In memory: Local activist Zot Szurgot

by Bill Stephenson and Chris Zurheide

Zot Lynn Szurgot died on September 7th, her car struck by a truck that ran a red light near Hazlehurst, Georgia, where she was helping to build a 450-acre solar array.

A skilled and meticulous union electrician, Zot consistently spoke up for environmental concerns, the homeless, the Occupy movement, LGBTQIA issues, Black Lives Matter, organized labor, peace and justice groups, and etc.

A magical, creative, brave, and beautiful person with an enormous and infectious laugh, she will be missed intensely by the innumerable friends, colleagues, and comrades she cultivated throughout her remarkable life.

Zot grew up in Indiana near Lake Michigan and Chicago. From an early age, she experienced herself more as a girl than a boy. An initial spur to activist thought was her experience of industrial and agricultural pollution in the area. She was drawn toward a by-the-book environmental science career until a mentor was fired for investigating and warning of a tainted water supply.

In her college milieu in Bloomington, Zot loved embracing fascinating people and ideas. Later she lived for a time in India, in Boston, and in Nicaragua during the Sandinista period. She has been a beloved part of the Gainesville community for decades.

“I first remember meeting Zot at a Labor meeting. But after that, I seemed to see her smile everywhere because, well, she WAS everywhere. She practiced solidarity with a faithfulness I can only hope to emulate. She also practiced the art of warm welcome with a gracefulness I seldom encounter. In conversation, she had this soft, approachable openness about her–as though she was weighing carefully all you said without judging you,” said Kimberly Hunter.

“Zot was a wise, supportive, fun, and earnestly cheerful friend despite her own struggles with depression. With her enthusiasm for learning, she was widely read in topics like evolutionary biology, mythology, and space physics besides diverse areas of movement activism, so our conversations tended to be fascinating, rambling, and educational,” said Chris Zurheide.

“Zot, by being unapologetically ambiguous, helped all of us in [our Bloomington] social whirl understand that we had a spectrum within which we lived and that we chose: it wasn’t as binary as male-female, or heterosexual-homosexual. Zot was my touchstone for gender complexity, from the mid-80s until now. S/he was a proud complexifier. S/he was the human who embodied activism and constructive struggle. S/he was someone who I was so glad to have known, and who made me laugh uproariously. Zot was a joyful warrior for justice,” said Michael Jon Jensen. 

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