Jesse had a big heart. Anyone who knew him could tell you that. As it turns out, he also had a sick heart. He died on August 2, 2022, in his sleep of a heart attack.
Jesse Pinder was, first and foremost, an amazing dad. He was so kind, so gentle, so patient, so strong. As willing to have a dance party, as he was to play dress up or play Barbies or watch that episode of Bluey for the millionth time. And he could launch his little girl out of the pool like a cannon, as she learned to swim like a fish. He made his daughter brave and funny, he made her feel smart and safe. He did that for all who had the good fortune of his friendship.
Jesse was born on November 7, 1976, in Gridley, California, descended from pioneers. He graduated from Yuba City High School and studied at San Diego State University. Everywhere he went, he found wonderful communities of friends who helped him become the amazing artist, activist, feminist, husband, father, and son he was.
Jesse was always curious to know more about the state of the world, and determined to do what he could to make it a better place. He was constantly teaching himself new things. He was a comedy ninja – a quiet presence in the room until he came out of nowhere with a hilarious joke.
Jesse searched for beauty everywhere—finding it often where others didn’t think to look. He made art wherever he went: Whether it was catching a moment in time with a candid street photo, editing a discussion of a complex subject into its most easily shareable version on TikTok, or capturing an epic vista with a drone. Jesse, himself, was a walking work of art with his tattoos — which he taught himself to do. You can see his work on Instagram @pinder.foto and TikTok (where he had tens of thousands of followers) howlin.mad.social.change and howlin.mad.imagination. He was proud of the ripples of change he put into the world.
And he’s gone. And with him, a light in this world has vanished.
From his wife, Lauren: “The one time Jesse and I talked about what we wanted for ourselves after we died, he said, “I want to be shot into space!” I smacked his arm and said, “Come on, be real.” I don’t remember where we were when we had this conversation. I think maybe it was a walk at night, but I remember the way he said it clear as day.
"When I was faced with actually making choices for Jesse after his death, I sent my parents to the funeral home. I couldn’t bear going myself. And to convey what a loss we were all at collectively, my mother shared this exchange with the funeral director. At which point the funeral director’s eyes lit up and she said, 'We can do that!'
"And so, my friends, Jesse will get his wish. One tenth of Jesse’s ashes will be launched into orbit around the earth, until one day, he falls out of orbit, and becomes a shooting star. In all the sadness around Jesse’s death, this at least, makes me smile.”
Jesse is survived by his mother, Gale Speegle; father, James Pinder, and step-mother, Sydney Licari; half-sister, Cathy Sparks and her husband, Bill, and niece and nephew Jessica and Jackson; step-brother, Tony Licari and his wife Lori; Jesse’s wife, Lauren Hynek, and his daughter, Elliot Hynek.
From his friend, Andrew Hungerford:
Jesse was a giant, not because he was unusually tall, but because of his sheer physical presence. He was solid, a big, strong man, who took up an amount of space that was large in a comforting way. His body was like the face of a cliff.
He was also one of the gentlest people I've ever met.
I secretly delighted in watching him, this large man, do small, delicate things: painting with tiny brushes, editing video on his phone, holding a camera to get the perfect shot, playing with Elliot, holding our tiny dog.
He was always willing to go down any rabbit hole of Star Wars or fantasy or movie minutiae with me. He was my midnight showing buddy to see The Last Jedi when the rest of our families were skeptical.
He loved stories.
He was a gifted video editor who cut complex political issues down to TikTok sized bites and put together epic drone footage of family outings.
He was incredibly passionate about social and political progress.
He was an avid photographer and, while he captured street scenes with a unique eye, his favorite subject was Elliot.
For the past couple months, after Lauren and Jesse and Elliot and Robin and Joel (and Pip the cat and Theo the dog) moved in with Elizabeth and me, I got to see Jesse's daily care and love for Elliot first hand.
My most vivid image of Jesse, that I hope to always keep close, is of him joyfully launching Elliot out of the pool straight up, like a rocket.
I was looking for a video of it on my phone, and I couldn't find one, and damn it, why don't I have a video of that? And then I realized maybe it's better that I don't have it.
Because now each time I tell it, he'll throw Elliot higher and higher until, years from now, I'll tell her that he launched her so high into the air that she could fly.
We'll all miss him so much.