Remembering Annie Moore

by Ken and Diane Wagstaff

Annie Moore was sweetly good-natured, spontaneous, loyal, and dependable – and often very funny.

Annie was our babysitter when she was a teenager. At that time our two children, a boy and a girl, were about age 5 and 2. They were happy when they knew Annie was coming. She had started to play the guitar, and she sang for the kids.

Despite her youth, Annie was mature and balanced. She seemed to be about two years ahead of others her age. She had a wry sense of humor. Adults often have to suffer through the angst of adolescents, but Annie could make us laugh.

We led the junior high school group at the Davis United Methodist Church for a year or two, around 1970. Annie was a loyal member of this group, always fun and creative, and she wanted to help other people. She was actively involved as we pursued our projects, from tutoring underprivileged children to helping repair roofs on farmworker housing.

When Diane suggested that the group might contact the Christian Children’s Fund to help support an orphaned child in an impoverished country, Annie was excited. With Annie and her friend Wendy Walker in the lead, our group held several fundraisers, including car washes, bake sales, and babysitting. We were all excited to ease the life of a foreign child. We received his picture and made copies for all. Annie said she posted hers at home to remind her and her family of the child we were helping.

Our group met with Makepeace Tsao, a noted researcher at UC Davis studying the problems of poverty and alcoholism in San Francisco’s Tenderloin and Fillmore districts. We organized a field trip to accompany him on one of his visits there. As Annie and her friends saw the conditions, we wondered what they were thinking. Annie in particular seemed sober and focused, and wrote a note to Tsao thanking him. She was becoming a sensitive and perceptive young woman.

Ken served in the 1970s and 80s as a health services deputy and mental health director for Governor Jerry Brown and later served as director of the Medical Board of California. In 1973, while Ken was working for the State Legislature, we learned that Annie was interested in a nursing education. That did not surprise us. Ken thought Annie’s concern for others would serve her well as a nurse, and wrote a letter of recommendation for Annie to use in making applications. In it he wrote, “I feel that Ann would be exceptionally well suited to the profession of nursing… [for she has] a very deep regard for all persons as unique and important human beings.”

* * * * *

More than 25 years after Jonestown, family and friends gathered in Davis to bury the ashes of Annie’s mother, Barbara. As we walked towards the gravesite, a beautiful bird’s nest fell out of a tree, right into Diane’s path. She picked it up, sensing that for some reason it was a gift – she just couldn’t leave it there on the ground. Diane left it at Annie’s grave that day, which is next to Annie’s mother, sister, nephew, and a niece whom Annie never met. Diane thinks it was Barbara who put the nest in her path, as a sign of the eternal renewal of life.

When we think of Annie, we believe that she went to Jonestown with the very best intentions. She went to devote her life to helping people, many of whom were less fortunate. We imagine Annie’s excitement when she left for Jonestown to join her sister Carolyn.

We must leave to the experts the task of documenting and understanding what happened in Guyana. There is no justification for the horror and death that happened there. We know that Jim Jones had his own twisted expertise, instilling fear in his followers. Did this lead these followers to help other people die? If so, how could a beautiful spirit like Annie, with a hopeful attitude and from a wonderful, supportive family, succumb to such madness? Had she somehow become that afraid of the future?

In this life, we will never really know. But we do know that we loved Annie, loved her wonderful Mom, and love her Dad and surviving sister Becky. Annie came from a good family, she was dedicated to love and justice, and we will love and remember her always.

Originally posted on July 25th, 2013.

Last modified on December 18th, 2013.
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