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Peter Ross
b. September 8, 1953. - d. Oct 7, 2002

Suzanne Schneider & Peter Ross
"Truth Monkey" 1985 
by Stephen Goodfellow

Obituary - San Francisco Chronicle
Obituary - Detroit Free Press, News


Stephen Goodfellow remembers:
I met Peter sometime in the late 70's. Truth to tell, when you first met Peter, he definitely did not come across as the most jovial of fellows, but as one came to know him, it was hard not to enjoy his wry sense of humor and keen powers of observation.
Initially, he bought a small drawing from me which - as a budding artist in need of cash - I appreciated a great deal. Peter was a man who could mercilessly tongue-lash art that he thought less than sterling at the drop of a hat, so it was very gratifying that he would actually appreciate my work enough to buy it. As a young artist with few sales to my name, it gave me great confidence.
A year or so later, I met him walking across Warren on Cass. We fell into conversation and I immediately sensed that he was depressed. I mentioned this observation to him, and he told me that his house had burnt down, destroying all his belongings, including the art work that he had purchased from me. 
Moved by this terrible misfortune, I gave him an artwork replacement at no cost, which seemed to brighten his spirits.
A few years later, Suzanne Schneider and Peter commissioned me to do a painting (See above) of the two of them together with the "Truth Monkey", a sculpture around which lies should/could not be told.
"We're just good friends" they told me, and indeed - it became a deep friendship that spanned decades.
Peter and Suzanne moved to Philadelphia and were there from 1986 till 1996, then moved to San Francisco. Sadly, I have seen neither face for many a year. But not a month would go by without my thinking about them and wishing them well.

Suzanne emailed me today and told me that Peter had passed away. I am mortified. I don't know why, but I find myself thinking about the last words Oscar Wilde said before he died,

"This wallpaper is killing me. One of us has to go"

It's just the sort of comment I think Peter might have made.
Fare you well, Peter. It is a richer World for your having graced it with your presence.

Claire Crabtree Remembers:

Years ago, before he met Suzanne, Peter would occasionally invite me, a beleaguered single mother and grad student, who inherited my father's Irish sentimentalism and resisted my mother's even more Irish cynicism, to a movie he was to review. One turned out to be "Terms of Endearment." As I sobbed, awash in damp Kleenex (after soaking his proffered, perfect handkerchief), I turned to him and whispered, "Peter, even boys can cry."
"Yes," Peter replied, eyes on the screen and the slightest smile curling the edge of his mouth, "but film critics can't."

Peter, I miss your sentimental-sardonic self every day.

Luann Rouff Remembers:  
My parents went to high school with Peter Ross's father, and my sister and I periodically had supper with the Ross family when we were young children.
The years went by, each child going his or her own way, and it wasn't until five years ago that I ran into Peter at the airport when we were on the same flight back to San Francisco. I had my toddler son with me, and was traveling alone, and Peter grabbed all my bags and helped us get settled.
Later, midway through the flight, Peter found me again to see if he could be of use in any way. We got together a few times after that, and began an e-mail friendship that kept us both amused. I loved Peter's fine mind and his sharp wit, and I teased him about his strongly held opinions and judgments. On a recent visit to my house, Peter noticed some CDs lying around and mentioned that I always displayed "such good taste in music."
"Why?" I shot back, "because it matches yours?" I think he smiled. Although I didn't really know him long enough or well enough, I clearly saw into his heart, which, big as it was, couldn't contain all the sadness in this world.
I miss you, Peter.

Annegret Stoetges remembers:
When I thought about things "after the fact" I realized that I have known Peter "forever", i.e. for almost all of my life in America. We taught together in the old composition clinic, which, of course, now has made room for new townhouses, we took in some jazz at Union Street (Peter always with mentholed cigarillo in hand), shared Wayne State's gossip and a vein for nostalgia.

Peter always has been a very generous friend to me. When I was down and out for a while and thinking about leaving this country forever, he took me in for weeks and tolerated my listening to the same Bob Dylan song over and again. I am sure, I burnt this particular record of his to dust. I, in turn, sentimentalized with him to the tunes of Patti Smith, his all time favorite!

