A Path of Service
The biography of John and Ann Rush
Gary D. Guthrie
TABLE OF CONTENTS
John and Ann Rush
John and Ann Rush knew Peace Pilgrim for 24 years. She was often a guest in their home; to them she was like a member of the family. They published her 'Steps toward Inner Peace' booklet while she was alive. After her death they took over and continued all her correspondence. In 1983 they established the Friend of Peace Pilgrim center, a non-profit organization in Hemet, California. For 20 years they sent Peace Pilgrim materials all around the world. Now that they are retiring in 2003, this biographical account acknowledges their contributions towards peace. It was written by Gary D. Guthrie, from several interviews with both John and Ann Rush. Special thanks to Kathy Miller, Martin Buchholtz, Richard Polese and Jeff Blom who contributed their editing skills and advice. Their assistance was greatly appreciated.
John's early life (Top)
John Rush was born on a farm in Oklahoma, June 11, 1917, the youngest child in a Quaker family. He had two older brothers and two older sisters. He fondly remembers going barefooted and bringing in their cows to be milked. When he was eight years old, his father died in an automobile accident, leaving his mother to raise the family. In his own words he described his teenage years and early twenties:
'We moved to Wichita, Kansas when I was eleven. I enjoyed reading and achieved high marks in arithmetic; in fact, I was made captain of the arithmetic team. I completed college when I was 21, and went to Washington DC to study Statistics. I almost married a Quaker lady I proposed to, but she couldn't make her mind one way or another. Someone else came along and swept her off her feet. To this day I wonder what my life would have been like had she been responsive to my proposal."
After his studies, John worked for the Census Bureau until he was drafted for military service during World War II. He registered as a conscientious objector and was sent to a Public Service camp near Whittier, California. At a YMCA sponsored folk dance near Whittier he met Ann Trueblood. Although she was a divorcee with two small children, he was immediately attracted toward her.
Like Tristan and Isolde (Top)
John's meeting Ann was similar to the famous medieval story of Tristan, an Irishman who met Isolde from Britanny. Tristan was told that he shouldn't marry Isolde, that their differing circumstances would not only bring the condemnation of their community but would risk their chances for heaven. John's family was equally concerned that he had decided to marry Ann. They told John that he 'had been deceived by Ann's beauty and charms'. A member of the Pasadena Friends Meeting thought he should first find a way to make a living since Ann had two small children. In spite of these concerns they were married at the Orange Grove Friends meeting house on June 24, 1945.
Their marriage ceremony had a moment of comedy. Some of the family members were of Quaker ancestry but hadn't been active in Quaker functions. They came over to congratulate John and Ann during a period of silence, thinking that the service had finished. This was a source of amusement for them and the wedding guests.
Ann's early life (Top)
Ann's early life and background in Kansas City, Missouri, was very different from John's early life in Oklahoma and Kansas. John's family was not wealthy while Ann grew up with a proverbial silver spoon. She was the youngest daughter of a director of loans for the Massachusetts Life Insurance Company. Ann had one brother and two sisters. Her family had a maid and a gardener, even during the Depression years. Ann's mother, however, preferred to do all of the cooking, baking bread and making candies. Among Ann's favorite memories were sampling her mother's chocolate fudge each time she entered or left the house. She also enjoyed playing with her first childhood friends, Sonnyboy and Molly.
At 18 Ann visited her sister Martha, who was working at the RCA building in New York City. Ann was told by her sister's acquaintances that she had striking features, and should consider a modeling or film career. Since she had little experience in either field, she took up modeling and played parts as an actress in Kansas City theatrical productions.
A mystical transformation (Top)
In 1938, Ann enrolled at the University of Michigan where her uncle was the university drama director. While attending a Methodist seminar, a speech by Henry Hitcrane somehow triggered a mystical experience in Ann that gave her the knowledge of the unity and interconnectedness of all life. This event completely altered the course of her life. This is a rare phenomenon that only few individuals experience in life. In this state of awareness a person's ego diminishes while the desire to serve others in some capacity increases. Ann gave up the desire for modeling and acting and made a decision to dedicate her life working among the less fortunate.
