Donald Sanders Luce (1934-2022), RIP

Don Luce at Niagara Falls (Photo credit: Ted Lieverman)

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Don Luce at the age of 88 in Niagara Falls, NY. This 6 December 2022 obituary by Seth Mydans of the New York Times (NYT) is an eloquent and fitting tribute to Don and a life well-lived. Don is one of my heroes on a very short list and an inspiration to me and countless others.

I especially liked how Thomas Fox, an International Voluntary Services (IVS) colleague, described Don, as quoted in the NYT obituary: “His manner was always quiet, his humor sharp. He was a shy person, in that sense ill-equipped to play the prophet role he came to endure. Don had no rough edges. His strength — and it was enormous — came from his ability to fasten onto a truth and speak it plainly. He was always most passionate when he spoke on behalf of those who were never allowed that opportunity.”

In 2019, I suggested to Debbie Curtis, a Niagara University colleague, that she consider inviting Don to speak at the university. Here is a report about Don’s presentation to the NU community in November of that year. Below is a photo of Debbie and Don from the former’s LinkedIn post about the event.

On A Personal Note

I share a few strands of DNA with Don; he’s a distant paternal cousin through both parents. On his mother’s side, our common great-grandparents are Phillip Wheeler (1698-1765) and Martha Salisbury (1698-1745). We’re also related through his paternal grandmother, Almina “Mina” Celia Church (1866-1938), which means we’re both direct descendants of Mayflower passengers Stephen Hopkins and Richard Warren. As young men, we both stopped believing in the cultural mythology that surrounds the founding of British Colonia America (BCA) and the US. (I discuss family ties to the early days of BCA in this CounterPunch essay From New England to Vietnam: Settler Colonialism in Cross-Cultural Perspective.)

When I think of Don and people like him, I think of the last of the Buddha’s Five Remembrances: My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand. The ground on which Don stood in Vietnam and his home country was rock solid, his legacy one of kindness, caring, and a quiet yet steely determination to seek justice for those fellow human beings who were the victims of state-sponsored violence and considered expendable by an unjust and unfair society. While I’m sure he would demur, it’s no exaggeration to say that Don was both Christlike and Buddha-like.

My heartfelt condolences to his husband, Dr. Mark Bonacci, Don’s other family members, and legion of friends in the US, Vietnam, including the survivors of Côn Sơn Prison, and elsewhere. While those of us who knew, or knew of, Don are in mourning, we celebrate his life and know that his spirit lives on.

Postscript: This local obituary contains information about Don’s memorial service on 26 December 2022 at the Community Missions of Niagara Frontier in Niagara Falls, NY. The service will be videotaped and posted to YouTube. I’ll add the link here as soon as it’s available.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

10 thoughts on “Donald Sanders Luce (1934-2022), RIP

  1. 7 December 2022 Tweet by John Stauber:

    John Stauber
    Dec 7
    #RIP #DonLuce! When I was a kid he was one of my heroes. Don’t you wish you could die with an obit headline like this? ✌️☮️♥️🇻🇳#Vietnam ⁦
    ⁩ ⁦

  2. I am wondering how you are thinking about the US proxy war in Ukraine??? $ US, NATO, billions of weapons flowing in….
    No end in sight…. now the Patriot System to be installed?? most dangerous era in world history…
    Peace talks, negotiations should have occurred last year at this time…. now tens of thousands of dead…
    Infrastructure destroyed…
    Peace, Salaam be with you..
    Jon Anderholm

    • Is that a rhetorical question? If this were a game, and it is on the US geopolitical chessboard, the US would be winning and Ukraine, especially its people and infrastructure, and Russia would be losing. Putin is obviously not familiar with the work of Epictetus: “There are things that are within our power, and things that fall outside our power. Within our power are our own opinions, aims, desires, dislikes—in sum, our own thoughts and actions. Outside our power are our physical characteristics, the class into which we were born, our reputation in the eyes of others, and honors and offices that may be bestowed on us.
      Working within our sphere of control, we are naturally free, independent, and strong. Beyond that sphere, we are weak, limited, and dependent. If you pin your hopes on things outside your control, taking upon yourself things which rightfully belong to others, you are liable to stumble, fall, suffer, and blame both gods and men. But if you focus your attention only on what is truly your own concern, and leave to others what concerns them, then you will be in charge of your interior life. No one will be able to harm or hinder you. You will blame no one and have no enemies. If you wish to have peace and contentment, release your attachment to all things outside your control. This is the path of freedom and happiness. If you want not just peace and contentment, but power and wealth too, you may forfeit the former in seeking the latter, and will lose your freedom and happiness along the way.”

      • Very philosophical and thoughtful response. The only problem being it is on another level. Where is the level of this brutal war is on a different level. The Russians feel threatened and do not want encroachment towards their national boundaries. How far will they go to assure their security No one knows, but some very brilliant people also see the possibility of a nuclear exchange taking place.
        Most dangerous era in human history. Extreme brutality has taken place on both sides. All sides in fact. The amount of weapons , armaments that have been exhausted in this war is amazing.
        And when does it stop? It must stop. Diplomatic channels need to be used. Cease-fire and treaties need to be organized… To save the Ukrainian and Russian peoples, and perhaps the rest of humanity!
        Before it is too late! Hundreds of thousands of casualties already. And millions of refugees. The people have lost this war. As people always suffer from war.
        Time for peace…
        And peace be with you, my educator friend, peace be upon you.
        Many blessings take the best of care.
        Jon Anderholm from Sebastopol California.
        Sent from iPhone

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