On the night of January 18th, 2013, Victor Lab passed away. He was 82. Self-described "Berkeley crackpot," Vito led a unique life that brightened the lives of friends and acquaintances. His joyous laugh punctuated every conversation. His clear blue eyes were beacons of the careful observations he held so dear. His omnipresent leather-bound folder, perhaps the only part of his wardrobe that he changed less frequently than his characteristic jean jacket, always contained intriguing articles enlivened by his handwritten thoughts, insights, and commentary. His eyes, folder, and love of life all helped him draw friends deep into his world.
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He believed in Gaia theory-that the earth should be respected as a self-regulating system-and lived every day true to his reduce, reuse, and reuse again beliefs. He made important strides in the recycling movement, such as leading a commune that salvaged building supplies and formed the earliest incarnation of Ohmega Salvage.
A great lover of literature, Vito's final request was for a book. His frequent partner in literary adventures read to him from 'East of the Giants' by George Stewart before he left us for good. His passions also extended to friends, conversation, the natural world, and the workings of things. These passions fueled his interest in Victorian and Craftsman architecture and Native American cultures, which, in turn, inspired the stained glass windows he designed and sold through Gabilan Glass. His windows were works of art that manifested his creativity with light and beauty.
As a child, Vito lived on a ranch in Arizona and in California, and in many ways he stayed close to those roots. His father, Victor J. Lab, Sr., had a scientific mind, and his mother, Elizabeth Mary McQuaid, was a teacher. From them he learned a lasting love for nature, learning, and analytic inquiry. Until his last days, he would frequently light a fire in his backyard woodstove and sit with friends, enjoying ice cream with sherry, singing ballads and cowboy songs, noshing pizza, and telling stories of childhood in Grass Valley, San Diego, and San Francisco in the early 1930s.
Vito was a wise man and a faithful, caring, and loving friend. Though he never married or had children of his own, he was family to us, and like a grandfather to our children. He savored life, and lived according to deeply held beliefs. We miss him and think of him constantly. We believe he saw the beauty in us and in the world, as we saw the beauty in him. He is survived by his sister, Mary Riley, and brother, Louis Lab, and by his loving friends. In lieu of flowers, contributions to Vito's charities of choice - The Lab & MacLeod Educational Trust, the Edible School Yard Foundation, and Los Centzonles - may be sent to P.O. Box 1047, El Cerrito, Ca, 94530.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Feb. 24, 2013