Remembering Jonah Adels

During his time on campus Jonah Adels was often found sitting at the warbly piano in Sage Hall, filling the stairway and halls with his music. The remembrance below—by the Class of 2014—is now displayed above Sage Hall's new piano*, with a plaque that begins "Please play this piano in memory of Jonah."
Jonah at the piano
Photo by Christopher Rooks
Jonah Adels, playing piano in the vestibule outside Bowers Auditorium during August of 2012.
On October 2nd, 2013, the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies lost an incredible visionary and dear friend. Jonah Meadows Adels died peacefully, surrounded by his family, after suffering injuries from a car accident in June.
Jonah was about to enter his second year in the Forestry School as a Master of Environmental Science candidate, working to integrate urban ecology and systems design. His vision was to catalyze “a just and abundant human society that reveres life in all forms.”
Jonah’s work at Yale was a continuation of his life’s work.  He was a talented teacher, an inventive musician, a farmer, a filmmaker, and a leader. His deep spiritual sense and fundamental drive to create a better world moved him throughout his life.
Jonah was the light of our school. He was a towering creative force—one of our true outside-the-box thinkers, whose own syncopated rhythms constantly created new melodies, real and metaphorical, for all of us to follow. Professors would pause in the midst of class to tilt their heads and listen, bemused by the chords he coaxed from the creaky three-legged piano in the corner of Bowers Hall. His brilliance inspired and occasionally bewildered.  He ignited a fire at our school, carrying the Fossil Free Yale divestment campaign forward, and inspiring many more students to join.  He spoke compellingly to administrators and students alike of the moral necessity of divestment, all the time helping develop a strategy to make it happen.
Jonah had an uncommon sense of the ridiculous and an equally attenuated disregard for it. He loved to dress up, to laugh hard, to play games and to share his love of music. Everywhere he went he brought life, humor, silliness and song.  His eyes were full of the beauty of the world; his feet were solidly grounded, and very muddy.
Trust poured out of him. Generosity was his default. We all felt from the first day we met him, “At least I have Jonah.” He was incapable of superficial interactions; his warmth is irreplaceable.
Even as we grieve, we have much to be thankful for in our too-brief time with Jonah. He’s left us with so much to do.  Thank you, Jonah for your trust and generosity. Thank you for your intelligence, for your leadership, for making F&ES an innovative academic environment. Your fingerprints are all over this place. Thank you for pushing all of us to be better, inside and outside the classroom, in work and in fun. Most of all, thank you for packing so much life into your 29 years that we are left breathless, wondering, and with no choice but to keep reaching for that standard of joy.

– F&ES Class of 2014
Jonahs family
Jonah's family—pictured here in front of the piano and plaque—visited F&ES for a memorial event on April 25, 2014.
* The new piano was generously donated by Joanne DeBernardo and Family.

This video was recorded at a memorial gathering and tree planting for Jonah, which was held at the Yale Farm.
PUBLISHED: April 25, 2014
Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles posted prior to July 1, 2020, refer to the School's name at that time.