Peacemaker Maas Dies at 69: Elmer Worked Tirelessly to End All War Making and Bring about Total Disarmament

By Laffin, Art | National Catholic Reporter, May 27, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Peacemaker Maas Dies at 69: Elmer Worked Tirelessly to End All War Making and Bring about Total Disarmament


Laffin, Art, National Catholic Reporter


Elmer Maas, 69, a musician, teacher, philosopher, civil rights worker and prophetic peacemaker, died of heart failure May 7 in Voluntown, Conn., during the Atlantic Life Community Retreat. On May 14 more than 200 friends and some of his relatives gathered at the Maryhouse Catholic Worker in New York City, his longtime home, for a memorial procession and unforgettable funeral Mass and celebration of his life. I will deeply miss Elmer, a close friend and guiding light to me and so many.

A native of Kansas City, Mo., Maas was a philosophy professor at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., from 1962 to 1968. Deeply influenced by Martin Luther King Jr., he organized students to participate in the 1965 Selma-Montgomery voter registration drive, which involved some of the worst beatings and the most persons jailed in the civil rights movement. A photo taken during this drive, prominently featured in The New York Times and Life magazine, showed Elmer cradling a close friend who had been badly beaten.

Maas helped formed SCORE, the Student Committee on Racial Equality, which worked on antipoverty issues in central Pennsylvania. In addition, he was a leading campus organizer in protesting the Vietnam War. In 1968 his teaching contract was not renewed, despite student protests.

Compelled by a biblical faith and commitment to nonviolence, Elmer worked tirelessly to end all war making and bring about total disarmament. Well known throughout the peace community, he was a member of the War Resisters League, the Isaiah Peace Ministry, the Atlantic Life Community and Kairos/plowshares New York.

In 1980, he took part in the Plowshares Eight action at a General Electric weapons plant in King of Prussia, Pa. He and seven other peacemakers hammered on the nose cone of a Mark 12A nuclear warhead and poured blood on documents, to enact the biblical prophecy to "beat swords into plowshares.

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