Tony Linton and I were classmates at Redwood Valley School in Redwood Valley. We were together in 5th and 6th grades. Tony was one of my favorite playmates. Our family was not involved with the Peoples Temple Church (we almost joined), but most students at our school were aware of the children who were members of the Temple, because they sometimes showed symptoms of stress, or appeared tired. Sometimes the Temple children kept to themselves, but I always tried to do my part to befriend Temple children, because one of my best playmates from Kindergarten Daphene Mertle (later changed to Mills) was also a Temple member for a while. I also attended a few services with Daphene and have some very distinct memories of these encounters with Peoples Temple.
But my friend Tony was different. He played with everyone, and was very bright eyed, sometimes mischievous (which was fun, because I needed a cohort.)
I loved Tony with all my heart. He was an exceptional athlete, and we participated a lot together in these kinds of games, track and field, and the kinds of games that elementary school children played, like softball, kickball, and dodgeball. He was open hearted, and expressed joy easily, and could be fierce on the playing field. We used to race each other up the hill to the water fountain after sports.
We laughed together easily. We didn’t have a lot to talk about, because we felt like we just had a mutual understanding. It was comfortable. His smile and eyes lit up the room. He was extraordinary. Tony was always kind, and he had a glow about him.
I never knew what had happened after he left our school, and only found out about his passing (along with a large number of other children whom we knew) when our whole school found out in November 1978.
My deepest wishes of love and friendship go to Tony, to his family, and to all of his friends who went home to God with him. I have fond memories of this bright friend, and there is a place in my heart for him, all for all of the classmates and their families.
I’d also like to mention that I was always fond of Jo Jo Cobbs, who was in 8th grade when I was in 5th. I saw him in a conflict one time with another student, and went to get help from a teacher. Yes, I was the “tattletale.” But I couldn’t stand for this injustice. Brenda, his sister was a year ahead of us in school. She was amazing. My prayers are for all of these beautiful children of God who went away sooner than we expected.