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Laurie Walters Slade's comments in court on Oct. 24, 2019, about her husband, John Slade

WEB John and Laurie Slade
John and Laurie Slade
First I need to thank people so I don't get overwhelmed and forget — I am so grateful — first my two sisters, without whom I never could have survived this loss. And I thank all of our friends in Ojai who loved John, too, and have given me so much amazing support. I thank Andrea Stewart who has guided me through the legal system these last two years and more. And I thank the wonderful Deputy District Attorney Rafael Orellana who is so smart, and worked so hard on this case, and, in particular, I thank him for being such a compassionate listener.
And I thank you Judge Worley. I've spoken to you before and I always felt you deeply listened to me. 
I am so grateful the court allows victims to speak about the impact of a crime; so, I'm here to talk about John Slade — my husband and best friend, who was killed. An incredible man — a kind, funny, generous, talented, passionate, beloved man. John was a singer/songwriter, actor, director, teacher, mentor, a wise man — who because of what Mr. McVicker did - LOST HIS LIFE. His beautiful, creative loving life. And I lost him. John. My John. 
I lost my soulmate — a word tossed around a lot but really — he was truly my Soul's Mate. We had a very special connection and people could tell. 
I just can't adequately express the pain of losing John like this — his violent death, the shock, and the grief — the enormous life-engulfing grief — there just aren't words to use that hurt enough!
But, I can give a few stories of our life together, and maybe that will communicate the impact of this loss even better.
John expressed his affection. I remember, sometime in the week or so before John died, I was walking down the hall and, as he walked in the door, he smiled and just came up to me and threw his arms around me and gave me a wonderful kiss. (I even remember what shoes I was wearing because they were tall clogs and I thought how nice it was to kiss John when I was a little taller — we just fit.) You know, just an ordinary day, no special reason, he just saw me and felt something, and expressed it. We did that a lot with each other.
John was a songwriter, so, of course, he wrote some songs about me, and about us. I really should have just brought some of his songs and played them here, instead of speaking. That would say so much about him.
John was the cook in the family. When we were first married, he felt he should let me cook, and I thought I should cook — but after a while, we figured out he loved to cook, and I hated it! But I loved a clean kitchen, so I'd do the dishes — and that was a perfect match! 
There was this thing he did. Sometimes I'd be doing something and look up and see John looking at me with that certain smile on his face and I'd say, "What?" And he'd say, "Nothin', I'm just happy at you today."
John died on July 7, 2017. Three days earlier, he had been marching in the Ojai July 4th parade, in the City of Peace group, and I was on the sidelines with some friends of ours. When I saw him I ran out into the street to give him a hug — but he instead wrapped me in a passionate kiss — a long one — right there — in the street. That was the last time we kissed I think, that I remember, but it was a good one.
We loved each other's company — we had so many shared passionate interests — even getting very old felt like it would be OK because how hard could it be if you're with the person that still fascinates you?
But John is gone. Just like that. Gone.  We...
— won't grow older together. 
— won't take his amazing one-man show "Whitman Sings" on the road together around the country. 
— won't develop a show for me to present along with his. 
— won't get to go live in England for year, or take Whitman to Europe.
— won't get a chance to act together again.             
— we won't ...... do a so many things.           
John was my true companion. How am I going to do this — the rest of my life without him? 
And how will his sons do without their father? Here's just a part of what his son Max said about this loss: 
"My dad was going to be an excellent grandfather. Now he will never get to meet my children, and they will never get to meet him, or know his kindness and creativity. They'll never get to hear him play the piano and sing new songs written about them. My dad will never get to read my dissertation, or the book I'm writing about evolution, a passion we shared."
John's sudden death affected SO many people — look  —  all these people here in the courtroom today, 2 years and 3-and-a-half months after his death, to express their love and sorrow.
Almost 350 people came to his memorial in little Ojai, and more from out of state would have come if they could have.
All these people lost someone special to them when they lost John. Why? — because he had this particular gift of making people he met or worked with feel really "seen," and valued, for exactly who they were. So many people have told me that, and written to me about that, and I know what they mean. I felt seen, too, like never before.