Although he moved away, we always stayed in touch and visited each other.
There were 6 o'clock bat watches in Pennsylvania, nightly walks from his and Suzanne's apartment in San Francisco and the occasional bold moped tour through the hilly, foggy terrains of that very city he really called home on his visit here in August.

Strange as it may seem, Peter was an emotional "comfort rock" for me. I could always count on him to listen to me, make a wisecrack or answer some banal question about Americana for me.

I will miss Peter dearly! Coming to think of it, the last joke he sent me a couple of weeks ago was - of course - about cats!!!

Annegret, the German from the English Department.

John McCormick remembers:


You dapper, witty, courteous, generous, brilliant, kind-hearted bastard...

I will think of you often for the rest of my life, and train myself to be
not too saddened when I do so. I will semi-reverently smoke the four packs of Shermans' you injudiciously left behind -- a $20 value, I reckon.

Your spirit won't dissipate like your cigs' smoke, I know. You were loved by a whole shitload of fine people, and you'll live on in us. Whether the actual "you" is just plain dead & gone; is reincarnated as a tree, a bedbug, a kiwi, a housecat or a sultan; or is floating around hither & thither like a cloud with eyes, ears and a jet engine affixed, I don't know. But if you're simply disembodied, my friend, be no longer troubled.

Cindy Bala-Brusilow remembers:

Peter was married to my mom for most of my adult life and was
my friend (which is much better than being a "stepfather) until his illness unfortunately drove us apart. He taught me about pottery, fiesta-ware, old movies, good beer and saved me from joining a political cult masking as a buddhist study group. His sense of humor at its best was rivaled by none.
He loved my 4 year old twin sons without reserve. When he
was helping me out when they were about 3 months old, he used
to prop them up in front on old b/w foreign movies while fixing their bottles at 5 am - none of this Sesame Street nonsense for Peter. I'm sorry they won't be able to benefit from his humor and wisdom as they grow.

Goodbye Peter and while this will make you cringe - you are in our prayers and we wish you peace & love in God.

Cindy, Bill, Nick, Sam & Isabelle

Paula Schneider Huot remembers:

Where to begin my memories of Peter.... he captured my sister's heart, and that was enough for him to capture mine. In grieving for Peter, I needed to eulogize him with someone but alas no one who loved him and appreciated him was close at hand. So I met a good friend who knew I needed him at that moment. My private eulogy began at a local coffee shop in New Orleans. I described Peter as intelligent, witty, eccentric, a collector of all sorts, a writer, a critic, and a cat lover. Physically, a small framed man reminiscent of a English or History professor stuck somewhere in the past. I could not attribute his dress to any particular era but described his tweeds, caps, scarves and bowties. I told my friend that Peter would converse on a broad range of subjects, and have some fascinating perspectives. I shared a few gems with him over the next hour.

Well, my friend and I cried together and laughed together, and then he said, "Paula, I feel like I know Peter, I surely would have liked him, and know you grieve."

Lee (Fournier) Sandweiss remembers:

What I admired most about Peter was his compassionate and generous spirit toward any creature--two- or four-legged--that was vulnerable, at-risk, outcast, on the fringe. I member the sapphire sky and biting cold
of Christmas morning 1981, when he and I delivered "Meals on Wheels" to shut-ins in the Cass Corridor, his VW beetle fishtailing through the ruts in the unplowed Detroit streets, snow drifts 5 feet high everywhere. Animals, too, perceived his gentle and nurturing character. My cat, Motown, a stray calico from the GM Poletown development, was malnourished when I got her and wary of everyone, except her personal caterer, Peter, who never failed to
bring her a little foil packet of some delicacy--turkey, salmon, sole, prime rib. They were the best of buddies, although she scorned other visitors.
Andy Warhol had nothing on Peter when it came to shopping. Going to a flea market with Peter was an intense learning experience, because he had his finger on the pulse of material culture and never failed to discern upcoming trends and what would become collectable. The 1950s furniture he pointed out to me at flea markets back in the early 80s now sells for 10-20 times what it did back then. Ditto the California copper costume jewelry that he said I should snare whenever possible. My collection of furniture,
art, and personal items was greatly influenced by Peter's astute judgement and discriminating aesthetic sense. He taught me a great deal, including how to tie a men's bow tie--a skill that doesn't come in handy that often, but never fails to impress.
As anyone who was close to Peter knows, it wasn't pretty when you got on his bad side. His middle initial could have been J--for Judgmental. He held me personally responsible for Ronald Reagan winning the election in 1980, because I had shamefacedly admitted that I hadn't voted. He periodically harped about it through Reagan's two terms; it worked: I have never failed to do my civic duty since. It was easy for Peter to become disappointed in others, because he had such lofty moral and ethical standards. Yet, he applied those standards to himself relentlessly and always gave himself a
failing grade. There was no gray zone with Peter. The world was made of binary oppositions.
As I told Peter's and my dear friend, Tyrone Williams, who had the
difficult task of calling me with the news of his death, "I cannot imagine the world without Peter in it." None of us can.

