Neva Sly: Only A Thought Away

Neva and Dorothy Hargrave

Many knew her as Neva Sly, Don’s wife and Mark’s mother, but I didn’t really know her until the time she’d changed her name back to Neva Jean Hargrave, the name given to her at birth. Looking back it seems likely we got to know each other through the Human Freedom Center because we didn’t know each other in Peoples Temple. She joked I was one of those arrogant college kids, and I joked she was one of those know it all letter writers. It was humor, laughter, and honestly that really bonded us.

Though 14 years apart, Neva and I clicked like we were the same age. We could go for months without talking, and then pick up where we left off. Her youthfulness and a need to really be herself made her a consistent and reassuring friend.

Her beliefs were her own, oftentimes off-center from others, but she was always kind, generous, and optimistic. I’ll remember her as a great host, a loyal friend, and – when she was able – a perceptive analyzer of current events. Best of all, Neva laughed at herself as hard as she laughed at anything else.

After her mother’s death in San Diego in 2008 – and without any other family – Neva returned to Burney, California for the final years of her life. She had two wonderful care providers, Mike and Jeanette, who cared and loved her, who advocated for her and helped her make the decisions that needed to be made. Mike and Jeanette went far beyond the usual tasks of providers and stayed with Neva “off the clock,” providing hours of comfort and companionable love so she wouldn’t be alone, and they were with her at her moment of death.

I’ll miss Neva Jean Hargrave, but according to her own beliefs, she’s always just a thought away.

(Neva Jean Hargrave died in Burney, California on April 26, 2024.

(Mickey Touchette is a former member of Peoples Temple. Her collection of articles for this site may be found here.)