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Last Update Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

Publication Date: Sunday, April 19, 2020

Jonathan Clifford Spero

  Dear friends —

  Please join us in remembrance and celebration of the life of Jonathan Clifford Spero. Jonathan had a heart of gold, but most people did not know that physically, he had only a half a heart since suffering a heart attack several years ago. His death is presumed to have been from a heart condition, as he was otherwise well at the time of his passing. Jonathan was a hard-working man, who was still farming and writing up to his last living day on Earth. He left this realm peacefully and unexpectedly on April 13, 2020, at approximately 3 a.m. at home in Provolt, Oregon, in his sleep.

  Jonathan came to this world on Nov. 30, 1952, in Buffalo, New York, into the loving home of his parents, A. June and Robert David Spero. He was the middle of three children, joining his older brother, David, and later welcoming his younger brother, Daniel.

  He was an adventurous spirit and had a great love of music. In 1969, at the tender age of 16, Jonathan ventured, along with his cousin, Ira, and two friends, to the Woodstock Music & Art Fair for three days of peace and music. He loved to sing and play his guitar, and he enjoyed dancing to his favorite bands in concert. He was also a great patron and supporter of musicians — most of his CD collection consisted of music he bought directly from local musicians that he loved — and he would learn and play their songs as well. He helped to make a local musician's recordings into a song book when she passed away suddenly, and was always excited to choose a local band for his events.

  Jonathan was active in opposition to the Vietnam War; he participated in the anti-war and women's rights movements; he was a conscientious objector, and he served as a draft counselor in his youth.

  As an aspiring young farmer, Jonathan bought the book "How to Grow Vegetables & Fruits by the Organic Method'" by J.I. Rodale, while still living in New York City, and then immediately left New York. His search for cheap and fertile land brought him to Glenville, West Virginia, where he met the love of his life, Jessie Ellen Rader. Jonathan and Jessie were married on Sept. 20, 1975. After Jonathan completed his education to become a land surveyor, Jonathan and Jessie moved to Southern Oregon, where they raised their three children, Orion (b. Jan. 11, 1983), Rose (b. Jan. 18, 1985), and Heidi (b. July 25, 1987).

  Successful and revered in his business as a professional land surveyor in Josephine County, Oregon, from 1982 until 2011, when Jonathan retired from surveying, he began to put his time and passion into plant breeding. Jonathan brought to fruition many of his own new varieties, including Siber Frill Kale, Solstice Broccoli, Emerald Fan Lettuce, and multiple open-pollinated varieties of sweet corn, including Top Hat, Festivity, Zanadoo, Tuxana, and Aloha #9.

  As a member of the founding board of the Open Source Seed Initiative, Jonathan worked tirelessly to maintain fair and open access to plant genetics. He wrote numerous articles on the topics of plant breeding and agriculture, and was often invited as a featured speaker at various seed and organic farming conferences. He was a Grange member since 1981, initially joining the Provolt Grange, and was currently a member of the Williams Grange.

  Seedsman, Seed Mentor, Seed Protector, Seed Friend, Corn Breeder, Earth Lover, Righteous Family Man, Beloved Friend of Many, Jonathan planted his love into the hearts of his many friends and family, and into the land and the seeds he bred and cultivated for the greater good of people and planet.

  As friend and colleague Chris Hardy of Hardy Seeds has so eloquently stated: "This great leader worked to help protect local farmers and their seeds in a successful campaign banning GMO crops in Southern Oregon. He wrote pages and pages to educate the people and elected officials, directly challenging a system that for decades has benefited large multinationals over the wellbeing of family farms. He went to the state capital and rallied people together to demand accountability. Jonathan would often send out emails making sure that ongoing legislative efforts focused specifically on statewide protections for seed diversity, keeping seeds open-source and accessible to all farmers, and that there was accountability for human greed and the close-to-home threats genetic engineering of seeds and life are to our future. Jonathan once told me, 'Seed protectors have begun to rise!' Jonathan's spirit and heart full of seeds are our Hope, which will live long into the future as new hands begin planting his seeds in this movement."

  Preceded in death by his parents, June and Robert Spero, Jonathan will be dearly missed by his loving wife of 45 years, Jessie Spero; his son, Orion Spero; his daughter, Rose Spero and son-in-love, Mukil Natarajan; daughter, Heidi Spero; brother, David Spero and sister-in-law, Aisha; nephews, Sekani and Mathias; brother, Daniel Spero and Dan's partner, Sharon; his three cousins, Ron Schwartz, Donna Browning, and Ira Schwartz; his many friends, and fans of his work.

  Jonathan will be laid to rest at the Hartley Cemetery in his beloved Williams, Oregon. A Celebration of Life is being planned for later in the summer.


  To place an obituary, call Tamara Stuebing at 541-474-3714 or email