Jody Celestine Croce

December 7, 1953–September 26, 2022

Jody’s Memorial Service, January 21, 2023

I had planned to do a Facebook LiveStream of the entire memorial service, which would then be a video I could download, upload to YouTube and embed here, as I did the slideshow (below); but I couldn’t get it to work, and the service was commencing as I struggled with my phone, so I gave up on the plan and sat to be present for the service. The service was wonderful; the Rev. Ben Meyers did an outstanding job, and the various speakers and music were great. Later that evening my nephew David Langton shared with me several videos he shot, so we have the following clips from the service, and I’ve included below as well the text of Rev. Ben’s portions.

Parts of the Service

Rev. Ben Meyer’s Invocation and Welcome:

Good afternoon. Before I begin my words of Invocation and Welcome — and Given the Age of Technology in which we live — I need to ask each of you here to kindly take a moment and pull out any devices you have which may go off during this service and please silence or turn them off… thank you… and as you do so, I also want to invite you to stay following the service today and to get to know one another, for each of you share a great person in common in your lives. Thank you.

A Common Destiny, by David Easton:
     We know that all living substances, all substances of energy, being, and purpose, are united and share the same destiny.
     We know that all people, Those we love and those we know not of, are united and share the same destiny.
     Birth-to-Death, we share this unity with the sun, with the earth,
     With our brothers and sisters, With strangers.
     We share this destiny with flowers of the field, and snowflakes and bugs of the earth,
     With volcanoes and moonbeams and fish of the sea…With all of life.
     Our destiny: from unknown to unknown.
     O Great Spirit of Life and Love and Longing and Loss, of great mystery, enlightening discovery, and awesome wonder, May we have the faith to accept this mystery, embrace its brevity with delight, and build upon its truth with joy and wonder. So be it…
     May this be so for us this day…

Blessings of peace be with you, and thank you for being here today. My name is Ben Meyers and I welcome you to this place, the Resource-Center for Nonviolence, for this service of celebration for the life of Jody Celestine Croce, beloved daughter, sister, wife, mother, mentor and friend.

Our reason for being here today is quite simple; we gather here to acknowledge Jody’s death. Our manner of doing so will be by celebrating her life: By reveling in her unique and genuine ways of expressing and embodying the gifts —and foibles— of all that she was. When someone we love dies, especially in this case when it comes too soon, we come together with a wide range of feelings and thoughts in our hearts and minds. At times like these, when we must face death and loss, we need one another’s company for understanding and support.

Just the act of coming together and being present to one another, takes away some of our pain and loss. Doing so draws our hearts together, creating a healing balm of affinity and affirmation for those most in need of it.

Our gathering in this way, at this time, also serves to increase the depth of meaning and esteem we have for the preciousness of life…of Jody’s, and our own. And so we are here with both grief and with gratitude to remember her, and to reinforce the fact and meaning of her life. In this way, we strive to be honest with death. We will not pretend it is less than it is: it is separation. It is loss. And it has its season of grief.

But neither will we pretend death is more than it is. It is not annihilation. It is not the end. And it never has the final word. For Jody’s death is not an end to love, or laughter or gratitude for the good things in life. These will be with us, too, whenever we think of her… the ways in which she touched our lives profoundly and delightfully… That is what we are here today to do: to instill the amazingness of her life in each other’s minds and memories…

So let us join our hearts and spirits in reverence and gratitude, as Ted Altenberg, Jody’s husband, partner and mate of 36 years, comes forward to light this candle, which today, symbolizes the light and gift of her life.

We all then sang together “Morning Has Broken,” with Barb Jirsa accompanying us on the piano:

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from Heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

My oldest sister Beth Volpe read the poem The Summer’s Day, by Mary Oliver:

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Rev. Ben Meyer’s Eulogy:

In The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rimpochey writes: “life is nothing but a continuing dance of birth and death, [… Life is] a dance of change.” As in our reading earlier, Our destiny is from the Unknown of our births, to the knowing of our lives, to the unknown mystery of our deaths. From Unknown to Known to WHO KNOWS?
The loss of a loved one offers a window into this great mystery, into the circle of life and death, and asks us to take a moment to examine the meaning of our own lives. Many people focus much of their lives on the question of what happens to us after we die… “Is there life after death?” But the real question, and the question I believe Jody asked of herself was, “What kind of life will I have after BIRTH?” What I have learned of Jody is that she brought a great passion to her one wild and precious life, and lived with panache and no apology. I wish I had the chance to know her as you have-each with your own unique story to tell of how she lived with creativity and passionate connection, with boldness and kindness, creating a bond that shaped and contributed to your lives in known and unknown ways.

