Saturday, June 9, 2018

Requiem for a Friend

Steve Anderson and his wife, Loreto Roselló, on the deck of their Panitao home
Last month, I was shocked to hear the news that a longtime friend, Steve Anderson, had died in an automobile accident near his home at Panitao, outside Puerto Montt. I first met Steve when he lived in Santiago, where he founded the online newspaper Santiago Times—still extant under a different publisher—to provide English-language news about Chile. Over the years, I often visited the Times’s offices along the Río Mapocho, and even stayed at his cul-de-sac home on the slopes of Cerro San Cristóbal—sometimes crashing in my sleeping bag on a deck that overlooked downtown.
Steve Anderson shopping for produce at the neighborhood farmers' market
Steve was a southern boy, a native of Arkansas, who had worked in the office the legendary Senator J. William Fulbright(who was indirectly responsible for funding my own graduate research through a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad grant). He had come to Chile to help with the “No” campaign against the Pinochet dictatorship in 1988 and, in his new home, married a Chilean woman and fathered a now 21-year-old son who’s a student leader in Santiago.  In his home at Panitao, he had become a leading advocate—with significant local support—for preservation of strategic wetlands that were threatened by suburban sprawl.
Whenever I visited Steve at Panitao, there were unlimited blueberries on the table.
In fact, I had recently stayed at his home for four days, which let me avoid the Semana Santa (“Holy Week”) period when much of the region is overrun with Chilean tourists on a long weekend. It’s also a time when I tend to get more work done sitting at the computer than I would running around checking practical details in towns like nearby Puerto Varas. At that time, he told me, he was planning to return to the States to work on the midterm congressional elections. He loathed the current occupant of the White House.
Tributes to Steve Anderson appeared in the letters section of the local newspaper.
I don’t know the details of the accident, but Steve’s place lay about a kilometer south of the paved two-lane highway between Puerto Montt and the town of Calbuco via a dirt access road. Entering the highway from his access road involved a slight climb that was partially obscured by trees, so it’s possible he never saw the car that hit him. Whether or not that was the case, I will miss him, and so will his family and neighbors.

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