Activist and community organizer John Peter Javsicas, 76, of Mt. Airy, died June 13 at Hahnemann Hospital after being struck by an out-of-control van that jumped a curb in Center City Philadelphia.
Javsicas was born in Queens, New York, to anarchist author Gabriel Javsicas and Erma (Rockhill) Javsicas. He graduated from Friends Academy in Locust Valley, New York, and attended Columbia University and the London School of Economics. He was a high school wrestler and excelled as a distance runner in both high school and college.
After leaving college Javsicas began a career in the New York film industry, where he became a union film editor despite refusing on principle to take a loyalty oath the union required. He would go on to change careers several times throughout his life, each transition guided by conscience and social activist ideals.
In 1970 he met his future wife, Anne, on a train as they returned to New York from a Washington, D.C. peace march organized in response to the Kent State shootings. They married a year later. In 1972, Javsicas, his wife, and two other couples founded an intentional community on a farm near Unityville, Pennsylvania. After the community dissolved they continued to live on the farm with their children, Aaron and Laura, until 1981 when they moved to Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.
Javsicas established his own film and audio-visual production company, Looking Glass Films, and won several national awards for his work. In the late 1970s, he was part of a group that founded Greenwood Friends School in Millville, Pennsylvania, which Anne would eventually direct as head of school. During this period, the family joined the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) as members of Millville Monthly Meeting. Javiscas eventually transitioned to a new career in public relations and development for nonprofit institutions. In 1989 Anne became head of Plymouth Meeting Friends School, and Javsicas accepted a job as development director for Delaware Valley Friends School, and the family moved to the Philadelphia suburbs.
Over the years Javsicas developed a conviction that many social and environmental ills were fundamentally related to the decline of mass transit and the rise of automobile dependency. He came to devote all of his professional time to this issue. He founded Pennsylvanians for Transportation Solutions (PenTrans), a group devoted to multimodal transit for the state of Pennsylvania, with a focus on increased public transportation funding. This group continues to operate.
Later, he would go on to help found Northwest Village Network (NVN), an aging in place community for residents of Northwest Philadelphia, which also continues to function through the leadership of his wife and others.
Other interests included, at various times, dancing (Javsicas was one of the founders of a creative dance group in Northeastern Pennsylvania), theater (as a young man he participated in Summer stock theater, studied acting at the HB Studio in New York, and operated a theater loft with friends near Kennedy Airport; later, he would appear in a number of community theater performances), film (he was a cofounder of Bloomsburg’s Classy Film Society in the early 1980s), food co-ops (Javsicas was a founder of The Real Food Co-op in Northeast Pennsylvania and would later be an active member of Weaver’s Way in Philadelphia), cooking (an interest he inherited from his father; he was always in search of the perfect cast iron pan), Green Party Politics, and, more recently, Rotary International. He loved organic gardening, good wine and beer, dark chocolate, rosette de Lyon sausage, films, opera, classical music, jazz, American history, science fiction, and the novels of Patrick O’Brien. He regretted never learning to tap dance.
Javiscas is survived by his wife and children; by his daughter-in-law, Lucinda Bartley, and son-in-law, David Ross Javsicas; by four grandsons, John David (named for his grandfathers), Daniel, Evan, and Oliver; by his sister, Michele Childers, and by his nephews Peter and Dan Childers. He was preceded in death by his parents and by his brother-in-law, Rory Childers. Peter is deeply missed by his family and many hundreds of others whose lives he touched.
A memorial service will be held July 1 at 2 p.m. at Germantown Friends Meeting, 41 W. Coulter St. Memorial contributions may be made to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia or to the ACLU of Pennsylvania.