A major challenge (Top)
Ann returned home and became active in service projects within her local church. While there she encountered a major challenge in her life. In the latter part of 1938, she met a young and talented concert pianist named Maurice, who was beginning his career. She fell in love with his music; it somehow described her own mystical experience of beauty and truth. She was so enthralled listening to him play classical music that she wanted to listen for hours. She married him six months later.
Maurice, despite his musical gifts, was also highly tempermental. He spent hours practicing at the piano, then giving private lessons to make a living for their two children, Heath and Pamela, who were born in 1940 and 1942. When Maurice felt his career was not advancing, his frustrations grew so intense that he began hitting his wife. Ann blamed herself, rationalizing that other great musicians of the past had emotional difficulties; after all, didn't Beethoven have a temper and a stormy life? When the hittings became more severe, Ann felt she had to leave if she wanted to preserve her harmony and life. They were divorced in 1942.
Ann as "Rosie the Riviter" (Top)
As a young divorcee with two small children, Ann took the first job opportunity available. It was 1942, at the beginning of World War II. Ann was hired by an ammunition factory to rivet the nacelle doors, which was the bottom hatch of the airplane bombers that opened for the bombs to fall and reach their targets. This World War II employment for women was nicknamed, "Rosie the Riviter".
When her father died, Ann helped her mother sell her home in Kansas City and drove her mother and two children to Whittier, California, a town the Quakers had settled. Ann said she prayed continuously that God would provide her with a kind and understanding husband and father for her children. It was here at a folk dance that Ann met John Rush. He seemed someone kind and understanding; he also had a down-to-earth practicality that matched her idealism.
Early married years (Top)
In August 1945, when the Atomic Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Ann began reassessing her former work in the ammunition's factory with a sense of regret. (She had worked on the part of the airplanes that opened on the bottom for bombs to be released.) Her role in the airplane factory, in one sense however, made her feel more tolerant toward others who get caught unknowingly in military situations, without realizing the consequences of their acts. Together with two Quaker friends, Ann began working with children from problem homes in the Los Angeles area. They started a children's home in Pasadena, which was called a 'Humpty Dumpty House'; it took care of children on a short term basis who were waiting for permanent homes.
In 1946, after John completed his service with conscientious objectors, he and Ann decided to join a Quaker community in Fairhope, Alabama. John found employment as a bookkeeper in a heating oil distribution center while Ann taught a third grade class for the Organic School of Education. Ann remembers that the area was beautiful, with moderate, pleasant weather near the Mobile Bay. The humidity didn't seem to irritate them.
From the beginning of their stay in Alabama, both John and Ann were opposed to segregation. They had not realized just how strong it was in the South during the 1940s. They became concerned that the effects of segregation would produce a biased effect on their children. After one year they moved back to California and chose to live in an interracial community in Tracy, east of San Francisco. Their strong opposition to segregation must have made a deep impression on their eldest son Heath - he returned to the South several years later with the Freedom Riders and spent time imprisoned for opposing segregation.
Sit-in at the newly-built Pentagon (Top)
From 1947 to 1953 the Rush family lived in Tracy, California. John worked in the purchasing department at the Bureau of Reclamation, while Ann tended their children and worked in the garden. Erica, their youngest daughter, was born in 1948. During the Easter week of 1950, Ann went by bus with a blind, black woman to Washington DC in order to protest the development of the hydrogen bomb. There she met Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement. She also met A. J. Mustie, the foremost spokesman for peace in the 1950s. Ann was part of the first group to picket the newly built Pentagon; in fact, she sat with them in the hallway of the Pentagon until they were ordered to move. They moved to the stairs outside the Pentagon and held a prayer vigil.
Canadian Pioneers (Top)
John was investigated by the F.B.I. in 1951 for having signed a peace petition to stop the war in Korea. John Stevenson, his neighbor, was told he had to sign a loyalty oath before being allowed to drive a school bus. They found these intrusions into their lives intolerable. For these reasons, and to avoid both the materialism and militarism in the United States, the Rush family joined three other families in purchasing several acres in the backwoods of Canada and moved there. Ironically, the year was 1953, the same year Peace Pilgrim began her pilgrimage for much the same reasons.
