Richard J. Stander, 79, died peacefully Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011, in the home he built on Penobscot Bay. The son of Mary (Dreyer) and Joseph Stander, Richard grew up in New York City and attended the High School of Music and Art.

During his teens Richard became involved with Habonim, a progressive Jewish youth movement. He traveled to Israel in 1951, where he worked as a translator at the Jerusalem Post and, with his first wife Havi (Pollak), cared for children in a postwar displaced persons camp, returning to the U.S. in 1953.

Richard and Havi were married for 24 years and have two children, Joseph (Arcata, Calif.) and Dina (Shutesbury, Mass.). He was predeceased by his brother, Peter Stander.

Richard earned an Masters in Social Work in psychiatric social work from Columbia University, working initially with children in Liberty, N.Y. and Red Bank, N.J., where he founded the Woody Guthrie Day Camp for children of migrant workers; then to New Haven, Conn., where he directed a drug-abuse treatment program.

The family moved to the Pioneer Valley in the early 1970’s, when he took a position with the Department of Mental Health. Richard is remembered as an advocate for the dignity and self-determination of persons with mental illness.

In 1977 Richard met his second wife, Nancy Galland (Stockton Springs). Together they established the first contemporary organic farm in Hadley, Mass., and developed the original organic certification standards for NOFA-Mass. Richard was a familiar face at the Amherst Farmer’s Market and a pioneer in the (yet-to-be-imagined) Farm to Table movement, providing fresh local organic produce to restaurants.

In 1987, Richard and Nancy took residence at Fiddler’s Green Farm in Belfast, where they grew organic vegetables, milled organic baking mixes and hot cereals, ran a bed and breakfast and farm stand, mentored farm apprentices, and dabbled in cheese making.

They retired to Stockton Springs in 1997, where Richard’s grandchildren, Micah Stander (Arcata, Calif.) and Grace, Rebecca and Eliza Bannasch (Shutesbury, Mass.) would visit and enjoy snuggles, stories and long chats at the kitchen table.

Richard (“the lion-hearted”) was a skier when skis were wooden, boots leather and lift tickets cheap. He was the guy who swam across the lake and back, an avid kayaker, hiker and rock climber; a good storyteller and passionately political. He took his children to peace and civil rights marches and the 1968 Be-In in Central Park, always inspiring them to question authority.

Later in life his dedication to peace, justice and the environment took many forms, including support of Palestinian sovereignty, leadership in ending mercury pollution of the Penobscot River, and civil disobedience against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His heart was lifted by live on-the-spot reports from Zuccotti Park and the Occupy movement, phoned in by his granddaughter.

In his last days he was still singing “We Shall Overcome”: please feel free to imagine him, mustachioed and bearded, standing tall (even when leaning on a cane) with a defiant fist of solidarity held high in the air, encouraging us all to keep on keepin’ on.

A celebration of Richard’s life will be held on Jan. 29 at the Shriners Club in Belfast, starting at 11 a.m. The event will be potluck and BYOB.

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