July 16 1968 – October 26 2010


Thank you for your passion and energy. Those who were touched by you will continue on in your memory. We will endeavour to see every leaf, bug, fish, and rainstorm with the enthusiasm and wonder that you shared. We will learn to play and laugh even when life is getting us down. We will walk taller, stronger, and more in love than before. We can all be 6 foot 6 in our hearts.

– Bexie

You can view a slideshow of some images from the ceremony for Jon at Mana here (with thanks to Jeremy Hill Photography).


Michael Crigler

January 15th, 2011

Jon was a beautiful, loving man, who truly lived to give. People who knew him best know that at times he could drive you crazy! For good or bad, that was Jon, a man full of love and passion. But most of the time spent with him was all laughs and talks about change. He really felt strongly about making this world a better place and he inspired countless people from all over the world to feel the same. I can’t even begin to share the immense amount of gifts that Jon has given me, he was truly one of the most beautiful human beings I have known. Perhaps without even knowing it, he pushed people to look inside themselves and grow to be better human beings.

His energy was massive, like thunder, a big ball of radiant light! I loved roaming through the forest with that man. He would jump up hills and hop up trees with ease and seemed to always know his way (even when he didn’t!). He could endlessly share information and go into detail about the flora and fauna and was always at peace deep in the forest or out in the ocean. He lived each day of his life as an adventure and he shared that sense with everyone he knew. The world will not be the same without Jon Traylen.


January 15th, 2011

Leader, genuine, gallant, gentleman, giving, charismatic, deep, wise, humorous… these are just a few words that I would use to describe Jon. He had an energy that was contagious to all that came to know him. He was as mystical as the magical land that surrounded him.

An adventure with Jon was never a dull or forgettable adventure, whether it was getting that dirty old van stuck on a rocky beach, climbing a giant rata tree, possum hunting in the dark, jumping off a cliff into a river, or kayaking at night during a full moon.

I knew Jon for 6 very important years of my life. He came into my life when I was trying to find my way. Jon’s passion for giving back to the earth and nurturing it was and is my glimmer of hope that there is good in this world and life’s miracles are all around us. He made me laugh whenever I got too serious and was always there to listen. I believe that his spirit lives on in the songs of birds, each new leaf that unfolds and the rainbows that appear after a summer rain.

Jon, hundreds found you by way of trying to find themselves. I hope that you have found your way, buddy. You will always be in my thoughts and loved in my heart.

Your friend,



January 15th, 2011

First of all; my condolences for the loss of Jon.

Let me start by telling you a little about myself and how Jon entered my life. My name is Lili and I live in The Netherlands. I am now 37 years old and when I met Jon I was a mere fledgling of 22. I was WWOOFfing in a bicycle shop in Auckland where I met Nigel Leggett. He knew Jon (come to think of it, I have no idea how they met) and went on ‘adventures’ with him. One day Nigel asked me if I wanted to go tree climbing with him and a friend called Jon. Out of pure curiosity I said yes.

