By Roxane Ramos
From my very first week as a CSA member (and later as a volunteer), I had a platonic crush on Philippe that, even after a dozen years of friendship, never dissipated. It was that feeling of wanting to get to know someone, become their friend and hang out, perhaps acquire some of their shining qualities through mere proximity. Philippe had many, revealed over time through countless conversations (some in two-minute installments between egg purchases and cheese pickups), occasional meals and martinis, and when his terminal diagnosis hit, regular deliveries of flan, a dessert he relished and allowed for despite his no-sugar diet.
Though cancer was an unavoidable fact of the last few years, it didn’t define him; as he contemplated death, he remained true to his philosophy of life — staying open, learning, sharing, honoring his connection to the wider world. To say that this was Philippe’s natural inclination, treating cancer as a teacher and travel companion on the journey, is not to say it was easy. He struggled with existential and administrative matters and endured too much pain, but nevertheless would celebrate that first carnation, note the changing Sonoran seasons, call with a spontaneous invitation to dinner because he’d just whipped up a big vat of waterzooi, a delicious Belgian stew. Unwittingly, he followed the advice of Cervantes, who tilted at windmills but believed in impossible dreams (Philippe smiled when I eventually told him of this quote): “Until death, it is all life.”
How lucky we were that he landed in our city, put down roots and, inspired by his boyhood memories of homegrown produce and local livestock, corralled like-minded Tucsonans to start a CSA, grounded in those most basic human needs — food and community. He was the hub, yet he made us all feel so central to the endeavor. Whatever Philippe might be in the middle of, he turned his attention to anyone who strolled by or stopped to chat. He delighted in the antics of all the CSA kids, watching them grow up, and welcomed every fur baby. (In short order, he became Tío Pepe to my own pup and cats.) His hospitality was as much at the heart of Tucson CSA as his organizational knowhow and vision. With a small cohort of dedicated locavores, he built it and we came. Along with his lasting friendships spanning the globe, his network of neighbors and friends nearby, and his decades-long commitment to his husband Paul, CSA is part of Philippe’s legacy.
The love outlives the life. I miss my friend terribly — his generosity, grace, and frequent laughter (how he loved a funny cat meme or Gary Larson cartoon!) — and seek solace wherever it arises. Dog walks, familiar recipes, wise friends, our wild sky. From a book about the lessons of impermanence (The Five Invitations by Frank Ostaseski), I recall the words of a woman who, after many years of child-rearing and outdoor adventures with her husband and weeks by his bedside in hospice, reflected when he died, “I thought I was losing him, but he is everywhere.” As we enter our time of remembrance here in the borderlands, amidst the desert’s beauty, at community gatherings, and bearing our collective grief and gratitude together, that sounds right.
Please join us this week in remembering Philippe with an ofrenda.
If you would like to make a contribution in his name, here are two suggestions that align with Philippe’s values:
1. Write a check to Tucson CSA for the CS-Aid Fund to specifically support low-income members
2. Make a tax-deductible contribution to Iskashitaa Refugee Network, one of our long-term partners working to reduce food waste while providing refugees with resources and community connections in the Tucson area.