HAGSA News Archive

Pete Holmquist

November 13, 2014—The following (minimally edited here) was published in the November 13 and 14 issues of the Sacramento Bee by Pete’s family. It is published here with the family’s permission.

On November 4, 2014, we lost our treasured partner, father, grandfather, and friend, Julius D. “Pete” Holmquist. He was 95 and a resident of Sacramento for forty years.

Pete Holmquist was indeed that rarest of beings—a true Renaissance man—who could quote the great poets, create fine art, play several instruments, and build a bridge. Nothing gave him greater joy than to see his beautiful children grow into wise and loving adulthood, and especially, to watch the grandchildren, who were so dear to him, mature in knowledge and generosity of heart. The warmth of his presence will stay with those he loved for many years to come.

Pete was born on September 27, 1919, in Grand Rapids, MI, the second of four sons, and grew up during the grim years of the Great Depression. He attended high school in Illinois and went to the U. of Illinois, where he earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering. 

At the start of World War II, Pete took a job in Chicago at General Scientific Corporation, where he joined a team researching development of the photo-electric cell, and pursued this vitally important defense-related work until the end of the war. Following World War II, Pete worked for General Electric in the Middle East, equipping and modernizing hospitals there.

While at the U. of Illinois, he met his future wife, Ann Weldy (nee Thayer). Thus commenced a 27-year marriage that produced two wonderful daughters. In the 1960s Pete went into real estate and moved the family to California. The marriage with Ann ended in the early 1980s.

Pete completed a major in Art at CSUS. In 1996, he began living with a widow, author, and activist, Esther Franklin, of Sacramento. During the following years, not only her children but her grandchildren bonded affectionately with “Papa Pete.” Together Esther and Pete forged a loving partnership, participating in the Renaissance Society at CSUS, the Humanist Association of the Greater Sacramento Area, and the Unitarian-Universalist Society.

Pete was preceded in death by his parents, Randolph Holmquist and Hulda Corlin Holmquist of Michigan, and by his three brothers. He is survived by his beloved partner, Esther Franklin; his precious daughters, Jane Heimbichner (Craig) of Sacramento and Inga Holmquist of Puyallup, WA; the extended Franklin clan, children and grandchildren, including the Franklin, Taylor, Stamm, and Berlant families; and six adored Heimbichner grandchildren: William, 25; Jolienne, 22; Tamsyn, 18; Maximillian, 14; Peter, 11; and Mireya, 9.

A memorial celebration will be held Tuesday December 2nd at 1:15 pm in the Fahs Room of the Unitarian Universalist Society, 2425 Sierra Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95825 (Phone: 916-483-9283; Web site: http://uuss.org). Participants in the Ted Webb Discussion Group are helping with plans and will welcome attendees. Bill Potts, President of the Humanist Association of the Greater Sacramento Area, will tell of Pete’s assistance in founding HAGSA and his subsequent participation in the Association. Donations may be made to the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento and the Humanist Association of the Greater Sacramento Area (HAGSA).

—Bill Potts, President, HAGSA

Ted Webb

November 13, 2014—Theodore A. “Ted” Webb, Minister Emeritus of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento and long-time HAGSA member and volunteer, died on October 6 at the age of 96.

We hope to publish a comprehensive obituary here. In the meantime, you may click on the link below to view the copyrighted version, authored by the Sacramento Bee’s Robert D. Dávila and published in the Bee on October 23.

Sacramento Bee Ted Webb Obituary

Ted’s life will be celebrated on Dec. 13 at 1:30 p.m. at Sierra Arden United Church of Christ, 890 Morse Ave., Sacramento, which is where UUSS services and events are being held pending the completion of renovation of UUSS’s own property (some time in 2015). In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento or to the United Nations Association (UNA).

—Bill Potts, President, HAGSA

Judy Saint/Kathy Johnson Wedding
October 24, 2013

January 29, 2014—This first appeared in the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s magazine, Freethought Today. Judy and Kathy are both HAGSA Board members.

Not only are same-gender marriages happening to the chagrin of fundamentalists everywhere, but our own Greater Sacramento Chapter president, Judy Saint, seen here with her new wife Kathy Johnson, joined in the vanguard movement themselves. Unable to wed five years ago when they were ready, due to religious money and fear-mongering behind Prop 8, they happily tied the knot before a gathering of almost 100% freethinkers October 24.

This Very Secular Wedding, as Judy calls it, felt more like a celebration and party. Held in a beautiful community center, officiated by renowned ERA activist Cleo Kocol, a good friend of the couple (and a lifetime FFRF member), many words were spoken reflecting our earthly dependence on each other and on our integrity as thoughtful people, even referring to the Good Books of Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, and Douglas Adams.

