Working for My Aunt, Speaking for My Cousins

by Susan Ashby

Almost two years ago, I set out on a journey to find out what was happening with the decades-old plan to erect a memorial wall to the victims of Jonestown at Evergreen. I was acting on behalf of my cousins – Ronnie and Nancy Sines, who died in Jonestown – but more immediately, I was working for my aunt. Barbara Sines, Ron and Nancy’s mother, had given generously to the memorial wall fund more than 20 years before, and now, as her health declined, it was time to realize her dream. All she wanted – all she had ever wanted – was to see Ronnie and Nancy’s names on a memorial to know they wouldn’t be forgotten.

After trying unsuccessfully to get some answers from the existing campaign, I contacted Fielding McGehee for some words of encouragement. He couldn’t provide them, and when I realized there would probably be no wall before my aunt died, I sat down and cried.

I then began my own quest for accountability. After a lot of research, I filed complaints with the California State Attorney General, the California Secretary of State, and the Internal Revenue Service. There was nothing more I could do. And all of them ended in disappointment and frustration.

It was about then that I learned that – inspired by my aunt – Fielding, Jim and John had committed themselves to work on an alternate memorial at Evergreen Cemetery. The idea for the four memorial granite slabs was presented at the afternoon service on the 32nd anniversary. The newly-formed Jonestown Memorial Fund mailed letters soliciting donations in January 2011. In less than a month, the funds were secured.

Finally, on May 29, 2011, thirty-two and a half years after the tragedy, the memorial was unveiled, and it included the names of Ronnie and Nancy Sines. My aunt Barbara had made the long trip to be there. However, there was still some sadness in my heart, because Ronnie and Nancy’s dad, Paul, was not there to see it. He passed away in 1997.

It was a wonderful day. The sky was blue, and there was a breeze blowing. It was as if God made the day especially for us.

I was never able to tell Ronnie and Nancy good-bye. I did that day. It was closure. The service was wonderful—listening to everyone share from their hearts. My feelings of that day are difficult to express.

I am forever grateful to Fielding, Jim and John for all their efforts to make that day happen.

I am grateful to Buck, Ron and Evergreen Cemetery for all they did to make such a beautiful place for the memorial.

I am grateful to all those who knew Ronnie and Nancy for sharing stories and pictures with Barbara and me.

And now the work is done. There is a memorial for all those who died November 18, 1978. It’s over.

Gone but never forgotten.

(Susan Ashby’s other article in this edition of the jonestown report is With Great Reluctance…)

Last modified on December 10th, 2013.
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