How does one remember, publicly, a dear friend? Only very, very approximately. Losses like this are irremediable. You really need the person him- or herself, in the flesh, alive and kicking. Our memories, however vivid, are poor cousins to the real thing.
Juris was a founding member of the Seven Stories advisory board, joining other luminaries like Athol Fugard and Kurt Vonnegut. We’ve even brought the esteemed members together a few times, not annually, but like certain blooming desert plants, once every decade or so when the temperature is just right. But none of the other members, I can say with assurance, deeply understood, as Juris did, what an undertaking it is to do what independent publishers do every day across the globe, providing shelter and encouragement for writers and the whole clackity-clack machine of cultural production. And in Juris’s caring hands, that understanding was always expressed with a wink and an indulgent smile, and, ironically, in few words.
I was trying to explain to my sixteen-year old son the magnitude of the loss we have in losing Juris, minutes after I’d heard, and what I ended up telling him was how Juris usually made it his business to come to you. And when you think about it, this tells you everything you need to know about Juris. He was burdened by crippling heart disease, and the devastating nervous system effects of Agent Orange poisoning from his tour of military service in Vietnam. Those antagonists notwithstanding, he would suggest meeting on Christopher Street, at Fika, or at my home, all of which required him to get on the subway and put his body through something that I’m guessing was akin to another person coming to you walking on their hands.
When Juris and Jeannie decided to get married close to two decades ago, he called me a few days before and asked if I might be able to cancel my lunch plans so I could be his best man. And when my first company, and my life, was going over a cliff almost a quarter-century ago, Juris decided he would meet me once a week after work for a civilized drink at a bar with outdoor tables overlooking Union Square with all the tall trees in the park applauding in their stately way, an oasis Juris conjured up for me during those difficult months. This is a friend, someone who’s seen things, and who knows how to protect and cherish all the things in life worth protecting and cherishing, you among them.
There are many, many, many people with similar stories they could share about this man, large in his loves, large in his joy.
I am glad for him, glad that he made his mark as an independent publisher, in both senses of the word, both in corporate spheres and as an indie co-founder of the terrific house Soho Press, which he co-founded with Laura Hruska, and which has now successfully managed the difficult leap into the second generation of leadership under Laura’s daughter Bronwen. I’m glad also that he was able gracefully to transition from publisher to author, with two successful smart thrillers, and a third one we hope still to come. Juris lives, and many are we whose lives are better off because of him. Rest in peace, Dan