Photo Caption: Art Gish
Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly reported that Gish was disking a field on a tractor at his Amesville area farm around 9:30 a.m., when he apparently drove too close to the sloped edge, flipped the tractor over and was trapped underneath. The vehicle caught fire, and Gish perished in the blaze, Kelly said. The Amesville Fire Department and SEOEMS responded, as well as the sheriff’s department.
The Mennonite Publishing Network, which distributes two of Gish’s books about his work in the Middle East, said he had been active in peace and social justice work for the past 50 years, beginning with his work as a conscientious objector with Brethren Volunteer Service in Europe from 1958-60.
He also worked in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and had been actively involved in opposing U.S. wars abroad since his youth. He had worked with Christian Peacemaker Teams in the Middle East since 1995. Gish is the author of books including “Beyond the Rat Race,” “Living in Christian Community,” “Hebron Journal: Stories of Nonviolent Peacemaking,” and “At-Tuwani Journal: Hope and Nonviolent Action in a Palestinian Village.”
Both Gish, 70, and his wife, Peggy, of 13206 Dutch Creek Road, have been well-known figures in Athens’ progressive community. Peggy Gish, who is currently in Iraq, also made repeated trips to the Middle East to work with Christian Peacemaker Teams there.
On a regular basis, one or both of the Gishes could be found with a few other people standing on Court Street outside the Athens County Courthouse, holding signs calling for peace, in a weekly lunch hour vigil.
He also was a regular fixture at the Athens Farmers Market, where he sold organic produce and other goods from his farm.
Over the years, Gish submitted dozens of letters to the editor to The Athens NEWS and other local newspapers on peace and justice issues, as well as religion and morality. He repeatedly placed first in the reader-nominated Athens NEWS Best of Athens awards, as “Best Leading Citizen.”
Gish gained worldwide attention in 2003, when the Associated Press distributed a photo of him defying an Israeli tank, to try to block it from destroying a Palestinian market in Hebron.
Those who knew and worked with Gish reacted with shock and grief at news of his death Wednesday.
“This is just awful,” said Pete Hill, a longtime comrade of Gish. “He was a fantastic human being, and we need him. He was one of the most important people around.”
“It’s just devastating,” agreed activist Rod Nippert. “It’s an incredible loss to the community, and to the peace movement. I don’t know – it just seems overwhelming. It’s just a big loss for everybody.”
Another longtime friend and fellow activist, Trisha Lachman, said Gish was “an amazing, great person, and we’re going to miss him so much… The way he gave himself, for the sake of the peace and well-being of people here and in the Middle East, is just an amazing thing, that we should all be grateful for.”