The soloist, Andi Griffith, rewrote the lyrics to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” especially for this secular, long-fought lesbian wedding—a real tear-jerker. The first song by the live band, “We Are Family,” drew the entire gathering of 70 guests immediately to the dance floor. Laughs were had, most had tears, the few believers were educated, but what surprised Judy and Kathy the most was the thunderous and non-stop standing ovation they received. Guests all said they were overwhelmed by the “real” aspect of the evening—eschewing tradition where appropriate, and above all, loving all around in the most beautiful secular way.

Hank Kocol

October 5, 2013—This first appeared in March/April 2013 issue of the HAGSA Bulletin.

Hank died on April 20. Born July 16, 1937, Hank grew up in Chicago, attended Loyola University, and received his MS in Chemistry at Purdue University. He spoke seven languages, worked for the National Bureau of Standards in Washington DC, for the US Public Health Service, and later as a health physicist for the State of California Radiologic Health Branch (RHB).

As a health physicist he worked in radiation protection, giving talks worldwide. He was a member of the Renaissance Society, various local freethinking organizations, and the Sun City Democrats. As world travelers, Hank and Cleo made sixteen trips to Hawaii. He was an inveterate reader, enjoyed skydiving, hiking, the symphony, ballet, and theatre. He never passed a museum without going in.

With respect to the freethought community, Hank was a Charter Member of AOF, former AOF President, cofounder of the Sun City Humanists, a board member of the Council for Secular Humanism (CSH), and a life member of the AHA, HAGSA, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). He spoke several times to the Renaissance Society.

In November 2007, Hank gave HAGSA an excellent and highly-understandable presentation on the Manhattan Project (which developed the first nuclear bombs). He was much too young (a child, in fact) to have been involved in the project, but as an adult, he studied its methodology and technology, and its effect on subsequent developments and knowledge of radiation health hazards.

According to Cleo, one of his proudest moments was presenting the AHA Humanist of the Year award to Isaac Asimov (who died in 1992). Others felt Asimov might not attend due to his fear of flying, but he told Hank, “I was wondering when you would get around to asking me!” Hank was able to introduce him, making him smile as he delivered an inside line from one of Dr. Asimov’s books.

For those who knew him, he will be sorely missed.

Hank is survived by his wife Cleo and two adult children.

In lieu of flowers, Cleo suggests memorial donations may be made to the freethought organization of your choice.

—Bill Potts, President

Beverly Church

January 26, 2013 (appeared in March/April 2013 issue of the HAGSA Bulletin; posted here on October 5, 2013).

Beverly Ann Church died unexpectedly in her bed at her mother’s house in Rockwood, Tennessee on January 26.

She was born on August 28, 1953 and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. She married an Air Force pilot, with whom she eventually moved to Edwards Air Force Base in California. Her husband subsequently died, following which Bev moved to Sacramento. She received her nursing credentials from Antelope Valley College and worked in that field her entire adult life.

Beverly was a vibrant and enthusiastic member of the Sacramento freethought community. She had many friends in Sacramento and was very well liked by all. She was a member of UUSS (Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento) and served as the president of AOF, vice-president of HAGSA, and chair of the Sacramento Freethought Day Committee. She always enjoyed Freethought Day (and the fundraising receptions she hosted on the eve of that event) and managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat when she got the Mayor of Sacramento to issue the first ever Freethought Day Proclamation in Sacramento. She also was active with the First Atheist Church of True Science (FACTS) and provided support for lawsuits that were designed to promote separation of church and state.

Bev co-chaired the American Humanist Association’s Chapter Assembly Committee and was subsequently elected to the AHA Board, where she was proudest of her work with the Publicity Committee. They developed and implemented a new media campaign to get the word out about Humanism in the United States in a positive manner.

She worked most recently at the California Department of Health Services, but an on-the-job car accident seven years ago injured her back. She was never able to fully recover. She retired from the state in 2011 and moved to Arkansas to live with her son and his family. Then in 2012 she moved to Tennessee to help her mother out.

She is survived by her son, Eric Lufkin, his wife Jessica, and seven grandchildren: James Terry, Dallas Lufkin, Daniel Lufkin, Eric Lufkin Jr., Clarann Lufkin, Memphis Lufkin and Austin Lufkin. Condolences can be sent to Eric Lufkin at PO Box 31, Glencoe, AR 72539-0031.

—Tom Ikelman, Treasurer and Membership Chair, HAGSA

Betty Margo Gunnarsen

January 15, 2013—Longtime HAGSA and UUSS member and erstwhile HAGSA president Betty Gunnarsen died peacefully on January 6 at the age of 89.

