Larry Harvey, whose whimsical decision to erect a giant wooden figure and then burn it to the ground led to the popular, long-running counterculture celebration known as “Burning Man,” has died. He was 70.
Harvey died at a hospital in San Francisco surrounded by family, Burning Man Project CEO Marian Goodell said. The cause was not immediately known, but he had suffered a stroke earlier this month.
Longtime friend Stuart Mangrum posted on the organization’s website that Harvey did not believe in any sort of existence after death.
“Now that he’s gone, let’s take the liberty of contradicting him, and keep his memory alive in our hearts, our thoughts and our actions,” Mangrum wrote. “As he would have wished it, let us always ‘Burn the Man.’”
The creator of the annual week-long summer festival in northern Nevada’s Black Rock Desert was hospitalized April 4 after suffering a massive stroke. The Burning Man organization did not disclose his prognosis, only saying that he was getting round-the-clock care.
Burning Man takes place annually the week before Labor Day, attracting some 70,000 people who pay anywhere from $425 to $1,200 a ticket to travel to a dry lake bed 100 miles east of Reno, where temperatures can routinely reach 100 degrees during the summer. There they must carry in their own food, build their own makeshift community and engage in whatever interests them.
On the gathering’s penultimate day, the titular giant effigy—or “Man,” as it is known—is set ablaze during a raucous, joyful celebration.
“A city in the desert. A culture of possibility. A network of dreamers and doers,” is how the gathering is described on Burning Man’s website.
An “esoteric mix of pagan fire ritual and sci-fi Dada circus where some paint their bodies, bang drums, dance naked and wear costumes that would draw stares in a Mardi Gras parade” is how Associated Press once described the gathering.
While tickets now sell out immediately, Harvey described in a 2007 interview how he had much more modest intentions when he launched Burning Man on San Francisco’s Baker Beach one summer day in 1986.
“I called a friend and said, ‘Let’s go to the beach and burn a man,’” he told the website Green Living. “And he said, ‘Can you say that again?’ And I did, and we did it.”
It wasn’t until afterward, Harvey recalled, that he had the epiphany that led to Burning Man.
“What really changed my life and what in some sense gave birth to the rest of my life and career is the fact that suddenly all these people on that beach, who we didn’t know—strangers, came running towards that figure,” he said. “The spectacle was fine, but it was people who joined us in such a heartfelt and instantaneous way. It opened our hearts, and that’s what made us feel and know in the end that we had to do it and keep doing it.”
Within a few years, the event had outgrown Baker Beach and moved to the desert.
While Harvey would speak frequently about Burning Man in the years that followed, he would reveal little about himself, and it was often hard to discern truth from fiction.
He believed he was conceived in the back of a Chevrolet by parents who abandoned him soon after his birth, he once told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Adopted by potato farmers and raised near Portland, Oregon, he said he hitchhiked to San Francisco at age 17, arriving just as the 1965 Summer of Love was ending.
After that first fire in 1986, Burning Man flourished as Harvey meticulously oversaw its every detail from the various communities that would spring up overnight to its annual arts theme to the beautifully crafted temple that accompanies Burning Man (and is also burned).
He laid out 10 principles for those who attend, including interacting and sharing unselfishly with one another, developing self-reliance and, after the event’s conclusion, leaving the desert landscape unspoiled.
Harvey eventually formed a limited liability corporation to put on Burning Man, converting it in 2013 to a nonprofit with 70 employees and a budget of $30 million. He was president of its board and “chief philosophic officer.”
Although known for retaining its joyful, celebrative atmosphere as it grew from a small gathering to one of gigantic proportions, Burning Man occasionally had its problems.
In 2017, a man ran into Burning Man’s flames, suffered burns over almost all his body and died. In 1996, three people were injured when a drunken driver ran over their tent. That same year a man was killed when his motorcycle collided with a van carrying people to the festival.
In 2007, a prankster set fire to Burning Man four days early and it had to be frantically rebuilt while the man was charged with arson.
After the 1996 troubles, Harvey had a falling out with John Law, who had co-founded Burning Man with him and who sued to have its trademark placed in the public domain. They settled out of court, and Harvey retained control.
“We don’t use the trademark to market anything. It’s our identity,” said Harvey, who often spoke against the commodification of popular culture.
Written by John Rogers and Janie Har, Associated Press.
Sept. 29, 1949–April 11, 2018
Judith “Judy” (Thompson) Edtl of Woodburn passed away peacefully April 11, 2018, at her home with her loving husband and son. She was 68 years old. After 10 years, Judy lost her life to metastatic breast cancer. Judy was a lifelong educator teaching in Springfield, Parkrose and Tigard school districts.
Judy is survived by her husband of 31 years, David; son, Erick; stepson, Ben; sister, Pati (Thompson) McDougall; brother, Kenny Thompson; aunt and uncle, Darrell and Jeannine Burns; and several cousins, nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, Tommy and Cathy (McRae) Thompson.
A celebration of life has been held.
Memorial contributions in Judy’s memory may be made to Susan G. Komen at info-komen.org/goto/inmemoryofjudy.
Please sign the online guest book atoregonlive.com/obits.
Alice E. (Jones) Stewart
July 2, 1926–April 21, 2018
Alice Edna Stewart, age 91, of Portland passed away Saturday, April 21, 2018. Alice was born July 2, 1926.
She worked as a math aid at Parkrose Fremont Junior High School (now Parkrose Middle School) from 1975 to 1989. Daughter Elaine Stewart Pflaum graduated from Parkrose High School in 1973.
A memorial service has been held. Please sign the online guest book at oregonlive.com/obits.
Published previously in The Oregonian.
