It's no coincidence that Jigme Norbu was on his way to West Palm Beach when he was killed last week on State Road A1A. Norbu, nephew of the Dalai Lama and an activist for Tibetan independence, visited West Palm Beach often as a child because his father was friends with the artist Ann Norton.
Jigme Norbu,45, lived in Bloomington, Indiana, where his dad,Thubten Norbu, was a professor of Tibetan studies and a founder of the International Tibet Independence Movement. Growing up in such a renowned family, Jigme didn't always intend to be an activist. He owned restaurants in Bloomington, got married and had three children.
But his father's death in 2008 changed his perspective, says his friend Donna Kim-Brand. He began speaking on behalf of Tibetan independence, and walked thousands of miles to bring attention to the cause.
Two years ago, he attended a Tibet-related fundraiser at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens in West Palm, and met Kim-Brand, the event's organizer. The two stayed in contact, and Kim-Brand, a life coach who works with people to "develop their legacy," says she began advising Norbu.
"He believed in his mission, and so I believed in him," she says.
On Feb.14, Kim-Brand began a Walk for Tibet with Norbu and a small band of other activists in St. Augustine. They planned to trek 300 miles along the coastline to West Palm. But that evening, Norbu was hit by an SUV as he walked down a dark, tree-lined stretch of A1A at twilight.
Although devastated by the loss, Kim-Brand and other members of the group decided to continue the walk. They've been joined by a band of about 20 people from all over the country, including Norbu's brother and two of his sons. Each day they walked about 20 miles, finished before dark, and stayed on the sidewalk, Kim-Brand says.
"As you can imagine, I'm a little nervous," she says.
The group will end their journey in West Palm Beach today, and hold a memorial service for Norbu at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens tomorrow.
Kim-Brand says she's been astounded by the global response to Norbu's death, the outpouring of support for the walkers and for Norbu's children.
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"It's exhilarating and heartbreaking at the same time."
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