From CRESS FUNERAL HOME, Madison, Wisconsin
Ian Alexander Santino, aged 31, of Madison, Wisconsin, beloved son of Lucy Long and Jack Santino, embarked on yet another adventure on November 28, 2017, an adventure begun much too soon for those whose lives are forever changed for the better for having known him.
His younger siblings, Will and Hannah, have never known a universe not defined by their big brother and his passionate commitments to compassion, honesty, peace, nonviolence, and boundless curiosity. His intense concern for nature was expressed in his daily life as a vegan, an animal rights activist, his work in environmental sciences and ecological restoration, and his insistence on bike riding. He protested global warming one year in high school by refusing to wear long pants, even during snowstorms. He also protested consumerism and materialism of American society by refusing to buy new shoes, instead, duct-taping the same pair, an action that caused great consternation among his teachers.
In his graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he specialized in prairie restoration and loved how prairies contained a myriad of species, each with its own subtle beauty. He loved to cook, preparing numerous vegan feasts for friends and family. His specialty was macaroni and cheese, with the “cheese” sauce made from cashew nuts, carrots, onions, and nutritional yeast. He also loved music and played numerous instruments: piano, guitar, saxophone, and mandolin, the last of which he built himself. He loved reading, watching thought-provoking movies with friends, nostalgic videogames, meaningful and heartfelt conversations, and walks in nature.
Ian was born in Toledo, Ohio, July 17, 1986. He grew up in Bowling Green, Ohio, but also lived for extensive times in Northern Ireland and Spain, and spent significant amounts of time in Boston, New Hampshire, and Montreat, North Carolina. Ian was a high achiever yet cared little about the accolades of society. He earned his Eagle Scout, earning every badge and award possible as a Webelos Scout; made it to brown belt in Karate, and made straight A’s in high school, winning scholarships for college. He was also active in theater, throughout high school, and learned to speak Spanish fluently. He graduated from Oberlin College in 2009 with a double major in Environmental Studies and Biology, and had completed most of the work for a masters of science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in Landscape Architecture. There he discovered a love for teaching, and was recently awarded most innovative teaching assistant. Before moving to Madison in 2012, Ian worked as an urban garden educator for Toledo Grows and and planted thousands of trees for the New York City Parks Department as a part of their ‘A Million Trees NYC’ program. He also worked in Bowling Green for the local parks and as a chef in a vegetarian restaurant.
Ian shared his love of trees with his grandfather, Rufus Alexander Long, and his love of the stars, music, and reading with his maternal grandmother, Peggy Bradford Long. He spent memorable summers with his paternal grandmother, Anna Kiley Santino, and gets his first name as a Scottish variation of his paternal grandfather’s, John (Giovanni) Santino.
When Ian was first diagnosed with colon cancer in the summer of 2014, he wrote that he had always hoped to go on a quest, and that, like Frodo, we don’t get to choose the quests given to us. He maintained that spirit through several rounds of chemo, major operations, radiation therapy, and finally, at his own choice, hospice care. He chose to live each day to the fullest, not letting cancer keep him down. He kept teaching, attending classes, riding his bike, making music, traveling, and spending time with family and friends up until the last few weeks. After his liver failed and he realized that he had little time left, he called his family and asked them to come to Madison. There, they spent a memorable Thanksgiving, along with his partner, Caitlin Carlson, and good friend, Sarah Betzler. They were able to have meaningful conversations with him in the time left. On Thanksgiving day, in true Santino fashion, he asked for pumpkin pie and shared it with his beloved cat, Fiona.
It was a privilege denied to most to be able to plan one’s death as he had planned his life, and to make sure that he was not leaving behind any hurts– except for the massive wound of his leaving us way too soon. Ian lived an incredibly full and passionate life. He once said that death is a creative act, of energy releasing into the world like a burst of sunlight to be absorbed into other living things. We take comfort in his wisdom, and in Carl Sagan’s observation that we are all made of the stuff of exploded stars. Ian chose a natural burial with an oak tree planted above him, so that he can become part of the natural world he loved. He found what he wanted at the Farley Center in Verona, WI, a teaching farm focused on sustainability and enabling refugees, immigrants, and others in need to acquire skills and experience. He especially takes comfort in the fact that the Center’s house has a resident cat, Tigger. A burial service will be held at the Farley Center on Saturday December 2nd at 2 pm, followed by a vegan pot-luck.
Ian is survived by his parents Lucy Long and Jack Santino of Bowling Green, Ohio; brother Will of Madison, WI; sister Hannah of Limerick, Ireland; grandfather Rufus Long of Black Mountain, North Carolina; numerous aunts and uncles, Brad and Laura Long (NC), George Long (Hong Kong), Margie Long (Baltimore), Eric and Bette Long (Boulder, CO), Angela Long and Thomas Wippenbeck (Falls Church, VA), Eileen and Alfredo Long Farias (Burke, VA), Tookie (Anne Santino) and Rus Nykvist (Boston, MA), numerous cousins, friends, his partner in life, Caitland Caitlin Carlson, and his beloved pet cats Felly, Vanderbilt, and Mistletoe of Bowling Green; Fiona and Klauss of Madison.
Ian asks that everyone plant trees (preferably native) in his honor and, if compelled to give money, to donate to the following nonprofits in his name:
The Center for Biodiversity
The Conservation Fund
We are also taking donations toward an oak tree to be planted in the UW lakeshore preserve next to the Biocore prairie where Ian conducted his field work for his research.
Ian’s family can be contacted through his brother, Will Santino at WillSantino@gmail.com or
548 West Wilson St, Madison, WI, 53703.