Letter from Michael Cartmell

Dear Ron, 

I received a note from Mac McGehee asking me to write you in support of the Jonestown memorial now being installed in the Evergreen Cemetery.  

By way of background, I grew up in the Peoples Temple and left a few months before the massacre. All four members of my family of origin as well as ten of my in-laws died there. Equally important, nearly everyone I knew as a child and young adult was killed in the massacre. Until now, we, who have suffered these losses, have had to bear them privately; worse yet, the demise of our loved ones has been given little sympathetic acknowledgement. While I very much appreciate Evergreen Mortuary’s dignified treatment of the remains of the deceased, the burial site is necessarily a "mass grave".  

Jynona Norwood is to be complimented for her tireless efforts to honor the memory of all those who died there. I so appreciate her decades long service. Having said that, the annual programs she orchestrates are increasingly outreach services for her church. I’ve left them feeling more and more unwelcome and, indeed, irrelevant, as the years have passed. What’s more, I’m disturbed by the lack of transparency and progress in the funding and creation of her memorial. The stone monuments I saw a couple of years ago were stunning. However, they contained only a few of the names of the dead. Rev. Norwood is highly resistant to discussing any issues related to the use of funds contributed over the years for the massive memorial she’s been promoting or the schedule for its completion. I learned only recently that you had never approved her proposed monument and that it was too heavy for the site itself. That all this has been in the works for twenty or more years is even more upsetting.

Knowing Jim Jones, Jr., John Cobb, and Fielding McGehee as well as I do, I am aware their frustrations mirror my own and have been the basis of their moving forward independently of Rev. Norwood. I’m very pleased they’ve been able to complete an appropriate stone memorial in coordination with you and to do so promptly. Although I am personally disappointed with the decision to include Jim Jones, Sr.’s name, I applaud their openness in discussing this and, indeed, any other issue related to the funding and placement of the memorial.   For all these reasons, I believe their good work genuinely and quietly dignifies the memory of my family and friends, who died so far from home so long ago.  

Thank you and all the staff at Evergreen Mortuary for your kindness, sensitivity, and service to those of use whose relatives and friends rest in your care.  

Michael Cartmell