That weekend we drove to Hamilton where we met Jon. He made a huge impression on me. He was this gentle giant with a never fading smile looking like a child about to go to the beach. From the first moment we met it was very clear to me that Jon loved the New Zealand Temperate Rainforest and was passionate about preserving it. He did not explain however, what we were going to do exactly. We assembled our gear and met some other people and piled into a van. It was clear that I was only first-timer in the group. I was astounded to see large rolls of sheet metal, hammers, nails, chicken wire and metal cutters amongst the gear needed for tree climbing. As a little girl from far away I was way too shy to ask what all the strange gear was needed for. As we were driving, Jon started to ask me all sorts of questions. Was I afraid of heights? Had I had experience with tree climbing or any other climbing? Was I afraid of insects large or small? What were my first aid skills like? Did I like feijoas? Did I like hiking? Camping in the rainforest? It went on and on, and I got more and more nervous with every question. When we finally arrived, we set up camp in a DOC accommodation where we all shared the main room as living and sleeping quarters. After dropping our gear we went into the forest and, finally, Jon told us what we were supposed to do. It turned out we would put big metal bands around giant trees called Rata trees. I had no idea what I was in for! Coming from the west of The Netherlands where trees do not grow very tall I had no idea what a really tall tree in the New Zealand rainforest looked like. When we got to the tree Nigel and I were supposed to band, the breath was knocked out of me. I had never seen a tree that tall! Jon saw the look on my face and put me at my ease, promising that he would come and check up on us with regular intervals. We climbed the tree by shooting a rope across the lowest branch. I could not see from the ground that the lowest branch was actually higher than the tops of the trees around it. When we had pulled the climbing ropes over the branches and climbed the ropes to the level of the lowest branch (20 meters above the ground) I was sick with vertigo and exhaustion. Precisely at that moment Jon shows up shouting encouraging words and hooking the metal bands to the end of the gear rope. We proceeded to hammer the band around the tree, filling up all holes with chicken wire and making it impossible for Possums to climb this tree and eat all the leaves, thereby killing it. I went on five or six trips like that with Jon and Nigel and we became really good friends. After three trips he was officially called Captain Rata Banding with the t-shirt (home made by Nigel and me) to match! During the year I spend in NZ in 1995-1996 he was a very good friend and we stayed in touch even when I was back in The Netherlands. It was during this time that he bought the first property in Tararu valley.

I returned to New Zealand in 2000 again staying for a year and by this time Jon had become the closest thing to a brother I ever had and probably ever will have. He had nicknamed me Moose by that time (I have forgotten why) and he had become Bear. We loved and hated each other like siblings can. We fought a lot of fights just like siblings do. Jon visited me in 2002 or 2003, staying with me for a week or so. I came back to NZ again in 2005, then only for four weeks. As Jon teasingly told me then, I had become comfortable and settled in with a big job and my own houseboat. He was right, I had settled and loved it. In 2007 Jon asked for my help with a big fundraising he wanted to do and I spend a lot of time translating the website. Sometime after that we had a disagreement and, for the first time, neither one of us managed to get passed it. I sent him an e-mail early last year and did not hear back from him until earlier this year. I was too spiteful to forgive him for taking so long to write me back. I’m sorry about that, I would have liked to have been his friend again.

I’ve known Jon Traylen as someone with a big heart. He was not an easy man but I guess, like things that are not easy, it is worth it when you get to know him. I’d like to remember him like the bear he once was. He could be as playful as a bear cub and as serious and scary as a grizzly bear. He had very strong ideals and was not willing or able to live in any other way. He loved teaching about nature and the New Zealand rain forest he loved so much. I will miss him very, very much.

Joey Alsberge

January 15th, 2011

I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jon. He was a dear friend and a vibrant, passionate person, who cared deeply for the planet.

I first met Jon in 2000 when I came to New Zealand to do an internship at Tararu Valley. I was 16 years old at the time, and I came with my friend, Todd Loewen. I remember being so excited when we first arrived in The Valley. Jon housed us in a cabin up on the hill, surrounded by manuka. The Valley was so gorgeous, and I felt like I was in heaven.

I stayed in The Valley for a little over two months, and I have many dear memories of time spent with Jon there. Everyday was a new adventure. Jon dubbed Todd and I the “Botany Boys”, which I liked quite a lot, and would take us on fantastic hikes where he would teach us about native plants (he had vast knowledge of the local flora, fauna, and natural history) and then quiz us on their names and uses. He was a great teacher. Jon had a reverence and excitement for the natural world that was contagious.