One student of his said it this way: 
“Mr. Slade always seemed to be looking deeper into you than anyone else in the room. John was seeing you, getting you, feeling you when no one else in the room was.”
I could read so many quotes and letters from people affected by John's death — family, friends, colleagues — everyone wrote so movingly — but perhaps the most powerful words are from his high school students — even though he retired from Nordhoff in 2012 , they were devastated. Here's just a few examples:
“John Slade was one of the most intelligent, powerful, incredible, empathetic, passionate, amazing people I have ever met. There are no words for this loss. 
The way this man has shaped my life, in so many ways, could take novels to encompass.”
“A brilliant mind and glowing spirit — one of the most memorable and inspiring teachers I've ever had. He ignited my passion for the theater and took genuine delight in watching us all discover ever-deeper levels of ourselves onstage and off.”
“I'm devastated to know that someone who helped me through most of high school is gone. He saw potential in me like no adult had before.”
“John Slade was by far one of the most passionate and caring teachers I ever had. He saw past students' lack of enthusiasm for school to see their true talent.”
“Some people are here to change the lives of others; John Slade was one of those people. The man was a talent and force, a courageous and inventive soul, and showed me every kindness imaginable as a young person trying to find my voice. I do not believe I would be the person or the teacher that I am today without his influence and his guiding light.”
“He had such a profound impact on my life through his passion and support. I fell in love with literature because of how he brought it to life and gave it meaning. He influenced my decision to study it in college and helped me choose where to go. So many conversations about life, the future, the mystery and magic of it all flood my mind. Thank you, Mr. Slade, for all you have given us.”
‘I will never forget you Mr. Slade! You helped a young, struggling artist find his creative process as I know you did for so many others.”
And the quote that summarizes all I've read:
“You made each one of us know we were worth something.”
I know there are many young actors and artists who John would have continued to mentor in the future, and they have lost him, too.
John was killed in July, 2017, at a peak of creativity. His show "Whitman Sings" was going to be filmed in performance at the Rubicon in September, then presented at UC Berkeley in October and from there around the country. John WAS Whitman, and his show was inspiring and infectious and very moving. Whitman preached inclusion, loved people, and cared deeply about democracy, and this message is desperately needed in our country, and we've lost it.
The night he was hit by Mr. McVicker he was driving home from Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, where he was directing Julius Caesar. He was so excited about this production. He'd been researching and planning and dreaming and talking about this play for months and now he was two weeks into rehearsal and he was flyin’. You can imagine how devastated the cast and crew were on Friday morning when they heard about his sudden death, and how lost they felt without this visionary director they loved.
He called me before he left Thousand Oaks that night, about 11:15, wanting to talk about the rehearsal that day. I was in Vons actually, doing late-night grocery shopping to surprise him, along with some other surprises, so I asked him to wait till he got home to share our stories... But he never came home, and I never talked to him again. 
You know, the CHP said he was driving home "in the middle lane, minding his own business." Then he was hit — from behind — so hard. He never had a chance.
The world lost all that John would have contributed and I have lost the love of my life.
* * * * *
Your honor, may I say something to Mr. McVicker?
I am so angry at you! John's death was senseless — it should never have happened. Why were you driving like that? Your passenger said you wanted to show him your cool new car — and you were driving from one bar to another, so, of course, you were drinking — why else would you flee the scene and leave an injured man in your car and a dying man in the car you hit, except to prevent the CHP from knowing you were drinking? But you know. You'll always know. You've had trouble with drinking and driving before, but now, you've killed an innocent person — a beautiful man who deserved to have his life. John's death, and all this sorrow, is on your soul.
I don't hate you Mr. McVicker. I don't know why. I know you didn't want to kill John — but you did. And now you're going to prison for awhile — not long enough by far — I wanted it to be so much longer. But you're going to prison for a few years, at least, and you know, it's a penitentiary — a place where a person can go to be penitent, if you choose. If you think of every day there as a penance, that you are actually grateful to be able to make this payment, then maybe when you are finally released, the weight of what you've done will lift from your soul, and then you'll be truly free.
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