Gene Farley and I shared a deep affection for Tommy Douglas, the Baptist preacher-turned-statesman who as the leader of Saskatchewan's Cooperative Commonwealth Federation established the framework for what would become Canada's single-payer national healthcare system.
Douglas, who is often recalled as "the Greatest Canadian," had a congenial style that belied his determination to address social and economic injustices he knew to be immoral. "The inescapable fact," he argued, "is that when we build a society based on greed, selfishness, and ruthless competition, the fruits we can expect to reap are economic insecurity at home and international discord abroad."
Paraphrasing Tennyson, Douglas roused Canadians with a promise: "Courage, my friends; "tis not too late to build a better world." That line always came to mind when I was with Gene, who died Friday at 86.
Gene was an internationally renowned physician, an originator of family practice residency programs and innovative public-health initiatives who finished a distinguished academic career as chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Wisconsin.
Yet, his great passion was as a "build a better world" campaigner. The man who proudly recalled joining the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 was still marching for those same causes in 2013.
With his beloved wife, Dr. Linda Farley, Gene devoted two decades of "retirement" to advancing a broad justice vision that -- after Linda's death in 2009 -- could be seen in the remarkable ecological, agricultural and community-building work of the Linda & Gene Farley Center for Peace, Justice and Sustainability.