This past year has sent me to the depths of despair and the pinnacle of success. As I detailed here, I learned that the grave of my aunt Pearl Willis, who died in Jonestown, not only had no headstone, but had been lost within the cemetery where she had been buried. Locating her remains and restoring to her the respect and recognition she deserved has been a triumph.
But my elation is tempered by the knowledge that I am not alone. I realize there are others – scores? a hundred? more? – who may be faced with the same challenge I faced, and who may not know what to do. To help any of you who want to locate a grave of a Jonestown relative, and to give it the respect it is due, I have formed a nonprofit corporation, The Mary Pearl Willis Foundation. Its sole purpose is to work with cemeteries and low income families, helping them purchase grave markers for their loved one in hopes of eradicating unmarked graves.
If you have wondered where your relatives are buried, what condition their graves are in, or how the sites can be improved and maintained, I urge you to contact me. I can help, because I’ve done it.
My next task is a memorial for all victims of Jonestown. Speaking their names will list every recognized victim, erasing the shame and glorify their goodness.
(Lela Howard is a regular contributor to the jonestown report. Her other articles in this edition are Jonestown Grave Finally Has a Headstone; How It Began; How to Stop the Nightmares; and A Blessing … and a Responsibility. Her complete collection of writings for this site may be found here. She can be reached at email@example.com.)