John Gleiber: Colleague and Dear Friend

I was in high school when John Gleiber met AWI’s founding president, Christine Stevens, at a dinner party. Christine invited John to her home the next day. It was 1975 and John was offered a job over tea. He became one of an intimate group of employees who worked diligently in the basement of Christine’s home. For the next 29 years, John was AWI’s assistant to the officers. He was also executive secretary and later secretary of AWI’s then-companion organization, the Society for Animal Protective Legislation. Upon his retirement, John joined AWI’s board of directors and served as secretary.

In 1980 I hoped to intern in the animal protection field during my summer break from college; I sat at my manual typewriter and composed many a letter seeking a position with a nonprofit organization. Fortunately for me, one of those letters reached the hands of John Gleiber. I remember meeting him in the living room of Christine Stevens' stately home. He was dapper and charming, and I adored him from the start.

In those good old days, when you lobbied Congress you could actually meet directly with senators and representatives if necessary or—if not—the chiefs of staff or legislative directors didn’t mind you dropping in to chat about a critical issue. I was privileged to march the halls of Congress with Christine and John, and they worked beautifully as a team. Christine would provide comprehensive detail on an issue, including books, news articles, and scientific studies as appropriate, and then John would sweep in with a clever remark to make the lawmaker or staff member smile, or a brief few sentences that summarized the issue well.

In addition to being the wittiest person I have known, John was also an amazing, amusing and talented writer. Longstanding members of AWI no doubt recall his clever column “Periodical Pleasures,” which he penned throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. John’s activities ranged well beyond lobbying and writing, and included his ready participation at any rally or protest. In fact, one of the highlights of his career was surely the ride he took in the skies around the White House in the massive whale dirigible as part of AWI’s Save the Whales campaign in the late 1970s (sigh, how times have changed).

In December I had the pleasure of celebrating John’s 85th birthday with him, and we continued to see each other as often as our schedules allowed. He died the morning after my last visit. I shall miss my dear friend. I’ll miss his intellect, his political commentary, his advice and support—but, most of all, his boundless kindness and love.

—Cathy Liss