Patricia (Quinn) McKinley
March 16, 1951–May 6, 2018
Patricia Mary McKinley passed away Sunday, May 6, after a battle with pancreatitis. Patty (PQ) was born March 16, 1951, to Helen and Harry Quinn and grew up in Portland attending Parkrose High School. After graduation she became a University of Oregon Duck in the fall of 1969, joining the sisterhood of Sigma Kappa Sorority, where she met lifelong friends. She stayed in Eugene for two years after graduation and worked at various jobs until returning to Portland. Her field of study was architecture and later English, and she developed a lifelong interest in learning, still relishing taking writing classes in recent years. She recently started attending Sigma Kappa reunions, enjoying reconnecting with “sisters” and memories of college days. Her weekly volunteering at Mainspring soon became a passion for the plight of those in need.
She lost the love of her life, her husband, Larry McKinley, after 25 years together. Larry, his children, Michelle Chin and Kristine Faletoi, and seven grandchildren became her family and a very important part of her life. She is survived by her “furever” companion, Mason, who enjoyed taking her to the local dog park and on neighborhood jaunts, followed by lap-sitting while watching murder mysteries or pawing the pages as she dove into a good mystery.
She leaves a web of great friends from all corners of her life, including those from Standard Insurance and in her capacity as a realtor with Century 21. Being a realtor was a job she loved and was a perfect match for her personality. She traveled some, visiting friends in Alaska and Arizona. She loved the Oregon coast, but she loved coming back home the most.
Patty was a true “people person,” genuinely intent on appreciating everything about each person she encountered and what they did, thought and hoped for. She loved a rousing discussion, sometimes arguing the opposite side just to balance the conversation, no matter where her true opinion lay.
She was always upbeat and enjoying everything life had to offer. She loved to laugh and did so often. Patty was the energy, the sparkle, the vitality to her group of friends and family. We will miss her smile and outgoing spirit and cherish the time we had as part of her life.
Gerhard Gustave “Gary Poppinga”
March 26, 1926–May 8, 2018
Gerhard Gustave “Gary” Poppinga passed away unexpectedly from complications Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Gary will be dearly missed by his wife of 67 years, Norma Jean, and his children, David (Yvonne), Kim (Scott) and Thomas, as well as 11 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his loving daughter, Karen, in 2011.
Gary was born in Portland and raised in Hubbard until his parents moved to Ohio when Gary was 16. He then enrolled at Wheaton College Academy for high school. After high school he completed the U.S. Naval Academy’s Flight Training Program, then graduated from Wheaton College with a degree in mathematics. Later he completed a master’s program at Colorado State.
Post college graduation, he returned to the Northwest to complete a teaching certificate at the University of Oregon, where he met Norma Begg, whom he married in August 1951. Gary and Norma later served as missionaries at Faith Academy, a boarding school for missionary kids. They were at Faith for nine years, where Gary had a tremendous impact as teacher and superintendent. He was honored later in life with a portion of Faith Academy being named Poppinga Hall.
Upon their permanent return to the states in 1967, Gary taught math for 19 years for the Parkrose School district at the junior high and high school. Gary served various times as department chair, coach and athletic director.
He was not a man of material things but cherished the intangible. He was devoted to Norma, family and friends, loved to work and was passionate about the outdoors. He often had the best of two worlds when he and Norma would host family barbeques in their backyard overlooking Grant Park.
He climbed every mountain in Oregon and continued hiking into his 80s. Many hikes were enjoyed with family or friends. One of his most treasured hikes was a six-year-long completion (in segments) of the Oregon Coast Trail, which he shared with his beloved brother Jay and dear friend Bob Finzer.
Jesus Christ was the center of who Gary was. He led a life in true relationship with Christ, and he and Norma demonstrated countless acts of generosity. Gary was a servant at heart and served many years as chairman of the board of deacons at both Evangel Baptist and Hinson churches. Every person who got to know and love Gary experienced his mark of integrity. He and Norma formed many deep friendships over their 67 years together. They often talked of friends, not places, from days at Faith Academy, Evangel, Hinson and then Hollywood Park Plaza. Gary’s wry sense of humor kept Norma laughing, especially in his later years, when he was ever so grateful for Norma’s love and care.
A private service will be held later. Gary requested any remembrances to be made to either Wheaton College or Faith Academy. Please sign the online guest book at oregonlive.com/obits.
Published previously in The Oregonian.
Wanda E. Graber
Nov. 12, 1927–May 12, 2018
Wanda E. Graber, 90, of Portland, passed away May 12, 2018. Wanda was born in Hunter, Kansas, to Ralph and Mary Lemmons, and she was raised with four siblings. Wanda married Eugene Graber in 1945, and together they raised two children. She retired from the Parkrose School District after 27 years of service.
Wanda was preceded in death by her parents and her siblings, Wilma, Loren, Lyle and Wava. She is survived by her husband of 72 years, Eugene; daughters, Marla and Mary Ann (Robin Lisk); and grandson, Martin Lisk. Donations may be made to House Call Providers Hospice or Cherry Park Presbyterian Church in Troutdale.
Published previously in The Oregonian.
Irma Marie Luchini
Nov. 2, 1956–May 13, 2018
Irma Marie Luchini died in her home from natural causes at the age of 61 on May 13, 2018. Irma was born Nov. 2, 1956, in Portland, the daughter of Anthony J. and Margaret Lucile Luchini.
Irma attended James Madison High School and Parkrose High School, thriving in the theater department where her love of acting first bloomed. She then went on to complete an associate of applied acience segree in radio and television communications at Portland Community College. Irma’s creative career endeavors included modeling, acting and graphic design.
Irma is survived by her daughter, Sophia Garcia; sisters, Pamelia Luchini, Sonja Luchini and Alexandra Robinson; and a niece, two nephews and several other relatives and close friends.
Please sign the online guest book at oregonlive.com/obits.
Published previously in The Oregonian.