The land these pioneering families purchased was in British Colombia, at an abandoned silver-mining town, called Argenta. It was on the shores of Kootenay Lake, ninety miles north of Nelson. The Rush family spent a total of six years here in the 1950s and 1960s. It was an ideal place to raise a family in a peaceful, idyllic setting, amid the beauties of nature - the rivers had good fish; there were beautiful, pristine lakes and snow-capped mountains.
John worked with friends and neighbors constructing two-story homes out of logs, building a bridge, and constructing a schoolhouse for the children. Ann also enjoyed being a pioneer and living without electricity, using wood-burning stoves and a flume for refrigeration of their food. It was the opposite of her youth in Kansas City, growing up with part-time servants and maids.
Meeting Peace Pilgrim in Canada (Top)
John and Ann first met Peace Pilgrim on the shores of Kootenay Lake in 1957. It was her one trek across Canada. Ann's first reaction was amazement for a lone woman devoting her life to the same principles that she believed in. John, however, was not as easily impressed. He asked her rather bluntly, "Why are you traveling around the country like this? You're not saying anything new! Other great philosophers have said the same thing (1)."
Peace Pilgrim answered John that the world didn't need new ideas, but more diligent practice of the truths taught by all the ancient and recent spiritual leaders. John had to admit that her methods of teaching these truths were unique - walking across Canada and the United States in the manner she did; if it might wake people out of their apathy, so much the better.
Argenta was a wonderful place to live, but it was difficult to earn enough money to support a growing family. In 1957, the Rush family moved to Georgia to join an intentional community which held ideals loosely based on the early Christians, who shared all things in common. After a few months this community disbanded and the Rush family joined two other families in New Hampshire, also holding all things in common. John worked in construction; it paid more than he earned in Argenta.
The Rush Family 1952
John's Gradual Conversion (Top)
While living in New Hampshire, John had the opportunity to examine Peace Pilgrim similar to the manner in which Peter examined the life of Jesus, who stayed at Peter's home in Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Peace Pilgrim stayed at the Rush's home twice while they were in New Hampshire. John's original skepticism began to soften. He observed that "she spoke profound truths in a very simple way, similar to Jesus in his use of metaphors in reaching the common people." After her first visit, a woman John knew apologized to others for her unfriendly behavior; also, an acquaintance of John stopped spanking his children.
During Peace Pilgrim's second visit, Ann walked with her to meet a Shaker Sister called Marguerite. The three women discovered they had a favorite poem in common, Robert Browning's 'Imprisoned Splendor. (2)' During this visit, one of Rush children, listened to Peace Pilgrim say, "the habit of worry is a detriment to the spiritual life, (3)" and at the same time that she was deeply concerned about the world's situation. This was interpreted this to mean that she worried about the world. When Peace Pilgrim was confronted on this seeming discrepancy, she smiled and said that human language often has its limitations, and that wasn't what she wanted to convey.
Canadian Adventures (Top)
From letters John and Ann received, they learned that their friends in Canada now had a Quaker high school with a vacancy for house-parents for six boys. When they returned, John became a math instructor for the school. Since there were no televisions or video games for these six boys, John and Ann had fun with them in outdoors activities such as swimming and hiking in the mountains. They discovered that Nature offered certain fulfillments that electronic entertainment could not provide.
Ann had the opportunity in 1964 to join a protest movement similar to the 1950 demonstration at the Pentagon in Washington D.C.. Here in British Columbia she went with a group of Russian Christians, called the Doukhobors. Several high school students from Argenta joined her on a 200 mile caravan to the provence of Alberta where they protested the manufacturing of chemical and biological weapons. Inspite of the rain they joined the Doukhobors outside, in front of the chemical plant, singing both English and Russian songs (4).
A gentleman from England, Hugh Elliot, was also an amusement and delight to the community with his accent and jokes. He would answer the newly installed phones, "Hugh hair (here)." He supplied the money for the community to purchase equipment to install electricity powered by falling water. He took a photo of Pamela, the oldest Rush daughter , high on a mountaintop that gave a view over several mountain ranges. This photo was enlarged and became a major part of the Rush family's living room and at the Friends of Peace Pilgrim center in Hemet, California.