A close friend from back home, Mali Cotterill, came to New Zealand to join us in The Valley. Andrew Rotando, a volunteer and friend, joined the team as well. We had a little family in The Valley, and Jon really liked this. We went on midnight possum hunts (always a thrill), built trails, planted trees, cut down gorse, and planted gardens. We worked hard and played hard. Jon gave us free reign of The Valley, and I absolutely loved it. Jon really wanted to make sure we were having a good experience—a mix of learning, work, and fun (or “re-creation”, as he used to say)—and he did a really good job at that.

I became quite close with Jon. He used to call me Joe-Berger (my last name is Alsberge), which I found endearing. I remember once on a hike I fell and got a pretty nasty splinter in my finger (I still have the scar). That night Jon spent a good hour carefully and patiently working it out with a needle and warm water soak.

Jon was a hilarious guy who could always make me laugh. I brought a hat from home to give to Jon with the name of my hometown on it, Bainbridge Island. He really liked that hat, and wore it all the time. Whenever somebody asked him where Bainbridge Island was, he would answer in a jokingly incredulous way, “You don’t know where Bainbridge Island is!?!”, as if everyone should know where an obscure little island in the State of Washington is. It was quite funny.

Jon was always shocked by how much sugar I could consume (at that time I was a serious sugar addict!). I would buy huge bags of licorice allsorts from Thames and bring them back up to The Valley and hoard them for myself. This dismayed Jon because he was really working hard to get me to eat healthier (he eventually succeeded). Once, Todd and I decided to make lemon bars using Todd’s mom’s recipe, which involved lots of sugar. That night we left the tray of lemon bars down in Jon’s place, and the next morning discovered that they had all been eaten. When we asked Jon what happened, he said with a guilty smile on his face, “Rats ate ‘em.” We happily teased him about that for weeks to come.

Jon would always challenge Todd and I to wrestling matches and no matter what we would try we could never beat him, even 2 on 1. The guy was invincible and really knew some phenomenal martial arts moves.

Jon took Todd, Mali, Andrew, and I on some wonderful trips around Coromandel Peninsula. I have fond memories of hot springs, fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, and listening to Music from the Coffee Lands and Wonders of the African World (Jon liked these two albums a great deal). I remember on one of those trips when we showed Jon the movie, The Big Lebowski, one of my favorite comedies. He loved it, and would frequently quote lines from it, even years later.
When it came time to return to the U.S., I didn’t want to leave. I had really enjoyed my time with Jon in New Zealand. Because of this, I returned again to The Valley in 2003. Jon welcomed me with open arms. It was great to be back. I stayed for a month, and would have stayed longer, but had to return home because of the sudden death of my father. After I left, Jon planted Kauri trees in memory of my dad.

Over the years, Jon really made an effort to stay in touch with me. I always saw myself taking trips back to New Zealand to visit him once I finished school. We also talked of him coming to the U.S. at some point so we could take a sea-kayaking trip together.

I am very sad that I will not have the opportunity to see Jon again in this lifetime. I am very grateful to have had him as a teacher and friend, and I will sorely miss him.

Laura Rosenshine

January 15th, 2011

My name is Laura Rosenshine and I was 26 when I met Jon on Jan 9th of this year. I was a last minute volunteer from New York needing to run away for a bit and hoping to learn about sustainability for personal reasons as well as for guidance on a new career. My time at earthwise valley was life changing. It’s hard to explain why the valley was such an amazing place, but it was a place were people could learn an alternative style of living and at the same time responcibity towards the earth. it’s not for everyone but the atmosphere jon aimed to create was for learning, fun and getting dirty. Jon was able to positively influence a lot of lives. And Each persons was able to take away different experiences based on who they were and where they were in life, it was very unique. I can only hope jon knows that even though the valley life wasn’t 100% perfect, it was a very special place and for me, life changing and full of experiences that will be with me forever.

He was a man of good nature and his relationship to the land was inspiring and admirable. When he spoke about the future of land at Earthwise valley he painted such a clear picture that I was able to envision it so clearly and i assumed that one day I would return to new zealand and the coromandel to see the growth, transformation, and sustainable world he dreamt about.

