Obituaries

Wayne Pietila, a former member of Peoples Temple whose departure from the church as one of the Eight Revolutionaries was considered the first major defection, died on December 15, 2011. He was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland on December 28, 2011. Numerous remembrances appear here.

13-01-Dymally
Photo from New West, August 1977

Mervyn Dymally, California’s lieutenant governor under Jerry Brown and one of the state’s highest ranking supporters of Peoples Temple, died on October 7, 2012. Mr. Dymally endorsed the Temple’s agricultural project in letters to the leaders of the Guyanese government and later visited Jonestown, facts noted in the New West article by Phil Tracy and Marshal Kilduff.

Karen Stroup, a minister in the Disciples of Christ, a professor in religion and psychology, and a regular contributor to the jonestown report, died on January 21, 2012.

Former Delaware State Senator W. Lee Littleton died in October 2011. Following the airlift of the Jonestown dead to Dover Air Force Base in his state, but before the unclaimed and unidentified remains were buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, Sen. Littleton offered to bury 30 to 40 of the “innocent” children in his backyard. That way, he said, he could watch their souls rise to heaven on Judgment Day.

In addition, we learned this year of other deaths from previous years.

Monica Bagby, whose alliance with Vernon Gosney led them to approach Leo Ryan with a request to leave Jonestown – and who herself was wounded along with Gosney during the Port Kaituma shooting – died on June 14, 2009. A memorial tribute site for her – under her post-Jonestown spelling of “Monika Sharron Bagby” – is here.

Essie Clark, a member of Peoples Temple whose application to emigrate to Jonestown was turned down for medical reasons – and who remained an ardent supporter of Jim Jones even after the deaths of November 1978 – died on September 25, 2000. She was also the mother of Monica Bagby.

Wade and Mabel Medlock, two former members of Peoples Temple who filed both a civil suit and a criminal complaint against Jim Jones and other Temple leaders, alleging they had extorted the Medlocks’ property, died on March 1, 1983 and April 8, 2002, respectively.

Louis Gurvich, the father of Jonestown resident Jann Gurvich, and a private investigator in New Orleans who considered hiring mercenaries in 1977 to kidnap his daughter and who flew down to Guyana two days after the deaths in Jonestown to conduct his own investigation, died on August 1, 1986.

Chris Hatcher, the psychologist hired by the city of San Francisco to counsel Peoples Temple members affected by Jonestown, died in 1999.

Richard Hongisto, the sheriff in San Francisco and political ally of Peoples Temple influence in the 1970s – best known for his efforts to prevent the evictions at the International Hotel in January 1977 – died on November 4, 2004.

Walter Thain, a physician who assisted Jonestown doctor Larry Schacht during a difficult delivery via a HAM radio hook-up – the success of which was heralded by the Temple as evidence of the Jonestown clinic’s abilities –  and who later visited Jonestown, died in 1990.

Autumn Ryan, the mother of Leo Ryan, died on February 26, 1992.

Fred Wills, who was Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs until February 13, 1978, when he resigned for health reasons – and an official whom Jim Jones considered a close friend of the Jonestown project – died in March 1992.

Margaret Singer, a clinical psychologist who became an expert witness on the subject of cults and brainwashing – and who worked as a self-described deprogrammer for a number of former Temple members, both before and after the deaths in Guyana – died in 2003.

Originally posted on July 28th, 2013.

Last modified on November 11th, 2018.
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