Truthfully, we can never fully be known by all those whom we know or love… we all are known only partially, in small facets, of who we are… and each of us have flaws or blemishes… and that is but how it is… that is part of the deal about being human.
But, there is great value in life despite its brevity. And there are blessings in our imperfections.

Each of us knows the truth of the old adage, that “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” There is beauty and value in every living thing. But it is also true that with self-awareness comes the ability to help reshape our own growth… and to be a protagonist in the story that is our life-a life shared with others by both chance encounters and intentionality. Jody lived like that… She was aware that how, and with whom, she spent the time of her life would have great influence on the quality and impact of hers, and on the lives she touched.

And so, the better part of our time together this afternoon will be for learning and sharing our love and appreciation for who she was and who she is to those gathered. We will hear from a few voices today — those who knew her, perhaps, longest and
best… but later, each of you, If you choose, you will have an opportunity to gather and to share that part of Jody that you had the chance to know… to flesh out and give depth to the many facets of the gem that she was… to share your stories of her one ‘wild and precious life.’

There is no more fitting way to pay tribute and respect to her memory and her life; We glory in life, strengthened by the faith that life is fuller when shared as members of one body of life-one sacred network of mutuality. This is a profound faith, this confidence in the connection of life, more profound than we perhaps suspect. There is no proof for it, no objective test to support it, except the living of life with the trust of its meaning manifested by the quality and manner with which we live it.

And so, we go on, no matter what befalls us, doing the right, following the true and the good as is within our power to do; Living in the grace of those who love us and whom we love as beings united in our relationship to life-reveling in the light and warmth and memory of a life well lived, and freely shared.

Let us sit with our memories and our feelings and listen to this gift of song from the Georgia Sea Islands, beautifully sung and presented for us…and then we will hear brief remarks from family and friends, beginning with Jody’s sister, Micah Langton, followed by Ted and Kevin.

This song, “I Know Moonlight, I Know Starlight,” was apparently the first song written here in North America (in the future USA) not of Native American origin and not brought here from Europe by settlers. (Sadly, due to technical difficulties, we couldn’t see the video during the service, but thee audio came through fine.)

Jody’s sister Micah spoke for a few minutes about Jody, but we don’t have it recorded.

Below is our son Kevin’s tribute to Jody — “Mom.” He started by saying, “I can’t talk, but I can sing,” then sang the spiritual “Deep River.”

And here are my comments about Jody and today’s service and reception.

Below is Lori Lindburg’s tribute to Jody.

Below is our daughter Nik reading the tribute written by Jody’s dear longtime friend Becky Green.

Below is David Foran’s tribute to Jody.

After David read his tribute to Jody, he then read the “one word tributes” that many people wrote down on little slips of paper; here they are:

Our friend Chris Haltom explains the back story and then performs his tribute song to Jody, “Beautiful Life.” (View at YouTube to see the lyrics, in the video description.)

It is Enough, by Anne Alexander Bingham, the poem read by Rev. Ben:
To know that the atoms of my body will remain
to think of them rising through the roots of a great oak to live in leaves, branches, twigs
perhaps to feed the crimson peony
the blue iris
or broccoli
Or rest on water, to freeze and thaw with the seasons…
Some atoms might become a bit of fluff on the wing of a bird to feel the breeze, to know the support of air
and some might drift up, and up, into space, star dust returning from whence it came
it is enough to know that as long as there is a universe I am a part of it. 

Rev. Ben’s Closing Words and Benediction:

Thank you for your presence here today. The family suggests that if you want to make a contribution to a fund to install a commemorative bench for Jody at the College Eight Cafe, you may do so in Jody’s memory; talk to Ted about this.

In closing, We have come today to celebrate and to bid loving farewell to Jody Celestine Croce, and this we really have only begun to do. What a gift you all have created this day the opportunity to join together and to pay loving tribute and gratitude for the life of your friend, mentor, lover, mother, sister, wife. May we continue to be touched by her warmth, her wit and her wisdom, remembering that life is good and beautiful, in spite of the challenges with which it is forever beset.

