

Victoria Grace Osborn Rockman

(Sister of Nathan Ward Osborn)

Monday, June 20, 2005

RIP Nate Osborn

On Thursday of last week, at 2:30 PM, my friend Nate Osborn died from complications related to cancer.

I met Nate through work with the East Timor Action Network, and he was one of the most devoted activists I've known. He was a "long hauler" -- he was involved for as long as I've known about East Timor; he served with the International Federation for East Timor's Observer Project; and he constantly gave his time to the endless list of tasks facing ETAN/DC.

Nate was also an indefatigably positive person (I can't recall a single instance of his having bad feelings toward anyone), and radiated a calm reassurance. He had a deadpan sense of humor, and took delight in the little things of life. After several hours of discussions and "decision making" in a conference room, Nate would lead the assembled ETANers through Tai Chi exercises to help us relax. Even after Timor Loro Sa'e won its independence and many ETAN activists turned toward other pressing concerns, I knew I could expect to see Nate at our national meetings, and I always looked forward to seeing him.

Nate was also one of the only ETAN folks who ever gave me feedback on my music. At one ETAN gathering back in the day, I brought copies of my album Viva Timor (now out of print), and sold them for $1.00 each. Nate grabbed one up right away and the next day (it was a 2-day gathering) told me how much he enjoyed it. He asked about the process I used to make the tunes, and every time I saw him, he asked about my latest work.

It's remarkably regrettable that, after nearly 10 years of working with this superb human being, the blurred, grainy photo-of-a-photo here is the only picture I have of Nate.

Good knowing you, Mr. Nate O. May you be at peace wherever you are.


Eric Piotrowski

It was only last week that i was watching footage of the rnc2000 republican convention in philly and laughing at nate's antics on a flat-bed truck loaded with mudwrestling politicians. I will always remember his impromtu, bizarre etan puppetshows during lobby days,(which were frequently loaded with inside jokes that i didn't always initially understand).

Getting to know the generous, patient, creative spirit behind the masks (or below the stage) during those days was a blessing that I carry with me.

Nate will continue to be an inspiritation to bicycling puppetistas in atlanta,

with great sadness,

warren goodwin
atlanta, ga





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