Remembering Those Dear to Us

Russell Silva, March 22, 1952-February 4, 1990

It is almost impossible to believe that it is twenty years today since our community lost a talented  chef and gardener, and I parted with a dear friend and lover, Russell Silva.

I met Russell when he came to one of the early macrobiotic community dinners a few of us were doing in San Francisco back in 1986.  He soon became my partner in those dinners and, all too briefly, in life.  I said at the time that we only had one date.  After that, as far as I was concerned, we were a couple. I am grateful to Russell for so much, for revealing to me a greater capacity for love, for allowing me to love him, and for sharing with me that intimate moment when he passed from this life.

Those of us who lived in the Castro community in the years of the eighties and early nineties find that time almost too painful to recall. Nearly every day you’d see a recently vibrant young man, now aged and gaunt,  shuffling down Castro Street.  A few weeks later you would hear that he had died.

Half a generation of friends and lovers died in those years in the Castro. And in our years as a community in Palo Alto, we’ve lost many people dear to us as well.  I think especially of Grayce Yamamoto and Patrick McCarty, among many others. And while some people find it depressing to be reminded of death, I feel the opposite. All of us are here but for a brief moment and the older we get, the more starkly we become aware of just how fleeting this life is. The veil between life and what comes next is very thin. And the truth is, any of us could cross over at any time.

To be reminded of death is to be reminded to make every day count, to live courageously as who we really are.  It turns out that my mother’s adage “there’s no time like the present” contains a lot of truth.  And so for me, today is not only a day to recall how much I love those who’ve passed on, but it is also a day to remember how much I love those still with me, and to be grateful  for this miraculous experience we call life.

–Gary Alinder, February 4, 2010


This is the obituary I wrote for Russell:

Our friend Russell Silva passed from this life with incredible dignity and calm on Sunday, February 4, 6:30 p.m.

Russell was born, grew up and attended high school on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.  He studied environmental design at the University of Massachusetts and at City College, San Francisco.  He had made his home here since 1974.

Russell’s life-long and passionate interests in cooking, gardening and art and antiques were already well developed by the time he was in high school and later he made his living as a gardener and chef.  He apprenticed with Simoni Jean-Luc at L’Orangerie Restaurant and was a chef at Tuba Garden Restaurant on Sacramento St. for nearly five years.  For three years he and his lover Gary Alinder organized and cooked a weekly macrobiotic community dinner at the Zen Center Guest House.  Most recently, he was a cook for the Monday night dinners sponsored by the Peninsula Macrobiotic Network in Menlo Park. Russell was a member of the California Horticultural Society and of many other horticultural organizations.  He shared his vast gardening knowledge freely with friends and he contributed many hours to beautifying the Arkansas Friendship Garden on Potrero Hill.   He was often to be seen browsing and buying art and antiques at Butterfield and Butterfield.  Russell was a fiercely private and independent person who could also be a devoted and giving friend.

Russell is survived by his lover, Gary, by a wide circle of friends in the Bay Area and in half a dozen cities around the country and by his parents, Lucette and Walter Silva, his twin sister Rosemarie and his brother Reggie.

Russell’s ashes will be scattered in the garden which was his pride and joy at his family home on Martha’s Vineyard.

Russell, we shall remember and love you forever.

Russell Silva (left), Gary Alinder at a Friday night community dinner, June 3, 1988


8 responses

  1. God bless you, Gary, for your deep and good heart, for your love and appreciation of this life, for holding those you love close to you, for not giving up, but surrendering to the Divine in all of us, and this life; this great life that has been gifted to us. Bless you for sharing your friend and partner, Russell Silva. He is not gone; he has only gone on. Thank you for sharing your words of faith and love. Godspeed always, Sky ANN

  2. I love reading this post. I welcome being reminded of my love for those who have passed, to love and appriciate those who are here, and to enjoy the journey of living. And what fun to see you as a youngster. xoxox

  3. Dear Gary,

    Thank you for your beautiful writing and for being reminded of how much we have and have to be grateful for.


  4. Dearest Gary,

    Thank you so very much for your heartfelt words of wisdom. My cuz in Oz just lost a good friend yesterday and I wanted to tell her all the things you wrote.
    We are here for such a very short time. It really is all about connecting and touching a person’s heart. Through food, laughter, love, art, music etc. all tools to help
    one connect on a deeper level. You are such a gem to share your stories and your photos. How wonderful too see what you were doing in the 60’s!

    Thank you for enriching my life in so many ways! I look forward to many more gems on Monday…..

    Love, Ilona

  5. Gary, I was one of Russ’s roommates when he lived on Fulton Street. I don’t know if we ever met, perhaps we did. The other roommate there, Sam, also died from AIDS. Russ and I were not close friends, but I recall he was a nice guy and very handsome. I do think of him from time to time, like everyone I’ve known lost to AIDS.

    Mark F.

    • Mark, Thanks for getting in touch. Yes, we do want to keep all the wonderful people we’ve lost in our memories.

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