Remembering Ted Posselt: Carpenter, student, proud East Bay resident

Ted Posselt (center) with his sons Daniel (left) and Theo (right). Photo: Courtesy family

Some people are blessed with such a strong sensitivity to others that they can hardly hold a constant opinion of their own.  On the other hand, we have Ted Posselt: a man defined by his own choices and his own beliefs, not out of a sense of arrogance so much as an inability to bend.

Many of his beliefs were admirable, even with the passing of many years: the Vietnam war was inhuman; both giving and taking orders is corrupt and corrupting; you make your own choices and live by the consequences; stray cats choose us; the East Bay is the best place to live; we are all fallible.

Some choices were perhaps unintentionally confrontational: telling the draft board in your Conscientious Objector application that you in fact don’t believe in a Supreme Being is perhaps not the easiest path, but luckily it was successful in 1963. Similarly telling your immigrant parents in a letter home that ‘the only way to get by is to grow your own pot and smoke it’ is an unusual way to tell them about your life.

Finally some behaviors were idiosyncratic — notably the unshakeable conviction that Subaru is the best car, and 1984 and 1995 were the best model years; and the assumption that everyone should speak a little German, and so every conversation should include a few sentences in German — usually unexplained or untranslated.

Rudolf Theodore Posselt was born to a pair of German economic refugees on October 29, 1939 in New York City, and shortly thereafter moved to rural northwest Connecticut. He died at his home in North Oakland’s Fairview Park neighborhood on Oct. 23, 2017, after a very swift bout of cancer.

Ted Posselt in 1966 during selective service. Photo: Courtesy family

In between those dates he was variously a farm boy, a student, a Conscientious Objector, an alternative service worker in South Carolina, a peace and civil rights activist, a teacher, and finally for many years an independent carpenter.

He milked the cow every morning as a child. He lost parts of two fingers, at 14 and 60, but had the latter reattached. He attended South Kent School, Oberlin, UC Berkeley, and SF State. He survived numerous motorcycle accidents. He defused a classroom insurrection at McClymonds after King’s assassination (with the help of his Huey Newton button), but was then fired from another teaching job at Oakland Tech after allowing his students to organize a protest.

Ted Posselt on motorbike at Grizzly Peak in 1967. Photo: Courtesy family

The great project of his adult life was his cabin in Mendocino county, which he built once, tore down as insufficient, and then completely reconstructed over many years of weekends.

He’s survived by his two sons (Daniel Posselt, currently of China, and Theo Posselt, of Berkeley); by his granddaughter, Theo’s daughter; by his three siblings (Elisabeth Barker of Portland, OR; Catherine Bachrach of Kent, CT; and Harold Posselt of Storrs, CT); by his two nieces and one nephew; by his German cousins; by his ex-wife Nancy Kreml of Columbia, SC; and by his good friends, notably Judy Bowman of Oakland and her family.

Ted Posselt in 1996 at the Mendocino home he built, and then rebuilt. Photo: Courtesy family

We leave you with these words from his CO application in late 1962:

“I do not believe that man is perfect. He may not even be very good. Nor do I believe that the brotherhood of man is at present very much respected, but for this reason I believe that we must build, rather than destroy, the brotherhood of man before it is too late.”

A remembrance will be held Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018.