Nixon's Alma Mater (Top)
John and Ann moved to Whittier, California in 1965 to help care for Ann's elderly mother. They were two blocks from Whittier College, which was ironically President Richard Nixon's alma mater. The Vietnam War was just beginning. During Nixon's term of office, Ann became active at the college in vigils and peace marches. Many students got to know her as a familiar figure on campus. In 1968, Ann spent a month at Resurrection City in Washington D.C. with the poor people's campaign in front of the Lincoln Memorial. There she met Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson and Bill Cosby.
John became a postal worker in 1965 and worked as a mail carrier for 16 years. He practiced postal skills that would later benefit the operations of the Peace Pilgrim Center. His mail route was ideally near his home, allowing ample time to bake his secret recipe of bread in the evenings. He and Ann were also draft counselors for the Friends' Society, and helped two young men who opposed the Vietnamese War move to Canada. For their peace efforts John and Ann were given the Distinguished Service Award in 1983 by the Whittier Chapter of the United Nations.
Ann and Peace in the Backyard
Peace Pilgrim's Visits (Top)
Peace Pilgrim came to visit John and Ann four times during the eighteen years they lived in Whittier. During her last visit she stayed two months while giving approximately a hundred speeches in the Los Angeles area. Ann drove her to most of them. John felt so impressed by what she said that he wanted to preserve her message for future generations. He taped sessions of her speaking with invited guests in their back yard (5).
Ann decided to write an article about Peace Pilgrim for the Fellowship of Reconciliation. She described the dilemma she faced when she tried paraphrasing Peace Pilgrim's words, "John took me to the ocean to stay because I felt inspired by the sea. I had a week's supply of watermelon. I discovered, however, in that week all I could do was quote from her Progress newsletters. Whatever I wrote seemed too lavish or understated. I finally realized that nobody could tell her story as well as she told it." If her story were going to be told, Ann concluded, it would have to be in her own words.
Japan and Hawaii (Top)
When John retired from the Postal Services in 1981, he took a university course to teach English as a Second Language. Barbara Reynolds, who had been one of the invited guests in his back yard, invited him and Ann to be directors of the World Friendship House in Hiroshima, Japan. This would have been a unique opportunity to teach English and represent a peace position at the same time. When he told Peace Pilgrim about the invitation she noted a slight hesitancy on John's part, and responded that her calling was to the United States. John and Ann also felt that the United States needed all the workers for peace that could be mustered, so they decided against going to Japan.
Before Peace Pilgrim's death, Ann had planned to go with her and a few others to Hawaii in 1980. Ann had to cancel when other commitments interfered. On her return from Hawaii, Peace Pilgrim was given a gift of $100 on the airplane. Since she knew that John and Ann were paying for the printing of 500 Steps booklets, Peace Pilgrim brought a lei from Hawaii and placed it around Ann's neck and gave her the $100 bill. Ann's reaction was great surprise, "What's this? $100 from a penniless pilgrim!"
A New Calling (Top)
When Peace Pilgrim died in 1981, the friends she knew barely knew each other, and it seemed like her unique message might end with her untimely death. How her legacy or mantle fell upon the shoulders of John and Ann Rush is an unusual and fascinating account. The events that transpired could be described as serendipitous, in that they weren't completely planned, but happened as if guided by unseen hands.
Solving a mystery (Top)
With Peace Pilgrim's death, John and Ann soon found themselves in an adventure of sorts trying to figure out clues of her original identity - as if they somehow were a part of a mystery or detective novel. They were in New Hampshire visiting their daughter Erica when they received the news. By sheer coincidence they had the contact name of Molly TenBroek. Peace Pilgrim had left this contact name at their home in California. When they contacted Molly, they were given a list of 6000 names and addresses Peace Pilgrim had left with Molly. Molly had no longer wanted the list and was wondering how to dispose of it!
