“Ernie” (or Ernest, as he was known to his adoring wife) had a number of friends that he fervently admired, but he always turned to his beloved wifeJosely before he made any big decisions.Josely was a gifted artist with an international following as well as a highly sought-after chatelaine, gracing many wonderful warm-hearted gatherings. Ernie also loved the devotion of his affable stepson Emiliano Saxe, who came into his life decades ago and gave Ernie another figure to cherish.
Among Ernie’s primary relationships was that of his devoted Irish Setter, Mitzu, who historically was devoted to Ernie and loved to range mountain peaks on weekends. While Mitzu was given the decision to periodically crash in and out of our weekend home, only to drift off on an overnight sojourn through the woods, throughout all of this, the dog saw to it that Ernie never left her side. When a man and his dog would afterward return home, it was to heal their wounds after a blissful romp across in the countryside.
And then there was the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA)-- our organization which focuses on progressive human rights and policy issues throughout Latin America. Ernie was involved with COHA almost from the beginning, since the first faltering steps that the organization managed to take starting in the early 1970s. At the time of his death, he was serving as COHA’s Secretary as well as a member of its executive committee.
Ernie was also a well seasoned chef, a spectacular sailor, a resolute hiker, and a devoted Brazilianist. A convivial host, he presided over a table that hosted a variety of interests. Meanwhile, Josely was pugnacious in her determination not to be lead astray as she resolutely pursued her art, her career, her marriage, her family and her culture. She had talked about her art long before anyone knew precisely what she was talking about. Through all of her crusades, Ernie was always by her side, dutifully toting around her illustrations for the many shows in which she participated.
Ernest Chanes was a person whom I lived in close quarters with for decades. At these distances, his importance to COHA went far beyond his role as one of its ranking officials and a critical funder. He was at the core of the organization’s soul. With passion, he monitored events circulating around Cuba, was a lion for insisting that COHA beErnest was a proudly generous person who welcomed perplexing moments that would eventually be reconciled by his immense intellectual hunger for new ideas. In almost every facet of his star-studded life, he was on the right side of history every time and brought a barrel of creative ideas for policy initiatives to the table at any particular time. But somehow, he added much more to the organization than had just been suggested by these bits and strands of endless recollections. He was committed to fighting battles that he instinctively knew represented the right side of the “good fight.” For Ernie, there was a series of grandiose struggles that would help define, and even consume his imagination.
He was willing to embrace COHA’s mettle on all occasions and to give voice to the worthiness of the organization that at times stood empty-handed before the media, on whatever issue revealed its sense of moral value. In addition to joining in the war of ideas that colored Allende’s struggle in Chile against Pinochet, Ernest fought with passion against Argentina’s General Videla and the military regime that repressed the likes of Allende’s dignity and prevented the dousing of the constitutional veneer which was ripped away from the Bolivarians who temporarily lay decimated throughout a battered Latin America.
But everything was in place with Ernie who we so greatly loved and admired, and who revered everyone in return.Ernie was a giver who always opted for life. He grew up in a depression-era culture where funds always fell short, but that was more than compensated by the beautiful life and people with whom he surrounded himself. Ernie was known as a man who could unite others by invoking rational solutions in favor of peace and humanity. He was determined to keep the torch of progressivism be held aloft a mile high, and to be thrust even further into the open hands of another human being. Ernie will not allow any of us to forget our duties. Of course, he never did, and we hope that Brazil proves to be worthy enough to share custody of part of his being.
From the Chanes/Carvalho Household:
Ernest Chanes, activist, included in the Nixon`s enemy list, dies at 93 in Rio de Janeiro.
Ernest Chanes passed away at home in Leblon, Rio de Janeiro on February 8, 2017. He will be remembered for his ethics, compassion, intelligence and memorable beard Lincoln style, unforgettable laugh, and a list of causes and endeavors that could fill several lifetimes.
Born on June 13, 1923 to Russian Jewish immigrants, he grew up in the Bronx during the depression. After the early loss of his father, he helped his mother and sister by fishing and selling fish from door to door. He graduated from City College of New York with a degree in mechanical engineering. During World War II he helped design rockets in the organization that later become NASA. He started three successful businesses, including Consolidated Water Conditioning and ChemTech, an environmental water laboratory.
His activism ranged from voter registration in Mississippi to progressive causes in Cuba. He participated in Freedom Summer in 1964, joining hunger strikes and creating a bond Project to liberate imprisoned Young African Americans.
As civic leader in his local progressive Democratic club, the Village Independent Democrats, during Vietnam War, he won a coveted spot on President Nixon`s enemies list in 1973.
As a board member of the Center for Cuban Studies, he went to Cuba in 1972 to assist the government with a clean water project at the invitation of Fidel Castro`s brother; organized a conference in the U.S. Congress to encourage relations between Cuba and U.S.
He was on executive committee of the National Emergency Civil Liberties and the Center for Constitutional Rights.
In 1975, Chanes provided assistance to Larry Birns in founding the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), an independent research and information organization established for human rights in Latin America, a more US attitude towards the region. Chanes remained on the board of COHA until his death.
A swimmer, a foodie, a traveler, and a dog lover – most recently best friend to a black standard poodle named Xica.
In his later years he divided his time between New York City and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, his wife`s birth country. He is survived by his great love companion of 41 years, the artist Josely Carvalho of New York and Rio; by his son, Emiliano Saxe & his wife Irma; his grandchildren, Ibrahim and Elias of California; his niece Ilene Price, and her three children Adam, Alexis and Amanda.