The beautiful, kind, loving East family. And a special friend đŸ™‚

Running, almost tripping, practically flying down the twisty-turning path through green leafy branches and moss-covered logs with the sun sparkling off of the lake.

The fragrant, spicy aroma of Santosh Indian cuisine wafting up the steps to an old attic filled with mysteries waiting to be unraveled, broken into and taken apart.

Movie nights with way too much candy, movie days with scene-by-scene reenactments and Richard Simmons dance-offs.

There are certain moments that remain so fresh in your memory that you can barely believe they occurred more than 15 years ago. And so many of those memories involved John East, the wonderfully kooky, creative and kind, young and wild father of one of my best friends, Mickey.

John became a father at a young age, but he was about as unselfish as they come during our childhoods. He was an inspiration in the way he cared for his family and encouraged his daughters to follow their passions. He never held them back from anything because they were girls. He was a man who truly and firmly believed in the individual’s right to express themselves – and touched many lives because of it.

As a child, going to Mickey’s home was pure magic. There was Laura, her beautiful older sister to look up to. There was Teresa, one of the most loving, soft-spoken, bright-hearted, nurturing and warm mothers that I have met. And there was John, full of life and adventure.

I think my deep love of photography grew ten-fold because John let us use his SLR camera to do magical photo shoots in the woods below their house. Sometimes we put on red lipstick and dresses and twirled around the living room, snapping shots that are forever etched in my childhood.

I learned so much in that house – from watching films old and new, films that opened my eyes to things yet undiscovered. From listening to music and playing semi-crude, semi-educational computer games that I would never have known of otherwise.

And so importantly, John and Teresa welcomed everyone into their home. They were generous and open, the utter depiction of the more the merrier.

John has left us far too soon. He most definitely had more to teach us, and he will be sorely missed by SO MANY people. It’s hard to express the void that has been left by his departure, but I know one thing for certain – his inquisitive, seeking soul is still with us. He’ll always be there in Teresa’s poems and the love that she shares, in Mickey’s fantastical artwork and unique kindness, in Laura’s generosity of spirit and work.

One more memory comes to mind as I prepare to attend a celebration of his life at Timberline High School today. Last Christmas, my family and I ran into the Easts at the movie theater that we had both attended to watch Les MisĂ©rables. There we were – two families blessed and loved, both strong survivors of divorce and change, each with their struggles but lucky enough to be the type of families that could still come together to watch a three-hour musical on a cold December night. To me, that’s love.

I’ll never forget it. It was the last time I saw John, and the twinkle in his eye was just as bright as it had been when we were children. He will be forever and ever missed.

I asked just a few people to say something about John – and found an overwhelming fountain of love in return.

Lizeta Walker: Being a part of my formative years, John had a powerful influence on bringing about the happiness of life for me. I didn’t realize the degree to which he was consciously present and unconditionally loving, until I sought to demonstrate these qualities myself as an adult. I am grateful to the Easts for being a family to me and unselfishly sharing their father with me. He was a very special person and I know he is dancing like Tevye in the realm of the Spirit.

Evan Brodoff Grotsky: Growing up with Mickey, I always looked forward to having family dinners at her house. I vividly recall spending hours at the table, telling stories, doing weird impressions, and reenacting the best Monty Python bits. John, especially, would laugh his ass off at our jokes, which would only encourage us more! As kids (and through adulthood, too), John and Teresa always supported us and encouraged our creative self-expression. I always felt so accepted by him and his family and like I could always be myself with them. John was kind, gentle, and accepting of everyone. I love him and miss him dearly.

Lynn Grotsky & Lisa Brodoff: John was one of several important men in ours and our children’s lives. He was funny, creative, and so caring and kind and a goof-ball to boot. We spent many years laughing, worrying and sometimes crying, as we raised our children together watching them grow into the amazing adults they are today.

Tina Simcich: A memory: John rushing down the trail to the lake, jumping in the water like a crazy man, bursting up out of the lake – exuberant, with eyes shining with joy and life. Thank you, John, for sharing your heart, life and spirit with us.

Mykal Mantyla: John East was a welcoming and kind soul, nurturing the artistic in his daughters and myself, as their home was became my second home as a teenager. He is gone too soon, as there are so many more he has yet to reach with his great kindness. He will be truly missed.

John, we love you. My heart is with Mickey, Laura, Teresa, his wife Deanna and her children, and his many family and friends today.

To read John’s obituary, please visit the Woodlawn Forest Funeral Home site.