I am lucky to have known Jake, the man pictured above. He is a life inspiration. I met him through my mom. My mom used to walk in Golden Gate Park most mornings and she met Jake, who also walked in the park. He started from his home in the Haight and did a round trip to Ocean Beach. I photographed him about 8 years ago. I had just bought a new Hasselblad camera and he was one of my first subjects. He graciously let me photograph him a second time, when I realized that I had loaded my film backwards and none of the initial photos came out (rookie mistake).
I try not to live life in regrets, but I do have a few. Jake, at one point, offered to teach me to quilt. I had always wanted to learn and was excited by the idea, but at the time I made some excuses as to why I couldn’t do it. I don’t even remember what those excuses were… too busy with school and work probably. I regret not taking him up on his offer. Jake passed away a few years later. He left a legacy of positivity behind him. Every year a memorial walk is held for him, the same walk he took, from his home to Ocean Beach.
Late last year, I had decided that I wanted to finally learn to quilt. I called Jake’s widow, Sondra, and asked if she could teach me. She is a prolific and successful textile artist. She was unable to teach me as she had given away most of her sewing equipment, but she did generously offer to give me some of Jake’s quilts. When I went to visit her and pick up the quilts, I asked her when Jake had gotten started with quilting. She said that around the age of 40, she taught Jake to sew and he took the craft and ran wildly with it. She said in the evenings he would go down to the their studio, sit at the sewing machine and sew. I loved hearing this, how fervently he took up the obsession. What I most admire about Jake was that he was so comfortable with who he was and because of this, so welcoming to everyone. When I say he left a legacy of positivity behind him, it shows in those who called him friend- it crosses all ages, genders, races, everyone he met received the same aura of kindness. You just felt good when you were around Jake, you felt the presence of love.
I have since taken up a few sewing classes and am now in a quilting class. I love having two of Jake’s quilts in my apartment to offer me inspiration and remind me of the type of life I want to lead. The same type of life that Jake lead- a journey that is filled with inspiration, compassion, authenticity, humor, and positivity.
(A kimono that Jake hand painted, hanging in my apartment)
(A second quilt that Jake made)
(A closeup of the exquisite detail of Jake’s hand-painted work)