Lee Dennis, KY (formally Lee Becker) remembers:

I came to know - communicate - with Peter after my husbands death in 1991. I had met Peter only one time when he still lived at his parents house, before I had met my husband. He may have been around here and there at assorted functions, BufeLand, the 10 mile House or the White Lake House back in the 70's, but I don't recall. I found it interesting that he took enough time to communicate with me, even though he didn't know me. He would always ask me if I would remember this person or if I knew of a particular person that went to Ferndale. We talked on the phone, we did snail mail, which became email later. The last thing he emailed me, which I will treasure forever, are a few pictures of himself with Tony Bleecker from the 70's, in his Bow-Ties! I'm sure going to miss his wit, his emails and jokes!

Tyrone Williams remembers:

There are no words for the gifts--intellectual, ethical and material--Peter bequeathed to me, for the memories of our talks, meals, visits, trips...Something in me has died...

Ann Beckom remembers:

 Suzanne and I met on one of those unexpected crossroads and became friends for as long as it took her to smoke a cigarette and both of us to enjoy a cappucino. After I met Peter, I felt as though a wall of steel had been constructed for me personally. It always helps to get along with your "girlfriend's" husband so after many efforts I wrote to Tyrone and asked him to give me some clues. How do I get through to this man? His advice was to stick with it because it would take me patience and not a little frustration. Eventually Peter unfolded as a generous, ethical, kind, obsessive ( a trait we share) person who was able to get my cat to eat turkey and love catnip. Well, that did it for me since Cat is not very responsive to men. The most profound aspect of our relationship was the unspoken dreaded darkness we shared. Peter, you are in the light. You have peace. You are free from a pain that devoured every corner of your life. As incomprehensible as it may be for some I understand and I honor your choice.

the gf

Philip Colechin remembers:

 Kalani! - something else I didn't know about Peter, who will  increasingly resemble in my memory a ceramic trinket box  ( rare, with a fine glaze....of course), to the contents of which  geography allowed me infrequent and insufficient access. Within,  a beguiling array of wit, erudition ,warmth and generosity. 
When  I first met Peter in 1987 (88?) , I immediately warmed to his fine  sensibility: a quiet but sharp critical intelligence and a "good eye",  gilded with humor, discernment, curiosity and compassion; a  sensibility which could delight in life's treasures but despair at the  world's imperfections and contingency. 
Heroically and tragically  Peter seemed unwilling or unable to find comfort between these  extremes. I have plenty of memories ( but not enough): pubs in  London, an Italian restaurant in the west of Ireland, the apartment  in New York City, a period tiled vestibule in San Francisco, astute  conversation, hilarious correspondence...but above all the small  mannerisms ( a gesture, a glance, a laugh , a tone of voice...)  which make someone lovable. Address books tend to shrink with age:  Peter's premature departure from mine leaves a space impossible  to fill.

Suzan Fant, Seattle WA remembers:

After moving – first Peter and Suzanne and then my husband & self - we somehow managed to stay “in touch” through cards and notes and letters and then e-mail.