I didnt know jon long, but passion, determination, and fighter were words I would use to describe him. Its unfortunate that his worries and fears were kept locked in his head. The world will never know how long he suffered or what he really suffered from but I hope his friends, family, and all loved ones can find some comfort in knowing that his pain no longer exists.

Jon you left the world too soon and you and your spirit will be missed.

Caroline Canning

January 15th, 2011

When I left the Valley, Jon, and the moppets behind in 2009 after 6 weeks of volunteering I never imagined that I would be mourning his death less than 2 years later. I had a lot of respect for the overall vision of what he was trying to create in the Valley and the experiences he was trying to offer volunteers from all over the world. I hope Jon knew how much that volunteer experience meant to me and so many others.

I will remember Jon as someone who worked hard, played hard, and loved life. He had a complicated personality – he cared deeply and had a huge laugh, but he was also stubborn and one of the most frustrating people I have ever met. During those 6 weeks I remember many rides in his Jeep when I was the lucky one not to be crammed into the volunteer van, instead I got to ride in comfort with him and the dogs. We would discuss the experience of life, analyze people, and what the Valley would be like in the future. We had so many wonderful conversations on those rides. I knew without a doubt that despite any conflicts we had, we would be friends for life and I was looking forward to returning to New Zealand for a visit in the next few years. When I learned Jon had never been to Canada I was determined to begin a quiet campaign to convince Jon that he needed to get here on a visit.

I will miss Jon a lot and when I am lucky enough to return to New Zealand, the trip just won’t be the same because I will no longer have Jon to go kayaking with or to chase his 6foot6 larger than life presence up some mountain side on a hike. Jon you made more of a difference than you probably realize, I will miss you.


January 15th, 2011

My name is Baylie and I was a volunteer when Jon was running Tararu Valley Sanctuary. Words cannot express how sorry I am that Jon has passed. He was instrumental in shaping my 19-year-old self. He taught me so many wonderful things that at the time seemed simple. i.e. how to chop carrots properly, how to cement pipes, how to form the happy baby pose, how to climb rocks without fear, how to listen to my surroundings and most importantly how to live with intention. He gave me the confidence to set out on my own. When I arrived at Tararu Valley Sanctuary I was a scared and angry kid. When I left the Valley, I was filled with love and I felt like I had purpose. Jon is very much a part of who I am today and I will always feel his presence with me, encouraging me as he did in the Valley.

My sincere condolences,


Emily Richardson

January 15th, 2011

I was a volunteer in Tararu Valley in 2006 for about 3 months, and although I haven’t been in touch with Jon in a couple years, it wasn’t because I don’t think about that time and my friends from New Zealand. He created a wonderful program that gave me an opportunity to live and work closely with other people who cared about the same things and from whom I could learn so much. I had so much fun and so many great experiences in New Zealand that I will never forget.

It’s hard to imagine that I no longer have the chance to thank Jon directly for this experience, I always imagined I would make it back to New Zealand and visit. I did want to share with you that he meant a lot to me, and his influence will not be forgotten. He did so many amazing and inspiring things throughout his life and he will be missed by many.

Jen Zajac

January 15th, 2011

It’s one of those sad truths in life that we often don’t realise what we had until it’s gone. It’s only now with his passing that I am aware of the extent to which I valued his friendship, counsel and terrible puns.

Jon’s enthusiasm and almost superhuman work ethic in the face of what always seemed like insurmountable odds was an inspiration. In the four years that I knew Jon I was always happy to offer what help I could because I knew that he had a greater plan and vision in mind.

I’m glad that the native forest at Tararu which is now under a covenant (http://www.littlegreenpixel.com/images/tararu_article.jpg) will remain as a physical, lasting testament to Jon’s hard work and belief in conservation in the Coromandel. On a more personal level though I know that Jon’s impact is much more far reaching than that – the dozens of volunteers which have come though the Valley, myself included, have left inspired and more in touch with the land. Jon was our guide and was what made that connection possible.