Let us be glad for all of it, and live our lives full of Spirit and purpose. This, then, will be the gift of this day…a reawakening of the one wild and precious life we have shared and will continue to share with Jody and with everyone everywhere. And so, please rise in body or spirit as you are willing or able, and hear these closing words of blessing… and then enjoy the gifts of one of Jody’s most cherished songs, and gather and linger and continue to share your stories and memories worth repeating… again and again…

Below is the slideshow that played before Jody’s memorial service, on January 21, 2023. Rather than embed the soundtrack into the video itself, here’s the playlist our friend Lynn Guenther made for the slideshow as well as the reception, following Jody’s memorial service:

Jody’s Childhood

Jody was born in Van Nuys, CA, as were her older sister and brother. Her parents moved to San Jose, CA a few years later, and then bought a small house in Ben Lomond, CA and moved in there in 1959, when Jody was 5 years old. She attended public schools throughout her education, graduating from SLV HS in 1971 and started college at UC Santa Cruz that fall.

She majored in psychology at UCSC and graduated in 1975. She held a few different jobs during and after college, and then in 1979 began serving as the manager of the College Eight Inn, the college-run coffee shop. She proceeded to manage the “Crazy Eight Inn” for 36 years, retiring on July 1, 2015.

Jody and Ted Meet and Fall In Love

The same year Jody started as manager of the College Eight Inn, I began as a freshman at UCSC, having followed my older sister Lucy out to UCSC and Santa Cruz. By the 1982–83 school year I was actively involved in a number of projects and committees associated with the Environmental Studies program, which was housed at College Eight. Thus, I was spending a lot of time at the Eight Inn (also called the College Eight Café), for meetings as well as just hanging out, since they served coffee as well as awesome sweet treats, bagels, sandwiches, soups, salads and entrees. I got to be friends with a number of the undergrad students that worked at the café. In the fall of 1983 I asked Jody for a job at the café, and she hired me. That fall Jody and I got to be friends, and learned that we work well together and really liked each other. As happens sometimes, things progressed and we became more than just friends…

I graduated UCSC in June 1984, and moved back to New England that fall, but Jody and I promised to stay in touch, as it was clear to each of us that we really liked each other and wanted to stay connected. I lived with my dad in Kittery, Maine (to where he’d moved in 1983) for a year and worked as a waiter in the dining room of a fancy coastal hotel near Kittery.

In the summer of 1985, Jody and Toni Sevilla (her assistant manager at the Café) came out to New England to visit me for a few weeks, and the three of us went on a road trip to New York City, then down to Washington, DC, visiting UCSC friends along the way.

Western Mass, summer of 1986

The next fall, having not succeeded in securing a “real” job that utilised by BA in Biology & Environmental Studies, I started grad school at U Mass Amherst, to earn an M. Ed. in science education and a teaching credential to be a HS biology teacher.

Jody again visited me in the summer of 1986, and a few days before she flew back to California for her next year of managing the Café, we discussed the future: Since I was in transition and she was settled with a good job (and her parents were both in Santa Cruz area and getting older), I agreed that I would complete my M. Ed. and credential program then move back to Santa Cruz. (She agreed that, once both her parents were gone, she’d be willing to have us move back to New England… a deal she later revoked, but that’s a story for another time…

Jody came and spent most of the summer of 1987 with me in Leverett, MA, sharing the room I’d been renting for a couple years, with around a half dozen housemates, including the builder-owner. We then packed up a U-Haul trailer with my stuff and we drove across the country in my Honda Accord, stopping in Chicago to visit her cousins on her dad’s side; we also tent camped at the base of a pyramid-shaped monument in Wyoming — on the night of the supposed “Harmonic Convergence” — and we arrived in Santa Cruz early August, less than a month before the 87–88 school year was to commence. But I lucked out and found a job teaching 7th grade science at SLV Junior HS — the same JHS Jody had attended 20 years ago!

A couple years later, we got married, on July 1, 1989; it was a beautiful outdoor wedding and folks had a blast — as did we!

Life on Clay Street

The next year, 1990, we bought a home in Santa Cruz, with a funky duplex in the backyard, so for all these decades we’ve had tenants helping to pay the mortgage. It’s a small Victorian, built in 1888 in “Eastlake Stick” style, and was originally a 1 bedroom home with a living room and a parlor; there was probably had a big ole wood burning stove in the LR — there was in fact a circular hole in the corner of the LR ceiling for the old flue… The “parlor” was now a second bedroom, and a third bedroom was in the gables in the converted attic.

A couple years after that, son Kevin was born.

And in 1995 Zoe was born.

Jody Retires in 2015

Last Updated on December 8, 2023