Living in Detroit for umpteen years; many of them spent meandering through and around the Cass Corridor gave me a storehouse of memories: memories of the Dally in the Alley, living in Woodbridge, working Downtown and all interconnected. It was a beautiful Fall day here in Seattle yesterday with the sun shining, the leaves red and gold and yellow. I saw Old Main in the glow and a glimpse of Peter waving as he rushed across campus to a class – tweed jacketed and bow tied. I think he must have left behind the largest and most complete collection of bow ties one could imagine. 
Then I had another memory of Peter smiling – Peter positively beaming at his and Suzanne’s wedding reception at Union Street. Memories of Cal Burnett’s scathing movie reviews, the perfect Bloody Mary mixed by Peter – two cats as big as most dogs observing – Peter treasure-hunting at the Royal Oak Market (and 52 other haunts) always finding some bit of obscure (to me) beautiful thing and having the ability to name, date and tell you it’s merits. Then there are the memories of Peter’s commentary – the humor, kindness, insights, and the bite. A vision of Peter as a porcupine protecting his tender heart. 
I could go on, but won’t. Suffice it to say that if memories and thoughts have substance and I believe they do; then Peter has left us all with much to be treasured parts of himself.

P.S.: Dear Peter: In spite of the Pollyanna brave face I’d put on it, I must tell you that every day I think of at least two or three things to say to you – to discuss – to talk about. You are sadly not there to answer and I selfishly wish for a change of plots – a re-write. I want it to be all twenty novels or like the Parkers to go on and on.

Nancy Johnston remembers:

The first time I met Peter, we didn’t really meet we had an encounter. As luck would have it, I was assigned to Peter’s cubicle for the evening shift in the English tutorial lab at WSU sometime in the eighties. 
The first time I took my new desk, I found myself surrounded by Peter’s post cards. It was truly the most eclectic and bizarre array of post cards I had ever seen. From Colette to Chaplin, Frankenstien to Freud, Nietzche to Nanook of the North there were literally dozens of post cards. 
They were everywhere I looked. “Who is this strange fellow with the postcards?” I asked myself at the time. So, rather naively, I left a note on the desk asking this very question. The next time I showed up to work, there was a note left behind that read: 
‘There is, unfortunately, not enough desks in this rundown, mismanaged tutorial lab for everyone to get their own. I have, therefore, had the misfortune of having to share my desk with you. In the future, please refrain from looking at my post cards as they are none of your stinking business. On another subject, what kind of second rate education is this institute dishing out when they hire tutors who end their sentences with dangling participals? Regards, Peter.’ 
“Bad day at the office, dear?” is what I wrote back and we had been friends ever since. 
Over the years I have found that Peter was more pussycat than lion and his meow was always worse than his hiss. He always knew how to make me laugh out loud with his ridiculous turn of phrase, he never failed to say something that made me curse his existence and he never once forgot my birthday. 
From here on in, when I think of Peter, I shall always think of laughter, post cards and birthdays. 
Bye Peter.

Constance Bassil remembers:

Peter was my friend for 17 years and the world for me has become a different place without his loyalty, camaraderie, and wit. He has left an enormous vacuum, socially, philosophically and artistically. Thinking about him, a man of great contrasts and enigma emerges v yet he was all of a piece.

He was funny and sad He was hip and traditional. He was irreverent, but never vulgar He was a scholar. He was a connoisseur. He was clean and orderly and neat and he rode a motorcycle (crash helmet, collar and tie). He was young and old. He was eccentric. He was an unemployed authority on French & Viennese porcelains and glass, 30's American design pottery, English china. He was an expert on the decorative arts of this century. He was the most gifted of the collectors of Japanese prints. He was an appreciator of literature, and greatly loved all kinds of music. He loved film ... hated theater. And when I say he knew film, I don't mean just the actors v he knew the director and the history of the director, the producers, the dates and the writers. He was a film critic for the Detroit paper. He loved animals and would protect the life of an ant. He was, of course, a strict vegetarian. He was moral, ethical, generous, kind and helpful - and occasionally would confide deeply. He loved flowers and nature, but was an unbeliever of God. Children responded to him with love and trust. He was strong minded, but lost his way. He suffered unbearable loneliness and feared the night. He felt unloved, but was loved. Now he is gone and he is missed. What an extraordinary man - I feel as Horatio did about his friend when he died. He said, "Goodnight sweet prince and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

If anyone wishes to contribute memories, pictures of Peter, please post here.