Wanda King was about eight years older than me, a strong and hardworking member of the larger Peoples Temple family. Between 1974 and 1976, she and I worked as “Greeters” before services at the doors of the Peoples Temple buildings in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. We would stand outside as services began and “greet” all newcomers who approached the entrance to come in. We would welcome new people and new family members who came with our members.
But our job was more complicated than that. We also had to discern who the newcomers were, why they were coming to our services, and whether we could let them in. And in fact, there were times when we thought a stranger wouldn’t be a good fit or gave off a negative vibe, and we wouldn’t let them through.
Wanda was just a wisp of a person, tall but slim. She was gracious and friendly to everyone. She would never make a rude comment, although it might be more accurate to say, she didn’t make many comments at all. She just took it all in. She was always calm and competent, with no need to make waves. She was soft-spoken, but would hold her ground in a discussion.
It was unusual to see her really excited or emotional. I loved it when she would break into her rare smiles and occasional hugs.
Many of Wanda’s family members were in Peoples Temple, and several died in Guyana. It broke my heart to learn that she was one of the nine sets of cremains located in a closed funeral home in Dover, Delaware this past summer, but I was also glad to hear that her surviving relatives have asked that she be interred with so many of her larger Temple family at Evergreen Cemetery in November.
(A second story about Wanda King is here.)
(Laura Kohl is a regular contributor to this site. Her other articles in this edition of the jtr bulletin are Moving From Guilt To Obligation, A Boyish God: A Review, Remembering Odell Rhodes, The Things You Noticed About Sammie Jones, Peoples Temple Survivors’ Oral History Project Collects Interviews, and Jonestown Survivor Becomes an Audio Book. Her collected works may be found here. Laura may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)