Letters from Pat Grunnet

Pat GrunnetPat Grunnet died in Jonestown, Guyana on 18 November 1978, one week shy of her 37th birthday. She was a school teacher in Jonestown, just as she had been during her earlier years in the Temple and even before. She wrote infrequently to her family from Guyana – as she acknowledges in the letters that appear below – but her glimpses into the community’s daily life show her continued enthusiasm for the project and the progress she thought it was making. They also reveal some of the tensions the community felt.

Letters to her mom:
January 27, 1978
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May 1978
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July 1978
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August 1978
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Letter to Jonathan Kozol, educator and author of many books on education.
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Childrens Poems from Summer 1977 & Summer 1978 (part of letter to Kozol)
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Pat was born in Glendale, California in November 1941, and graduated from Chapman College – a denominational institution located in Orange, California and associated (as Peoples Temple was) with the Disciples of Christ – at the beginning of the Kennedy Administration. She was in the first wave of volunteers in the brand-new Peace Corps and served in Tanzania (then known as Tanganyika). Her brother Bob remembers that she asked to be placed deeper and deeper into the country, as far into the native population as she could get. Back in the States, she went on to teach in Delano, the central California community where the United Farmworkers Union was headquartered. She met Cesar Chavez and worked with him on producing children’s educational materials for the sons and daughters of migrant workers.

Pat joined Peoples Temple in Redwood Valley in the late 1960s, attracted both by its programs and its affiliation with the Disciples of Christ. She invited other family members to attend, and even though they did not remain with the Temple as long as she did, she remained on good terms with them throughout her life.

Pat Grunnet and studentDuring her years in the Temple, she worked with the children, organizing an activities program for the young people that included tutoring and classes in a wide variety of subjects, ranging from languages (Swahili and Spanish, to mention two) and typing skills, to music, cooking, sewing and crafts. Students requested things they wanted to learn, and she found people to teach them. On bus trips she always had a large number of children she took care of, with others helping as well.

In Jonestown Pat worked with children at all educational levels – preschool, elementary and high school – but her real passion was with the elementary children. She was very good with students who had problems learning and able to draw them out, to show them how and make them believe they could learn. Records recovered from Jonestown after the deaths in 1978 list her as Resource Teacher for elementary Special Ed support as well as a preschool advisor. She also worked with four other women – Rebecca Beikman, Dorothy Brewer, Carolyn Looman, and Marlene Wheeler – to supervise Apartment #1, the dorm for toddlers and preschoolers.

Pat was a gentle loving person, who loved teaching and caring for children. Her patience and quiet manner were qualities that made children of all ages listen attentively.

(The letters above were provided by Pat’s brother Bob. This remembrance was prepared by Bob Grunnet and Don Beck. This website is grateful for their assistance.)

Originally posted on February 17th, 2013.

Last modified on November 6th, 2017.
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