OISHI email@example.com_county.toronto.toronto_star 2005-03-18 published
Michael GOLDSTEIN, 54, 'Wizard' of Rochdale
Draft dodger helped keep experimental university running
Later founded environmental consulting company
By Emily CHUNG, Staff Reporter
"People always think it was so hard for us draft dodgers," Michael GOLDSTEIN used to say in his broad New York accent. He thought someone should set them straight and write about what a good time it was.
Avoiding the draft for the Vietnam War, GOLDSTEIN arrived in Toronto in 1968, three days shy of his 18th birthday, and was impressed by the city's hospitality. He found housing at the newly opened Rochdale College, a free, experimental, student-directed university and co-op residence.
At Rochdale he encountered Friends and causes to keep him occupied.
One of those Friends, acclaimed science-fiction writer Judith MERRIL, who died in 1997, considered him a close friend.
She wrote about him in Better to Have Loved, the autobiography she co-authored with her granddaughter, Emily POHL- WEARY.
GOLDSTEIN died of cancer February 27, at the age of 54.
Another lifelong friend was Barb CARLSTROM, who remembered GOLDSTEIN as a "vital, happy, intense whirlwind. He knew everyone, he was interested in everything, he was everywhere."
GOLDSTEIN was born in Chicago and raised in New York City, the second of three children, along with sisters Marianne and Joanne.
His father was a Jew who converted to Quakerism during a rebellious youth.
As a teenager, GOLDSTEIN was opposed to the Vietnam War and took part in anti-war protests. Young men were required to register for the draft at 18.
GOLDSTEIN thought it would be dishonest to conscientiously object based on religion because he was opposed to the war for political reasons.
At 17, he didn't feel he could handle jail, so he decided to move to Canada.
His pacifist parents helped by driving him to Toronto. For the next few years, the family visited him at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
GOLDSTEIN became passionately involved in the beginnings of the still-thriving Theatre Passe Muraille.
(The group's historical piece, The Rochdale Project, was in workshops at Passe Muraille last week and will play again in February 2006.)
For all his idealism, GOLDSTEIN was practical and became known for fixing and building things. He became part of the crew that literally kept Rochdale running.
"You had a lot of young people who were trying to live this cool lifestyle, but they weren't taking care of business, like the electrical system and plumbing," said his older sister, Marianne ROBBINS.
So GOLDSTEIN took responsibility.
"That was the way he would approach things, as opposed to wanting to write fancy essays about this great experiment," ROBBINS said.
GOLDSTEIN's ability to figure things out and fix them became legendary, earning him the nickname "The Wizard."
Though it wasn't shut down until 1975, Rochdale's drug-propelled decline had begun by 1970.
The college, located in an 18-storey highrise at Bloor St. W. and Huron Sts., on the northern border of the University of Toronto, had a policy of not turning anyone away, including drug users and dealers.
The disintegration of Rochdale prompted GOLDSTEIN to hitchhike to Vancouver.
When he returned to Toronto after a summer, things at Rochdale had further deteriorated.
GOLDSTEIN made the difficult decision to go west for good.
In Vancouver, he worked for a draft-dodgers' newsletter and for the Company of Young Canadians, a community development organization started by Pierre Trudeau's Liberal government.
As well, he studied at the University of British Columbia and pursued a variety of other causes.
Later, GOLDSTEIN started an environmental consulting company, Soilcon.
Among other things, his ideas were used to clean up contaminated uranium mines on Hudson Bay and to grow trees on the marshy Vancouver airport grounds.
At the Company of Young Canadians, GOLDSTEIN met his future wife, Arline OISHI. They married in 1975.
The couple journeyed around the world together in 1979 and looked forward to another world tour when they retired. They never got the chance.
"Leaving New York for Toronto was easy," he used to say.
"Leaving Toronto for Vancouver was very difficult."
In addition to his wife, GOLDSTEIN leaves his daughter Devon and son Rhys. Last week the family held a service in Vancouver.
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