Obituary by Jeff Paterson (originally published November 27, 2021)
Courage to Resist is deeply saddened by the passing of our friend and comrade Robert “Bob” Meola. Bob was well known throughout the San Francisco Bay Area for his lifelong commitment to anti-militarism efforts.
Bob delighted in listening to–and resembling–Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, attending Giants baseball games on cold San Francisco nights, enjoying quality red wine, pizza and cannabis, the San Francisco opera, and being a stay-at-home dad, homeschooling Sofia in her early years.
He joined Courage to Resist in 2008 and rarely missed a meeting or event. From 2010 to 2017, Bob served on the Steering Committee of the Chelsea Manning Support Network, which successfully funded the legal defense for–and eventually won the release of–the imprisoned WikiLeaks whistleblower by way of clemency by President Obama.
Bob Meola reads a statement for International Conscientious Objectors’ Day, May 15, 2020.
For years, Bob served as a War Resisters League (WRL) National Committee Member, and the public contact for WRL-West. In 2009, he played a key role in the adoption by WRL of its current position statement in support of all forms of resistance to conscription and militarism. Bob was a founder of Southern California War Resisters’ League and Southern California War Tax Resistance.
He was well known locally for his 16 years on the City of Berkeley’s Peace and Justice Commission, serving as chairperson from 2008 to 2010. After helping pass a city resolution against military recruiting in 2008 that garnered national attention, he appeared on the “Daily Show with Jon Stewart”–something strangers on the street would recognize him for years later, which he found amusing.
On the Commission, Bob championed many human rights issues, police accountability, support for whistleblowers, the closure of Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and for Berkeley to become a “No Drone Zone.” One of the last events he was able to attend in person was a rally for Julian Assange of WikiLeaks who faces extradition to the US for publishing classified documents pertaining to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bob received a Juris Doctor degree from the New College of California School of Law, San Francisco, in 1989. He graduated from James Madison College at Michigan State University with a B.A. degree in Justice, Morality and Constitutional Democracy in 1972; after graduating from Grosse Pointe High School, Michigan, in 1968.
At MSU, he was a member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and 30 years later, he was a central figure in the Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS) who attempted to be supportive to youth seeking “a new left movement”.
Over the last ten years, Bob became a scholar of the Spanish Civil War and was a primary participant in the Movement for an Anarchist Society, a study group that focused on the writings of 19th Century thinkers. On social media, Bob proclaimed, “The empire will fall. Work now to build a nonviolent anarchist-communist revolution. Long live Anarchy! Love, peace, anarchy.”
A friend of nearly 50 years, Steve Leeds remembers, “Bob was deeply caring about family, friends, community, and building a more peaceful and just world. I still remember our first conversation and Bob’s infectious laugh.”
Bob Meola with fellow Courage to Resist organizers at SF Giants baseball games.
While I remember countless earnest political debates with Bob–spanning events we organized together in the SF Bay Area, to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to Fort Meade, Maryland–it’s cheering on the SF Giants during payoff runs that I’ll remember most–usually from the first row above left field, up on the third deck.
Bob identified as a “HinJew” based on his practice of both Hinduism and Judaism. He found strong connection with Indian spiritual leaders Shirdi Sai Baba and Ammachi, as well as with the Bay Area Jewish community. Bob was also a co-founding minister of the religious humanist Objector Church in 2018.
Since 2007, Bob organized the Annual Berkeley Conscientious Objectors’ and War Resisters’ Day. Sponsored by the City of Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, the gatherings are held at the flagpoles in front of City Hall in honor of International Conscientious Objectors’ Day.
City Council Members Remember Bob Meola
Bob Meola Memorial Peace Flag Raising; Monday, May 16, 2022
Bob Meola Memorial Celebration of Life; Sunday, April 10, 2022
Over a hundred of Bob’s friends and family members held a memorial dedicated to celebrating Bob’s life at Urban Adamah, Berkeley, California.
If you knew Bob, you are invited to leave a remembrance below in the comments.
I met Bob in 1977 in LA thru the Alliance for Survival, an anti-nuclear group. Bob was living in Echo Park while studying at Peoples College of Law. He spent many nights at the Deja Vu Cafe which was a late night coffee house run by his beatnik pal Smitty who called Bob “Holy Man”. Bob eventually moved north first to Santa Cruz and then to Berkeley. He married Susan, the love of his life. Together they raised Sofia. Over the years we stayed in touch and got together on many occasions. Throughout his illness Bob kept his sense of humor and perspective. I will miss you Bob! –Dave Iumi
Bob was notable for his kindness and his principles. He was an incredibly devoted dad and a warm-hearted friend. I send my love to Sue and Sofia. –Cyndi Berck
I loved Bob. He was such a beautiful person, full of life and joy. I miss him as he was my special old friend. Let’s find ways to give to his love, Sue and Sofia. –Mindy Geminder
Bob was a dear friend, a roommate for several years, present at the home birth of my son and and a loving non -blood uncle and comrade. I shall deeply miss him. –Beth Abrams
A genuinely kind and caring soul with great courage. He will be missed. –Tracy Rosenbegr
I have known Bob and his family since 1966 or 1967 when he and I were in the “Sunshine Wind Children” light show while attending Grosse Pointe High School. He was a true flower child who never strayed from our “hippie” beginnings and philosophy. He lived what he preached and preached how he lived. I spoke with him at length just several weeks ago and am extremely saddened by the news of his passing. My heart goes out to “Mama” Meola, his sisters Michelle and Debbie, his wife Sue and daughter Sophie. Thanks, Bob, for teaching me how to play Boccie ball. –Jonathan James
I met Bob out in front of City Lights Books. I ran into him again in Santa Cruz where I crashed on his floor at the Frog Farm. We bonded over the beatnik spirit. He is one of my best friends in life. –Jim Ryan