1961 - 2001
||"We will surely miss her and in her name, and in her memory, and in her honour we must ensure that her work goes on. We must all redouble our efforts - actually with all of us doubling our efforts we might come up to half of what Irene could do"|
Irene Kock, long time anti-nuclear activist, environmental organizer and friend and colleague to so many in the Great Lakes basin, died in a tragic car accident on New Years Eve, 2001.
Irene grew up in the Sarnia area, part of a family gardening business. Schooled in horticulture, Irene worked as a gardener in her earlier years, before making a full-time commitment to her work with Nuclear Awareness Project, Durham Nuclear Awareness, and - more recently - as part of the Nuclear Campaign of the Sierra Club of Canada.
Her strengths were many. A formidable researcher, Irene learned her way through the information mazes of Ontario Hydro with a skill and depth of understanding that is unmatched. And what she did with what she learned was awe-inspiring, compiling reports and debunking the nuclear myths generated by the utilities p.r. machine, and providing the world with a solid, reliable and thoroughly readable analysis of the nuclear industry. In recent years, Irene had taken on the federal nuclear regulating body and had wrenched open the doors for others to follow, bringing citizens' interventions into the previously private conversation between the nuclear utilities and their regulators.
Irene was also one of the most skilled organizers in Ontario, and had been an integral part of the Ontario Environment Network for two decades. Just a few weeks before her death, Irene hosted the Ontario Environment Network's 20th Anniversary celebration.
She took on the tasks from which many shied away. One of her earliest campaigns was against food irradiation, and it is to her personal credit that there is still no food irradiation in Canada. But she also took on the tough job of bookkeeping (for four organizations at the time of her death), facilitating meetings among her many headstrong colleagues, and of doing the endless hours of tracking required to keep on top of the nuclear establishment.
Irene was more than all these things. She was a gardener, sister, daughter, and paddler. She was the life partner to Dave Martin, her long time colleague at Nuclear Awareness Project. She was the person to call to celebrate with when there was good news, and to commiserate with when the news was not so good. But no news has ever been as hard as that of her death the evening of December 31st, 2001, or ever will be.
We loved her, we celebrate her, and we will
miss her more than can possibly be written.
Tread lightly in her footsteps,
Tread lightly in her footsteps,
Gone too soon, you ask? A wasted
Tread lightly in her footsteps,
Tread gently in the footsteps
of she who trod so lightly on the earth.
January 5th, 2002
from Elizabeth May
First, I want to thank Irene's family for the honour of being asked to share my thoughts about Irene with all of you. So many of her friends and family and colleagues are here. It is just a tremendous tribute to the impact she had on our lives. To speak of her knowing that we'll miss her for the rest of our lives.
It was an enormous privilege to work with Irene. She had rare gifts that will be sorely missed. When I think of Irene and her work, certain qualities come to mind:
Her complete dedication, her unflagging commitment;
Her relentless pursuit of the truth;
Her capacity for painstaking researchà Just a few moments ago, speaking to one of the many people Irene helped in community struggles, Tom Lawson from Port Hope, said, "What will we do without Irene? Who else will go through those twenty volumes of garbage and tell us what's useful?"
Her uncompromising critique;
She had something quite rare in the environmental movement - a nearly complete lack of ego. I cannot imagine Irene ever giving a thought for who would get the credit for her work.
She was simply a gracious and beautiful presence.
She won the respect of everyone with whom she dealt. In the last few days, we have received letters and calls from people in the industry, from OPG and others we might think of as the "Dark Side." The Mayor of Pickering spoke of his respect for her. And so many people have come today. Judith drove from Pennsylvania, picking up anti-nuclear campaigners from Washington D.C. who had flown as far as Buffalo. People are here from the world of politics and the media. And all of us from her larger extended "anti-nuclear family".
The name "Irene" comes from the Greek for :peace."
She brought a peaceful presence to a movement that is often frenetic. She brought a sense of harmony to discord. Her death ù so untimely, so unexpected, so unbearable ù leaves a large hole in the environmental movement.
More than that, it leaves a large hole in our lives and in our hearts.
For many, that hole must seem so large, that it is hard to imagine any space around it in which life can go on.
Irene lived life to the fullest, campaigning against exposure to substances with half lives. Irene never lived life by half. Her spirit and her love and her energy - like our love for her - cannot dissipate by halves, but will stay with us.
We will surely miss her and in her name, and in her memory, and in her honour we must ensure that her work goes on. We must all redouble our efforts - actually with all of us doubling our efforts we might come up to half of what Irene could do.
Losing her so suddenly, I wonder if I told her often enough how much I valued her, and how proud I was to be working with her and with Dave, who has to bear so much larger a pain than the rest of us. I think she knew how thrilled I was they had come to work with Sierra Club. I hope I told her often enough. But it made me realize how important it is to tell each other now, how important we are to each other ù to be constantly grateful for each other.
We must hang on to each other and love each other and Thank Irene and Thank God for all that she shared with us.
I'll miss you Irene.
(sung to the tune of Goodnight Irene by Woody Guthrie)
Irene, goodnight, Irene
Sometimes we win the struggle
She loved the earth but not
Sometimes she'd fight nuke power
She fought against nuclear nonsense
With the hardest facts and softest
Some folks like to split atoms
We'll miss her at Bruce A and
She called for nuclear phase-out
Irene, we join in grieving
Friend, sister, companion
Remember her calm demeanor
Chorus x 2
5 January 2002
Irene's Presentations to the Seaborn Panel's Nuclear Fuel Waste Management and Disposal Concept Public Hearings
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