I’ll miss you buddy.


January 16th, 2011

Jon, you were a very special person to me. I don’t think I’ve met anybody else with such a passion for nature and at the same time such a vast knowledge of it, as well as an eagerness to share this. You were full of ideas and visions and dreams, your creative mind didn’t ever seem to rest.

I really appreciate what you taught me about NZ ecology and sustainable living; it helped me to soon feel more at home in NZ than in my country of birth. I have very fond memories of hours spent stomping through or sitting quietly in the forest while soaking it all up or discussing alternative ways of living to step more lightly on this planet.

Another one of your outstanding characteristics was your playfulness and humor. You simply were a monkey who couldn’t stop to play, cheat and be silly. You could bring even rather serious people to forget about their good education and well-behaved, grown-up manners to join in general silliness and craziness. I had a look of the old photos from “Back in the days” and the memories of those hilarious occasions and games made me laugh like I hadn’t in a long time. From this perspective, the Tararu Valley Project was a wonderful retreat from our serious world full of duties and social pressures –although it certainly wasn’t free of those either! I learned a lot about being tolerant towards all kinds of people. I would not want to miss those difficult and hard, but also so very rich years and will always treasure these memories.

I loved your physical strength, too. The way you would pick up people, wardrobes or small tree logs and throw those on your shoulder to walk off with them somewhere always impressed me. You could work incredibly hard.

Everyone who knew you would have noticed sooner or later how difficult you could be. Still, I like to think that most people really got something out of meeting you. You were a unique character that probably no one will ever forget; I know that you inspired many people and changed their view of the world, not only through your ideas of sustainable living, but also through various concepts of spirituality and body work you would frequently talk about. This is certainly true for me.

I am grateful to have known you well and to have walked a section of your life path with you.
I will miss you as a special friend and someone who was always able to pull me out of a dark mood and to put a smile – sometimes even a full-blown roaring laughter- back on my face just by talking to me on the phone. I wish I could have done this for you when you most needed it, too.
I wish you peace, Jon.

Jason Roxburgh

January 21st, 2011

John, we first met Hamilton way back in the mid-1990s, working together on conservation projects, and then both ended up on the Coromandel at about the same time. Your zeal for the environment was reknowned, and your uncompromising approach sometimes made you as many foes as friends. But through everything you steadfastly stuck to what you believed is right, and for that you have my ongoing admiration.

The Coromandel, wider New Zealand, and all those your life touched are dimmed by your passing. Well met my friend.

Hannah Corner

May 26th, 2011

After only spending 3 months volunteering at Earthwise I felt I got to know Jon better than people I’ve known for years.

These words I write won’t do justice but those of you who met Jon and spent time with him will understand how much an influence he had on our lives. I went to Earthwise with an open mind not knowing really what I was letting myself in for, but found a whole lot more than I was expecting.

To me Jon was not only a friend but a great teacher, the greatest thing I took away with me after Earthwise was how to appreciate the simplist of things, things I would normally take for granted or not give a second thought and how to embrace life doing the things you love.

It saddens me that the great plans and ideas that Jon had for the land that he fought so hard for will not be seen through. Even a volunteer at the early stages of this project and I’m sure all the other volunteers who had the pleasure of working there were curious to see how the land would have developed through several years of Jons love with the help of fellow enthusiasts.

In short to sum up my time with Jon would simply be…
…Life changing

Jon although you are gone the memories will stay forever

Dave Dayan

January 15th, 2014

Jon Traylen has been a huge inspiration in my life. His ideals on the environment and sustainable living have become hugely important in my life as well. I loved my time volunteering with him in Tararu Valley so much that from the instant I left I was looking forward to coming back again. I was so happy to help out and learn so much from him again while volunteering this past summer and winter. So Jon, thank you for all that you’ve taught me and your influence on my life.