Not only were they able to obtain these 6000 names, but they also discovered that Peace Pilgrim had a sister living in Cologne, New Jersey by the name of Helene Young! Helene had been the 'mystery person' behind Peace Pilgrim, who forwarded all her mail to her for the 28 years of her pilgrimage. John and Ann found Helene Young working at the same secretarial job Peace Pilgrim had worked at earlier in her life, when her name was Mildred Norman (6).
Peace Pilgrim's death left many unanswered letters at her sister's home. Helene did not have the time to answer them. She asked Ann if she could answer them. When Ann answered that she would help, Helene said, "It just seems like Peace Pilgrim sent you." Ann felt enthusiastic about this new assignment, and wrote, `the most important thing was to get her message into a book as soon as possible, that it was `our best hope for peace in our world (7).'
So Ann sat down and wrote in behalf of Peace Pilgrim these first words,
'Greetings from Cologne! I am typing next to Helene's vegetable and flower garden, where
Peace typed her letters when she was visiting her. It is all a bit overwhelming - so much mail, and
several people writing to or about Peace Pilgrim. One outstanding fact emerges; we each feel
she is our special friend - she somehow belongs to each of us . (8)'
Compiling the Peace Pilgrim book (Top)
Another advantageous event occurred. Richard Polese, who was also a close friend of Peace Pilgrim, planned to meet with her before her death to discuss a book about her. After hearing of her death he felt inspired to have a gathering of friends in honor of Peace Pilgrim and to share memories of her with each other. Several people had told Peace Pilgrim during her lifetime that she should write a book. She usually answered that she had written enough for a book only that it just wasn't in book form yet (9).
Since John and Ann were at Helene Young's home, not far from Pennsylvania, it turned out to be an ideal location for them to be situated. They remembered that Peace Pilgrim once told them that Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania had a special peace section that assembled newspaper articles and various memorabilia relating to her pilgrimage. They went there and met the curator who allowed them to photocopy all the materials to take with them to Santa Fe.
To John and Ann, it began to seem almost providential that these events were happening in a sequential pattern as if they were planned. In Santa Fe their desire to see a book published began to take shape. This is how Richard Polese described it:
'During the retreat five of us realized that it just might be our job to put what Peace had
said, from her newsletters, talks and Steps booklet, into a book form.
Four stayed on at my house to work on the huge task of putting all the pieces together.
Our roles in the project came to us with remarkable ease. Often I had the feeling that
Peace Pilgrim was right there with us, looking over our shoulders as we worked (10).'
"A Greater Task" (Top)
Each of the compilers believes also that a miracle occurred in that five people who hardly knew each other and who each possessed different backgrounds with strong personalities, came together and relinquished their own individual egos for the good of the project involved. Richard Polese admits,
'I dropped my own project, realizing that there was a greater task at hand that would have to
involve the five of us working together and letting go of our own vision for the trust in a greater
collective vision. This was at first not easy for me. I believe in my own abilities to do superior
work, particularly with things I believe in. Yet a greater spirit prevailed; our roles came to us
almost naturally. Almost by magic it seems, or by truly light and strong guidance from Peace
After the first draft of the book was completed, Andy Zupko and Cheryl Canfield, two of the compilers, left to visit Andy's father. John and Ann then felt it might be a good idea to have someone read the first draft. The caretaker of the Friend's Meeting House in Santa Fe agreed to read it. The caretaker noticed that there were certain items that kept reappearing in the draft, making Peace sound repetitive and absent-minded. Three of the compilers began going over the manuscript, removing redundant passages. John was often awakened "as if by a force", in the middle of the night with the realization that "we need to take out this or that" in the editing process.
Cheryl and Andy, the two compilers who had temporarily left, returned during the editing process. At first glance they wondered if the others were altering her teachings. John and Richard explained the necessity of this kind of refinement to them. They double checked what had been done and joined the process which lasted for three months. It is significant that all the compilers wanted to preserve the purity and integrity of Peace Pilgrim's words, without any interpretations or personal clarifications. This process would help eliminate some of the criticism often aimed at the compilers of other spiritual books, that their own private interpretations were included.
