Friday, January 05, 2007

Health and Safety Activist Aaron Wilson Dies At 34

Aaron Wilson, Executive Director of the Western Massachusetts Committee on Occupational Safety and Health has died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 34. I didn't know Aaron well, and after reading his obituary and the contributions to his memorial website, Remembering, I'm sorry I didn't.

According to his obituary:
Aaron was a tireless organizer, writer, leader and activist for civil rights and social justice who devoted his regrettably short life to improving the world....His rebellious and often agitated demeanor confounded every kindergarten in Worcester, landing Aaron in the special education system, which unjustly wrote him off as a reprobate. Through his mother’s devoted advocacy and his own discipline and determination, Aaron learned to channel his prodigious energy and intelligence to productive ends, and he accomplished more in his thirty-five years than most people do in seventy. The anti-authoritarianism that caused so much trouble in his early life eventually became the basis for a sophisticated personal philosophy and a lifetime of service to others.


Beginning in 2001, Aaron served as Executive Director for the Western Massachusetts Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) in Springfield, where he trained union members in improving health and safety conditions. This included helping families of deceased Chapman Valve, Inc. employees get compensation for uranium ore exposure. He helped broker the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, an collaboration between labor and environmental groups promoting safer alternatives to toxic chemical use. Aaron also served as a delegate for governor-elect Deval Patrick. For his service to the community, Aaron received the Micah Award for Springfield Community Activist of the Year and the Unsung Hero Award, among many others.

Aaron loved science fiction and history, excelled at stretching a budget, and he appreciated all of life’s pleasures, especially music. He was an avid music collector and a passionate concert-goer. He was a strong believer in the education that comes only from experiences. Whatever he did, he did with gusto and an often irreverent sense of humor. But no matter how busy, he always prioritized the needs of family and friends. Aaron raised the inelegance of being human to an art form, which always brought a sense of ease to those close to him.