Reid Aaron Gilbert passed away peacefully in his sleep in Fairfax, California on December 21, 2012. He was 51 years old.
Born on April 16, 1961 in San Francisco, Reid was a passionate man who possessed a remarkable humanitarian spirit and endless compassion.
Among his many striking qualities, Reid had a brilliant wit and a flair for storytelling, which began in childhood. In 1979, upon graduating from Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo, he received the award for best actor, and went on to play leading roles in productions at the College of Marin and the University of California at Irvine.
With an active imagination and an ability to connect with people from all walks of life, Reid found it easy to identify with the characters he portrayed on stage, and later brought his empathy into the community at large.
For the two decades that he lived in San Francisco with his lifelong partner, John Fox, he opened his home to hundreds of friends and strangers at all hours, offering food, shelter and heartfelt advice to people in need.
People who knew him will credit him with perfecting the art of the long, soulful conversation. He was also wickedly funny, and could spin an elaborate tale about something as morbid as a funeral into a surreal comedy routine.
When tragedy struck his family in 2010, and his younger brother Lane went missing, Reid embarked on a quest to Oaxaca, Mexico, summoning up unimaginable courage in order to take a hero's journey to find his brother.
Despite insurmountable obstacles, and against many people's insistence that he would never find his brother, Reid committed to go to any lengths to locate Lane. Reid remained in Mexico for nearly two months, until he made the tragic discovery that his brother had died.
In the Fall of 2011 Reid and John moved to Oaxaca, where they worked to bring dignity to Lane's name. There they sponsored a little league baseball team, and continued Lane's charitable endeavors.
For those who knew Reid during his time on Earth, it is fitting that he be given the distinction of a Lamed Vavnik. In the tradition of Judaism, a Lamed Vavnik is one of 36 people on Earth who are necessary to sustain the world. These people do their good work anonymously, and are privileged to embody the Shechinah, or the manifestation of God in a feminine form.
In the words of a Buddhist teacher, ¿In the end, just three things matter,¿ ¿How well we have lived; how well we have loved; and how well we have learned to let go.¿ Reid embodied the first two; the last will surely test those of us who were blessed to know him.
Reid is survived by his partner, John Fox of Oaxaca; his mother, Jerilyn Gilbert and his step-mother Susan Efros of Fairfax; step-mother, Blair Gilbert of Riverside; step-brother Jonathan Hodgkin of Santa Barbara; an uncle, Gary Gilbert of Carmichael; as well as many cousins and friends. He is now at peace with his father, the late Howard Mel Gilbert; his beloved brother, the late Lane Thomas Gilbert; and his adoring grandparents the late Ted and Trudy Cherin; and the late Jules and Helen Gilbert, who always referred to Reid as her angel child.
In lieu of flowers, tax-deductible donations can be made to Reid's favorite charity, Casa Hogar Hijos de la Luna, a safe home in Oaxaca for children in need. Send to: La Peña of Austin c/o Casa Hogar Hijos de la Luna de Oaxaca, 227 Congress Avenue, Austin, TX 78701. 512-477-6007. You may also donate through Global Giving at: www.indiegogo.com/expandcasahogar11
Details regarding a memorial celebrating Reid's life will be forthcoming.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Dec. 30, 2012