Kesey on his tractor - Photograph  2001 Patrice Mackey -

B: September 17, 1935 -- D: November 10, 2001



Kesey's belly was hurting and the docs did a scan and found a black spot on his liver. It was cancerous but encapsulated which meant there was no cancer anywhere else. They decided to cut it out and the surgery went okay. He had sixty percent of his liver left to carry the load but in one of those dirty tricks the body can play on you everything else went to hell and this morning at 3:45 AM his heart stopped beating.

A great good friend and great husband and father and grand dad, he will be sorely missed but if there is one thing he would want us to do it would be to carry on his life's work. Namely to treat others with kindness and if anyone does you dirt forgive that person right away. This goes beyond the art, the writing, the performances, even the bus. Right down to the bone.

-- Ken Babbs


"Now, all you people over there, get the news spread around that they're going to do a memorial service for me at the McDonald theater in downtown Eugene at noon tomorrow and if you can't get inside we are going to put speakers out on the sidewalks so everyone can hear all that hoopla bound be to spreading out of the theater like moths on the wing. It says here they are going to bury me in private. Babbs says there's been thousands of emails and he wants me to thank you all for writing. Meanwhile, I've still lots of forms to fill out and they're looking for a bigger halo but durned if I'm going to play that harp. I'm holding out for the thunder machine. See you around."

-- Kesey

p.s. If you want to donate something send it to the
Spotlight Theater.
P.O. Box 802
Pleasant Hill OR 97455

It's a non profit local community theater group where my grand daughter Kate performs. Thanks.
-- KK


We buried Ken Kesey. It took three days to dig the grave. He's a big man. Everybody dug in. I dug 42 shovelfuls, one for each year I knew him. That was on the first day. During the night I woke up and realized I knew him 43 years, 43 years this fall, when we met at Stanford University in the writing class. 1958. Blink of an eye. The next day I dug 43 shovelfuls. We dug the grave next to his son Jed's. Tuesday night it was ready. A good six feet deep. Beautiful dark soil, nary a rock, good planting soil.

Wednesday we held the service. Drove into Eugene in the bus and parked in front of the McDonald theater. A moving and uplifting ceremony. Kesey was onstage. In his coffin which had been dipped earlier in the swirling paint patterns that have become the Intrepid Trips motif; ever since the bus trip of 1964 when we dipped Zonker's white T shirt in the Wikkieup River and he put it on still dripping. When he took it off his back was dipped, too.

There was talk at the McDonald. The balcony was jammed. There was music. The crowd spilled out into the streets. There was a reading from Kesey's books. Speakers outside broadcast everything. When we carried the coffin out and put it on the back platform of the bus for its trip home a man played "Amazing Grace" on a bagpipe. Earlier we sang "Amazing Grace" inside the theater.

We buried Ken Kesey. He lay in his coffin in front of the grave. We who knew him, family and friends, told our Kesey stories. We read poems. We sang. "Ain't Gonna Study War No More." We walked past the coffin and placed remembrances inside. "We Will Gather at the River." We nailed down the lid. "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" We lowered him into the grave. "Swing Low Sweet Chariot." Threw the lowering ropes onto the coffin. "Death Don't Have No Mercy In This Land." We shoveled in the dirt, taking turns. "Take Five." I did 43 shovelfuls. "They Can't Take That Away From Me."

We wept. We hugged. We ate. We drank. We talked. We played music. We buried Ken Kesey.

-- Ken Babbs


What now? Gotta continue the work. Intrepid Trips, the bus, the pranksters, they all go on. I'm determined to answer every one of the thousands of emails we've received. And all you people who ordered vidies and CDs and shirts and buttons, be patient, we'll get to them.

Speaking of vidies, there's plenty more to come. We're working on Episode 3 of the Kool Place video: "Westward Ho Ho Home." When that is done we have another full length movie we shot in the 70s: Atlantis Rising. We should do a full length Kesey video. Good thing the second generation pranksters are on the job: Zane Kesey and Simon Babbs. They know the routine. They'll keep it going.

Meanwhile, keep the fires stoked, the wheels greased and the windscreens clean. Stay tuned for futher reports.

-- Ken Babbs

For more pictures of Kesey, click on:


Robert Hunter, lyricist for the Grateful and a righteous poet, writer and musician in his own write posted a poem about kesey on his website. Here it is:

Lament for Kesey

all away all away all away all
draggin 'em all away
down into down with
a scream or a sigh
a smile and a nod,
quiet or in full cry
here comes Death
draggin 'em all away

sneak around corners
up out of grates
eagles and the ants,
spiders and the cormorants,
draggin 'em all away

Damn you Death,
I piss on your shoes,
Father of Blues
get offa my land
or I'll run you through!

And who'll be there to
get you when I do?

Never could say goodbye
like it had any kind
of final rectitude,
any essential rightness.
Whatever's right, yeah?
Whatever's true -
later, not farewell.
As in, see you around.

Death is senseless
unless we just pop over
into some other place,
along with the eagles and ants,
the spiders and cormorants,
the destitute and shameless,
the brightest and best -
born to be banished
banished to be born.

One stood in the moonlight
One stood out in the crowd
One stood under star blue sky
his daydream turned up loud.

How did this come to pass?
Don't gimme no don't gimme no . . .
this tractor don't run on horseshit,
Deboree, just natural gas.

Some folk come
to stir it up
and when it's stirred
they split - simple as that.

