Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tribute to Warry


To us, Maruata is Paradise on the Pacific. A small indigenous village on the coast of Michoacan, Mexico, it has somehow escaped the ravages of modernity. It accommodates tourists, but only those willing to sleep in a simple wooden hut, or to rent a hammock under a palapa, or who have an RV small enough to negotiate the dirt track that leads to the beach front encampment. We found our way in driving Howie, our 1990 Ford cargo van in which we had been touring Mexico. We had no idea where we were going, but along the way someone told us to “just ask for Warry.” We finally spotted a stubby blue school bus inside a fenced off compound. A stocky, greying, bearded man with a long pony tail waved to us and motioned toward a gate. He yelled something like, “Hey, you old goat, come on in here,” as he opened the gate and guided us into the compound. 

Maruata, Michoacan

That was our introduction to Warren Harrison, known to everyone in Maruata simply as Warry. Warry and his wife Sherry Tice had been spending six months every year in Mexico, most of it camped right where they were in the compound overseen by Don Elodio and Martina. Their home was a converted special education school bus surrounded by all kinds of paraphenelia making up an outdoor kithcen and dinng area, a shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, and photographs and memorabilia that summed up their lives. 
Don Elodio, 87, on his horse

Warren and Sherry in Maruata
Warry had a robust figure, but obviously limited use of his right arm, stemming he said from a motorcycle accident which had almost taken his life years before. In spite of this slight handicap, every day Warry donned a wet suit, weights, and mask and took his spear down to the beach and went swimming for several hours. He seldom if ever returned without bringing two or three large fish with him. These he gave to his hosts or other people in the village, keeping only enough to feed him and Sherry, and occasionally those, like us, lucky enough to be his guests. As a result he was loved by everyone in the village. It didn't hurt that Sherry made friends with many of the women in the village, even leading classes in aerobics and belly dancing, sharing cooking ideas, and just helping out in any way she could think of. 

Warry's Shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe
Warry loved to talk and tell stories. He had a colorful past, including a brush with the feds when, as captain of a fishing boat out of New Bedford, Massachusetts, he was asked by the boat's owner to pick up a "special cargo" at some point out in the Atlantic. In another adventure Warry had ridden a motorcycle across Europe and Asia. His favorite country was Afghanistan, where Warry had traded rifles with a tribal chieftan. Warry called Afghanistan the last bastion of free people.

Getting to know Warry and Sherry was a big part of what made Maruata special for us. We spent many wonderful candle lit evenings sitting around the table outside their bus telling tales and discussing the state of the world. Warry's political views could probably best be described as libertarian. He was a strong believer in indvidual effort and self-reliance, and his life mirrored his beliefs. While he had little faith in “society” or government, he seemed to love everyone he met, and he was loved in return.

Kocapelli, the fluteplayer
Three years ago we learned from Sherry that they were no longer going to Mexico. We wondered what change of health or circumstances had brought about the change in life style, but we didn't ask. A few days ago we received this email from Sherry (abridged):

“My husband, of 30 years passed away yesterday, Sunday, March 3, 2013. He was a wonderful man who lived a wonderful life. Those who knew him, loved him. He touched many lives & helped many people. He was a lover of humanity. Up until 3 years ago, life was very full for him & he was in love with it. Three years ago he went into a deep depression that he was unable to let go of. Yesterday I returned home from a conference & found him lying in the driveway with a bullet in his head. I will always love him dearly. People have asked, "Is there anything we might do for you? My reply is, Yes you can love yourself unconditionally & share that love with everyone--ALL of God's creation--& hopefully it will help keep someone else from putting a bullet in their head. Warren loved everyone. He could not stop thinking of all who suffer in this world & all the deceptions & cruelties & injustices--man's general inhumanity to his brothers & sisters. He said he no longer wanted to live on this planet. His solution was a loss for us all. To all that loved him, please know that I share in YOUR grief as well. Love, Sherry.”

I can only add, Love the life you have, live it to the fullest, and be kind to your fellow creatures. Let that be our tribute to the Warry's of the world.

Sunset at Maruata

 Click here to read our earlier post on Maruata.

1 comment:

  1. That's a fine tribute, thank you. I camped several winters in Elodio's palmera with Warren and Sherry. Warren was ...a spiritual brother- to everyone.
    We shared a memory of Afghanistan that's ...different from today.

    I watched Warren roll in on the big wave, at the west end of Maruata beach, about 600 times, with a speargun in one hand, and a giant fish in the other.

    I'm so sad that he is gone, but so blessed to have known him.

    Mike Lin/