"In her own words" (Top)
John and Ann felt that Peace Pilgrim's had expressed her message in a simple, yet profound way, that could not be duplicated. The way she spoke had a unique quality and needed to be presented in a manner that would indicate that the teachings were "in her own words." In this way the message could propagate itself. She had said that her message was nothing new, only the application of it.
Once the manuscript was ready for publication the five compilers deliberated whether or not to contact a book publisher. They felt a book publisher would want to edit and make changes to the manuscript. They then decided that they should publish and distribute the book themselves. Andy Zupko donated $2500 for the first printing. Richard Polese had experience in publishing and book production; with his help, 5000 copies of the book were first printed in February of 1983. The compilers also agreed in accordance with Peace Pilgrim's words that spiritual truths should not be sold, that the book should be offered free to those who would ask for a copy.
Asking in Prayer (Top)
John and Ann were retired with both the time and desire to distribute the books, as well as the tapes that became available. The other three compilers gave them their blessings and offered assistance. Financing the printing and mailing of thousands of books, however, would require more money that all the compilers had. They prayed, and as a result of their prayer, they decided to use their own finances and mailed out the first order of books.
John said to the other compilers, "After we mail these out, if donations are sufficient to continue the work, we will do so." Enough funding arrived with the first shipment for a second shipment. John now says, "We have continued in this fashion. When people are no longer inspired to see the work continue is when this work will stop. Until then, we or someone else, will continue to send out materials."
Ann described her jubilation when the first box of books were delivered to her home in Whittier, California: "I opened the box and the first thing I saw was the photo on the book cover. I immediately thought, 'Peace Pilgrim is back among us, both walking and speaking, although not in person, but still in a manner which she can reach the lives of thousands.'"
"As way opens" (Top)
"As way opens" is a Quaker saying that describes total faith in God's divine process. That is how John and Ann believe they were directed in moving the Peace Pilgrim Center to Hemet, California as part of the on-going process of being cared for by unseen hands. They went there just for a day; adverse weather forced them to stay over and they felt inspired to contact a friend in real estate who took them to a home surrounded by mountains, trees, a river and an Indian reservation in the distance. They both felt a warm feeling about this location and purchased it for the new Peace Center. In November 1983, they moved the Peace Pilgrim Center to Hemet and the San Jacinto Valley.
A Marvelous Work (Top)
During the first three years, the process of sending out books and keeping files was operated by hand, using 3x5 index cards in shoe boxes. A part-time volunteer named Barbara Werner came once a week. Two reporters from the Los Angeles Times came to Hemet in 1986 and interviewed John and Ann. They reported that for 1984-5 alone 50,000 'Steps toward Inner Peace' booklets had been mailed out.
As the volume of work increased, more volunteers were needed. Jeff Blom, the first full-time volunteer arrived in 1988 and became an invaluable asset to the work. They had met him at a Trappist monastery in Iowa. He was a young computer and program expert who had met Peace Pilgrim twice. He installed a computer system, coordinated the translation and printing of the Peace Pilgrim book into Spanish and Russian; he then suggested that issuing newsletters would help promote Peace Pilgrim's message.
The first newsletter (Top)
In 1987 the first newsletter, came off the press. In that newsletter John and Ann wrote:
'For almost five years now we have been filling requests for books and tapes. In return
we receive thousands of enthusiastic letters saying such things as, 'this book has changed
my life. I cannot put into words the serenity and joy I feel.'
Some readers who read of the Spanish and Russian translations in the newsletters, considered translating and printing the book into their own languages. Gradually more translations appeared and were added to the collection. The display shelf at the Peace Pilgrim Center's reception room had versions in such diverse languages as Tamil, Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, Gujarati, Swahili and Serbo-Croatian. There hardly seemed to be a time after that when someone, somewhere in the world, wasn't in the process of producing a new translation!
In composing her portions of the newsletters, Ann made many references to the garden of trees surrounding their home and the birds and animals that kept them company. Just as the poetess Emily Dickinson, who spent most of her life next to a garden of trees and wrote about them, Ann brought the life within the trees as part of the newsletters. This seemed to indicate that the beauty and mystical elements in nature were just as newsworthy and important as the human elements of life.