Robert Hunter 11.10.01

Dear Faye, Babbs, etc.
I'm truly sadden to know that Ken Kesey has spoken and written his last
words. However, he will remain vivid in our memories. The first time I met
him, he came to dinner when Gerd & I were staying in Stewart Brand's teeny
North Beach apartment. Ken sang a funny ditty about "did you ever put your
chewing gum on the bedpost overnight?" That one glued into my memory
alongside the time my sister went to bed chewing bubble gum. We were
sleeping together on a leather sofa bed because we had lots of company. When
I tried to get out of bed in the morning, I couldn't move my head and became
hysterical. I thought I was paralyzed. Only glued to leather with a wad of
gum on the back of my head. Much love to all of you and greatest sympathy in
your loss.
Judi Stern

held on Wednesday, Dec 5, 2001


Kesey's friends gather in tribute

Cynthia Robins, Chronicle Staff Writer

Friday, December 7, 2001


The moment the lights went down in the jam-packed Koret
Auditorium at the Main Library during a tribute to the recently
deceased Ken Kesey, somebody fired up a joint. The
boho-beat-hippie-freak equivalent of a champagne toast.

Kesey, in his best Merry Prankster mode, could not have gathered
a more varied and variegated crowd to honor him had he recruited
them from a downtown San Francisco street, as graybeards and
downy-cheeked young sprats alike came to celebrate the life of a
child wrapped in an adult suit. Kesey died Nov. 10 from the
complications of cancer surgery, and the shock waves throughout
his Vonnegut-style "karass" are still being felt. For Kesey, you
were either "on the bus" or "off the bus," shorthand for entering
the Keseyian world where anything was possible.

"It all happened so fast," said Mountain Girl, a.k.a. Carolyn
Adams Garcia, who met Kesey in 1964 when she was a college
dropout working in Palo Alto, and is the mother of his daughter,
Sunshine, born in 1966. "We had expected him to recuperate," she
said simply. But Kesey is gone, and Mountain Girl said she feels
"a sense of responsibility to prevail against what I'm seeing is a
big conspiracy to break up the world." Mountain Girl, like the
other Pranksters, is still "on the bus."

John Perry Barlow, the charismatic Grateful Dead lyricist and
electronic frontier loyalist, called Kesey a "lightning rod. . . . and
now that he is gone, we're all gonna have to stand a little taller to
catch the lightning."

Kesey's lightning set off the sparks of the hippie movement,
bridging the beatnik anarchy of Neal Cassady with the hippie
ethos of Mountain Girl, her famous ex-husband, Jerry Garcia, and
the rest of his Grateful Dead colleagues. Some of that circle are
gone now. The rest are gray and grizzled. But to all present at the
hastily organized memorial, Kesey's death came too soon. He was
66, which isn't all that old.

The list of speakers read like a Who's Who of hip: Jami and John
Cassady, Neal's children with Carolyn Cassady; Freddy Hahne,
the captain of the Art Police, who set up Kesey's Web site,; Stewart Brand of the Whole Earth Catalog and
Co-Evolution Quarterly, who organized the Trips Festival; Allen
Cohen, founder of the San Francisco Oracle; Jim and Dorothy
Fadiman, Kesey's Perry Lane neighbors in Menlo Park; a bearded
Country Joe McDonald, almost unrecognizable as the handsome
progenitor of the "Fish Cheer";

Vik Lovell, the psychologist to whom Kesey dedicated "One Flew
Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

They spoke of Kesey's "fearless honesty," his "open heart and
truthful mind, " of his "great soul" being "ripped like a giant
redwood from the earth to float upward. Just as sparks fly

They told their tales without weeping -- Kesey, a childlike spirit
for whom laughter was more potent than LSD, probably wouldn't
have liked anybody to cry over him -- stepping up to the
microphone and celebrating the life of one who never stopped
celebrating life.

Even in death, the Kesey ethic holds power over their lives. For the
Pranksters, Kesey will always be a pixilated Pied Piper, the wizard
of wonder, a persuasive force who taught them not only to expand
their consciousness,
but also to keep their souls open to possibility. It was not
by mistake that the word "Further" was written large across the
front of the bus.

Kesey will be forever and always: on the bus.

The Kesey Tribute Gerry Nicosia put together last night was wonderful.

There was a line around the block to get in at 4:30PM. The theater held 300 with a spill over room for another 200. My guess was that there were over a thousand who didn't get in.

There were many eloquent remembrances and marvelous poems. George Walker and MG told the most heartfelt stories. John Barlow read his letter to Kesey. Stewart Brand brought the house down in my opinion with his tale about standing by the grave and how everyone put stuff into the coffin and joints into Kesey's pocket. Then he recounted about the sound of the dirt made hitting the coffin and how Kesey once told Zane why they put flowers on the coffin because it softened the sound of the dirt.

The video was a big hit. Gerry Nicosia and Neely handled the evening with great aplumb. Chet Helms showed up and read a poem written by William Randolph Hearst that was very good and proved the point that one should never trust a Prankster!

-- submitted by Freddy Hahne, AKA R We Really?

Hello Wow! Last night's event was amazing. We filled up the main hall, the overflow room, and they opened up another room and the line was still stretched around the block at 6 p.m. We ended up having enough time to show the whole video which was great. You would have loved it! They go to put the video on and it says Tri Star Pictures etc. somehow he had something else qeued up to go. I just about died. I thought I had grabbed the wrong tape by mistake as I knew this wasn.t a Tri Star Pictures video! Thank god he quickly remedied the situation. anyway, a very special night and a very
special thank you to all who got the video here. Smashing success

-- submitted by Roseanna Lourdeaux