Michael Bellefountaine:
An Adopted Member of Peoples Temple

by Laura Johnston Kohl

On Thursday, May 10, Michael Bellefountaine died in a San Francisco hospital. His family and many beloved friends were with him. He had had serious illnesses in the past, and they became more devastating his few last months.

Michael Bellefountaine had been a part of the Peoples Temple extended family for more than five years. He was an author and arrived planning to write about the deaths of Harvey Milk, George Moscone and Jonestown. He soon realized that each would be its own set of volumes. He wrote several drafts of his book, A Lavender Look at Peoples Temple. Some of us were fortunate to be of some small assistance there. He worked endlessly on important Peoples Temple website research, wrote for the jonestown report, and transcribed many tapes. Most recently, working with Don Beck, he helped transcribed the journals of Edith Roller – a real treasure. He brought Edith’s journals to life because he treated them so tenderly.

Michael became a good friend early on, and was warmly welcomed to the many PT events over the years: dinner before Leigh’s play, anniversary ceremonies, our gatherings after the Oakland ceremonies at our homes, and in our hearts. He was easy to adopt into the PT family, because he was so willing – and successful – in incorporating us into his own life.

At Michael’s ceremony, one of his friends said that Michael loved his PT friends because they had already faced death and come through to the other side. He was facing his own health crisis, and really wanted to use his remaining time on larger issues, not the minutia which often distracts us from what’s important in our lives. He refused until the very end to let on to us that he was sick and getting more so by the day. He could share our despair but wouldn’t think of putting his despair on us.

Michael was full of life, and had many other important tasks he had taken on – with Act UP SF, for one. He didn’t shy away from controversial issues. Rather, he was pulled toward them to develop his own understanding of them. He was a person who would search to find the pearls, never giving up his zest for life and his curiosity.  He was articulate, clear, and insightful. He was a worker who took some time to enjoy life and his friends. He went out of his way to share his humanity and take care of others, and yet greatly appreciated others who went a bit out of their way.

I will really miss Michael. I loved him a lot, seeing him at the ceremonies, seeing him at our homes after the yearly Oakland ceremonies. I am reminded that having lots of experience with friends and family dying hasn’t made it any easier. With sports, playing an instrument, so many things, practice makes it easier and better. Not with friends and family dying. The hole it leaves doesn’t cover over any faster. Too recently, we have lost other good friends – Kay Henderson, Julius Evans, Bobby Stroud, Fred Lewis, Charlie Touchette, David Shular, Barbara Moore – and so many others in recent years.

I am so sorry that we have lost another member of the family.

(Laura Johnston Kohl is a former member of Peoples Temple. Her complete collection of writings for the jonestown report may be found here. She may be reached at ljohnstonkohl@gmail.com.)

Last modified on May 20th, 2014.
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