The Blind Swimmer: Gordon Grant Fraser (December 2, 1975 – November 1, 2020)

Gordon Fraser, selfie, posted on Facebook in 2020 after Gordon had begun treatment for colon cancer.

Two Coats of Paint has recently learned of the death of Gordon Fraser, a talented artist and art blogger who penned the now defunct The Blind Swimmer, of a heart attack after undergoing a series of treatments for colon cancer. Gordon was an early and interesting contributor to the art blogging community, and after he moved away from New York we lost touch. He married Sauman Choy Fraser, a multi-disciplinary designer who built intuitive and immersive digital products, and they had a son, Liam Glas Fraser. According to Gordon’s obituary, he was working at Google before he died on November 1, 2020. He had spent a beautiful day riding the Ferris wheel at Golden Gate Park with Sauman and Liam, and late that afternoon suddenly collapsed at home in Berkeley. His heart had been weakened by the chemo and he died of a heart attack. The following year, unbelievably, Sauman also died of complications due to an illness. Liam moved back to the East Coast, where he is being raised by his paternal grandparents.

Sauman Choy Fraser, Liam, and Gordon Fraser

From Gordon’s obituary:

December 2, 1975, Gordon Grant Fraser came into this world in Boston, MA, and grew up in Princeton, NJ, before heading out into the world and ending up on the left coast.

In the last year of his life on earth, Gordon discovered he had colon cancer. He privately made light of the diagnosis and, in jest, questioned whether there was something in the chlorine pool water in which we spent so much time swimming in our youth. It just seemed to him like so many loved ones and friends and neighbors are coming down with a case of cancer these days. He had surgery just before Thanksgiving 2019 and started adjuvant therapy on New Year’s Day. Amid a global pandemic, he completed his 12-round course of chemo in June 2020 and was since then staying well and safe in this crazy, crazy world. 

We remember Gordon as beloved “Baba” to Liam Glas Fraser, husband to Sauman Choy Fraser, son to Lindsey and B. Grant Fraser, brother to Sarah Fraser and Emily (Paul) Kaster, nephew to Mark Christie (a.k.a. Unk) and Meredith (Ray) Koplinka (a.k.a. Min), uncle to Chloe Kaster, cousin to Trey and Christina Koplinka, and treasured friend and colleague to so many more. We imagine him swinging hand and hand with Granny (Diane G. Christie) and Pepa (David G. Christie), chattering nonstop, peppering them with unanswerable questions, and shadowing them as they continue to go about their work and looking over all us beings still here on earth. He is the boy who Granny would never flinch to buy those grapes for at the grocery store when he said he knew his other grandmother would get for him. He had an insatiable hunger for honey buns, pecan swirls, and cinnamon Pop-Tarts that he could only get at Granny and Pepa’s house. He is forever the small boy riding his Big Wheel who wanted to be a disposal man when he grew up. We will go on chuckling as Gordon gives us the not-so-subtle clue to what might be in that shoebox-sized present underneath the Christmas tree (“It’s something for your feet!”). When something mischievous happens, we smile and laugh when he exclaims that “Sarah did it.” 

As an adolescent boy, he had an internal compass that could recite directions to grownups on how to navigate the turnpikes and parkways and highways to get to swimming pools in states all up and down the eastern seaboard. On a special trip to London for his 10th birthday, Gordon became fascinated with the map the London Underground, raved about riding the tube, and ordered himself “Chicken Keev” every night. He was a performer and singer in middle school choral musicals, played trumpet in the band, and later sang sweetly across Europe with the high school choir. As a teenager, when he was not at swim practice, he spent his days coaching and lifeguarding and riding around in The Edge (Mom’s wood paneled Buick station wagon) or The Green Bomb (Dad’s “classic” 1974 Plymouth Valiant) with the windows down, music blaring, and getting into shenanigans with his friends. He too was a curious, creative, and diligent student with an interest in mechanical drawing and architecture. He graduated from Princeton High School in 1993. 

He went on to study comparative religions and Asian Languages and Cultures at Kenyon College in Gambier, OH. In 1996, Gordon traveled to India, Nepal, and Tibet and awakened his spiritual and artistic mind and heart. He returned from his travels clearly affected by the experience on his own and abroad on the other side of the world. He graduated with honors from Kenyon in 1997. He later spent time in Boulder working part-time at a bookstore and part-time in construction while continuing his religious studies at the graduate level. He ended up back on the East Coast to pursue drawing, painting, and printmaking at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, which is where he met his future wife, Sauman. He spread his protective wings around her and would not let her fly away. He was as ever the impressive scholar and artist. Gordon and Sauman lived together in Brooklyn and then Jersey City pursing art and design and carving out a niche in the professional world, before moving to the San Francisco Bay-area in 2015. Gordon found himself on a path in his career where his artistic design and technology interests met, most recently putting his talents to work for Google. 

The move to the west coast also found Gordon and Sauman on the path of parenthood. Liam joined their journey in the spring of 2016. With his open heart, gentle soul, and calm nature, Gordon blossomed naturally into the role of devoted and loving father. He practiced every day to thoughtfully look in unto himself in order to reveal the best version of himself to his son and everyone around him. He found peace and joy spending time in the backyard with Liam, planting vegetables, watering the fruit trees, walking along the garden stepping-stones, digging holes, and making mud pies. He traveled with his memories full circle back to the time he spent as a child following in the footsteps of his Pepa around the yard and into the greenhouse. Some days it was enough to relax in a chair with his feet submerged in in the kiddie pool to watch Liam play and grow into his own little person. Other times it was just sitting and thinking and soaking in the quiet moments and looking up at the sky. 

Gordon Fraser, Half Moon Bay, 2020, pages from his chemo sketchbook
Gordon Fraser, Half Moon Bay, 2020, pages from his chemo sketchbook

As a young man, Gordon found his way to the study and practice of Zen Buddhism. With that in mind, coming and going are just notions and concepts that cause suffering. If we practice understanding birth and death as doors through which we pass on our journey, we may live without fear and die peacefully without regret. Gordon came once before too soon and again when conditions were right and lived on earth and in this body for 44 years and many days. He is a firework bursting forth beautifully in all directions and dimensions. He is a flickering flame. He is the clouds in the sky. He is the raindrops falling to the ground. He splashes in the waves and ripples on through the water. Gordon was learning to forgive and accept himself and other people just as they are, were, and will become. We honor his mindful practice by tending the seeds of happiness he planted on this earth in his garden and in our hearts and lives. We will water his seeds with ongoing patience, curiosity, generosity, compassion, forgiveness, and love. We carry Gordon with us into the future. We shall always and forever be meeting again. 

Contributed by Sharon Butler. Obituary via the Tribute Archive.

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