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
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.
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,
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
email@example.com. A representative sample will be posted on our
|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
Nathan Ward Osborn - Bicycle Courier*
Washington Post, Saturday, July 9, 2005
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
*links open in new window
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
Liz af Jochnick
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!
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
Sister of Nathan Ward Osborn
ON BEHALF OF THE EXTENDED FAMILY IN EAST TIMOR, I (QUITO)
MOURN FOR OUR FRIEND NATHAN (NATE)
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.
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.
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
Same, 20 July,
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)
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
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.
(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
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.
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
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
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
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
|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,