In 1989, Bill Hamilton, a follower of the Buddhist faith, became the second full-time volunteer at the Peace Pilgrim center. Bill suggested that the Peace Pilgrim book be printed in compact form for both prisoner and foreign mailings to save on postal costs. The type in this new edition was reduced by 10%, but was exactly the same text as the original. A hard cover edition came out next; 40,000 copies were placed in major libraries all around the country. John and Ann finally were seeing some of the fruits of all their labors.
Peace Pilgrim's admonition (Top)
At stressful times when orders, urgent matters and the volume of requests increased, Ann would remind all her workers of Peace Pilgrim's words which Ann wrote out and placed in an ideal location for all volunteers to read:
"There is a calmness, a serenity and unhurriedness - no more striving or straining about anything (12) ."
Soon after reminding her staff of Peace Pilgrim's words and posting the words on the wall to reflect upon, Ann would soon have a test in her own life practicing calmness and serenity.
Reactions At Gunpoint (Top)
In 1992 John and Ann had the experience of being robbed by three hooded gunmen one night at the Peace Center. They were told to lie on the floor; John complied, Ann refused. The gunmen took all the electrical equipment, money and left. The policemen who interviewed them said, "you are unusually calm over the event; most people are hysterical, devastated and betrayed after being robbed." John and Ann replied, rather amused, "We wanted to offer them our books, but they didn't seem interested." They then wrote in the next newsletter: "It was a test to see if we really believed Peace Pilgrim's message of fearlessness - knowing things would be fine, no matter what happened. (13)"
A New Millennium (Top)
The turn of the new millennium from 1999 to 2000 was an exciting time for John and Ann. They worked with Barbara Werner and Gary Guthrie proofreading the children's coloring book that was printed in December, 1999. Cheyenne Bear, one of their long-time friends, drove from Ojai, California to be with her 'family' for the welcoming of a new millennium. Together John, Ann, Gary and Cheyenne sat in silence at mid-night, affirming that peace would eventually prevail in the new millennium. They then sang, "It's in everyone of us."
In November 2000, John and Ann traveled to attend the dedication of a statue to Peace Pilgrim in Costa Rica. After that event they began the search for a new location for the Peace Center which had out-grown its location in Hemet. Kathy Miller helped in their search. Kathy sold her home in Redwood City and put part of the funds as a down payment for a new center. The new location was in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, east of Sacramento and south of Placerville in Somerset, California.
Secrets of their success (Top)
Seeing so many travelers come to their centers with the tales of interesting places and things to see, John and Ann are asked if they would like to travel. "How would we ever find the time;" they reply, "we don't have to go out to them, they come to us through letters, emails and personal visits from all around the world." It is ironic, they point out that certain adventurers like Candide roam the world in search of life's meaning and end up sitting at home in their gardens!
Since many people have little motivation in their lives and little reason to get themselves out of bed in the morning, John and Ann often say they feel fortunate. "The work we do is both inspiring and challenging in that Peace Pilgrim's message is greatly needed in the world. In this sense we consider ourselves blessed to be part of it." For those people feeling a lack of purpose in life, they recommend finding an avenue to be of service to others.
In response to all the accolades and praise people attempt to give John and Ann in turn respond, "the praise applies equally to anyone who strives to live Peace Pilgrim's message and searches for inner peace. Our lives continue to be blessed, full of meaning and adventure. This is praise enough." Within the Sermon on the Mount is a beatitude stating that the world's peacemakers would be blessed as children of God; certainly the world presently needs as many as can step forward in the practice of peace.
1 Los Angeles Times, Jan. 2, 1986, Part V, p. 2.
2 Newsletter #6, p. 8.
3 "Peace Pilgrim, Her Life and Work in Her Own Words", p. 63.
4 Newsletter, #29, p. 9.
5 Newsletter, #11, p. 1.
6 Peace Pilgrim, op. cit, p. 7.
7 Newsletter #5, p. 1.
10 Newsletter #6, p. 7.
11 Newsletter #34, p. 8.
12 Peace Pilgrim, op. cit., p. 23.
13 Newsletter #17, p. 5.
OF PEACE PILGRIM