February 14, 1938 – November 24, 2012
On the evening of November 24, 2012, Lama Ngawang Kunga Thupten Gyaltsen (known as “Kunga,” and also known as Storrs Barrett Booch Williams and
Sapan Rinpoche) passed away at approximately 7 p.m. from pancreatic cancer while in hospice care. He was 74 years old and did not appear to have been in pain.
Storrs “Barrett” Booch was born on February 14, 1938 in Fairmont, Minnesota to Emily Barrows Barrett, a music teacher, and Harold Leo Booch, a pastor.
Near the end of World War II, Barrett’s father left the ministry and became a chaplain in the Navy. Barrett, his two younger brothers, and their mother moved to her native village of Williams Bay, Wisconsin, where Barrett’s grandfather and namesake, Storrs Barrett, was an astronomer at Yerkes Observatory. Some of the happiest years of Barrett’s life were spent in his teens and twenties working at the observatory. He came under the wing of many world-renowned astronomers including his uncle William Wilson Morgan and future Nobel Prize winner, Subrahmanyan Chandresekhar. After his parents divorced in 1949, his mother re-married Mark Williams in 1952 and had a fourth son. In 1955, Mark adopted Barrett and his Booch siblings. In addition to his love of astronomy and music, Barrett was an enthusiastic model airplane builder, diving bell user, artist, photographer, philosopher, chess player, and big brother.
Barrett studied at four major universities and graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in philosophy and minor in music. In the 1960s, he composed and played his music in Chicago nightclubs, and his first professional job was in the record industry. He moved to California in the late 1960s and became actively involved in the free speech and peace movements. He created the rock band, the Odyssey Stone Rock Outcrop, and played the saxophone in the avant-garde Los Trancos Woods Community Marching Band. In the 1970s, he pioneered the use of laser light and sound at the Minolta Planetarium of De Anza College in Cupertino, California. He was founder of “The Game Place,”a hangout for chess enthusiasts and other game players. In the 1980s, he became a master of the Rosicrucian Order (AMORC) and started his own company as CEO of Macrosoft Corporation, a computer consulting company. He began embracing Buddhism, and became ordained as a Buddhist Monk in 1988, receiving the title “Lama” in 1991, and was recognized as Sapan Rinpoche by his Abbot-Guru His Holiness Trinity Sakyapa during the Tibetan Losar in 1996. He also referred to himself as a Native American “wannabe” and was given the Medicine Name “Lama Lone Hawk Watcher” by Native American Fred “Beaver Chief” Jameson. During the last years of his life, he lived in Lyons, Colorado, and embraced its people. He was passionate about civic duty, faithfully executed poetry readings at his Lyons Itinerate Poetry Society (LIPS), and supported causes that revered the earth and all its creatures. He was always quick to share his love of music, from performing in ceremonies with his recorder, to organizing concerts with his SAMSARA Meditation Ensembles and his cherished singing bowls in various cities around the world.
Kunga will be sorely missed by his big blended family and his worldwide friends. He was married and divorced three times. He is survived by his beloved children: Laura, Sasha and Colby; his four grandchildren: Eleanor, Bodhi, Rani, and Isabella; his former stepchildren: Wendy, Brad, and Jeri; his three brothers: David, Peter, and Lindsay; his four nephews, four grandnieces, and two grandnephews.
And, as Kunga was so often heard to say in parting, “Life, Light, Love, Luminosity, and Liberation.”
As for Lyons, Colorado, he declared it “The Jewel of the Front Range,” of which we all agree.