Describing the Betty we knew requires, at the very least, a large number of adjectives, all positive.

She was smart, affable, delightful, analytical, knowledgeable, well-read, assiduous, talented as a writer, speaker, debater, and organizer, and until recent years, as a musician. That list is by no means exhaustive, but one can easily see that the sum of her talents could well justify the term, renaissance woman.

Like her late husband Walter, Betty was raised in a Seventh-Day Adventist family. They only broke free of the yoke of that religion well into adulthood, finally accepting humanism with great enthusiasm and not a little relief.

Nels and Laurens Gunnarsen’s tributes to their mother follow below.

—Bill Potts, President, HAGSA

January 12, 2013—We are deeply saddened to report the passing of our Mother, Betty Margo Gunnarsen, on January 6, 2013, of natural causes. Born October 25, 1923, in Seattle, the only child of immigrants George Reuben Anderson (Sweden) and Marie Flatmo Anderson (Norway). Educated at Walla Walla College and at the Cornish School of Music. Long-term resident of Carmichael and Sacramento, retired from Civil Service with State of California in 1985. Loving wife of Julius Walter Gunnarsen, married for 64 years, until his passing in May 2010. Survived by her devoted children, Nels Christian Gunnarsen MD, Laurens Dana Gunnarsen PhD, and Anna Marie Kane RN. Also a very dear cousin, Elsie Sorgenfrei of Snohomish, Washington; Mina Nishimura, wife of Laurens; and Robert Kane MD, husband of Anna Marie.

An accomplished pianist and lifelong lover of classical music, especially Beethoven, Brahms and Chopin, she freely shared her enthusiasm and expertise with her children and with her students. In recent years, active with the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento and the Humanist Association. Her family is grateful to many members of these worthy institutions for their fellowship and support of our parents in their later years. She was a gentle soul, a devoted lover of nature and animals, a lifelong vegetarian, avid gardener, a thoughtful student of philosophy and psychology, and a wonderful Mother to us all. In accordance with her wishes, no memorial service is planned. Memorial gifts may be made in her name to her favorite charity, Save the Children, and would be greatly appreciated by her family.

—Nels Gunnarsen

January 6, 2013—Mother’s passing was calm and (as I am assured by competent medical authority) painless, although I must confess that I, unaccustomed to such things, found it difficult to watch. Still, I believe that Mother left this life pretty nearly just as she would have wished to leave it, and there is certainly some comfort in that reflection.

Because I had already lost my father in the first few minutes of 27 May 2010, Mother’s passing this afternoon left me, my brother, and my sister orphans.

As a result I now find myself prey to a peculiar feeling, difficult to articulate, that somehow goes beyond the inevitable grief and bereavement occasioned by the loss of a beloved and intimate friend. Of course my parents were my beloved and intimate friends; but they were also my parents, and knew me in a way that no other person ever can. Without them, I feel I now inhabit an essentially different world.

But in truth my main feeling is one of gratitude. For my mother and father were extraordinary persons: notwithstanding their many errors and failings, they were very nearly ideal parents.

Mother, in particular, was an intensely scrupulous and thoughtful student of the subtle art of parenting. She strove ceaselessly to learn from her own observations of us, her children, how best to help us grow into the persons we were naturally inclined to be. She was never rigid or doctrinaire, and indeed made constant adjustments to her rules of thumb (the only sort of rule she felt had any place in parenting) to make them better comport with the data. She was a brilliant and inspired empiricist, a sort of Faraday of parenting, and we were the constant beneficiaries.

Her collaboration with Father was fraught with tensions and stresses, but their achievement as parents was altogether remarkable; for, without ever imposing on us children any perceptible pressure to excel, they conveyed in a thousand subtle ways their absolute confidence that we one day would. We all grew up thinking that it was only natural we should one day obtain doctorates from first-rate institutions, and make major original contributions. It would be hard work getting there, of course, but the ultimate outcome was simply not in doubt. Or, at any rate, our parents never once doubted it. So why should we?

And so we have all done remarkable things—and we have all remained extremely close to each other in doing them, which is perhaps even more important. Our parents have left each of us with lives of which they were always intensely proud—lives rich with culture and meaning, and bound tightly together by intimate ties of love and respect.

I and my siblings are very sad to be orphans, but we are and will always remain profoundly grateful for the vast riches of love and wisdom lavished on us by our wonderful parents.

—Laurens Gunnarsen


Walter Gunnarsen

June 2, 2010—Longtime HAGSA member, Walter Gunnarsen, died on Thursday, May 27, at the age of 88.

Walter is survived by his wife, Betty, and their three adult children, Laurens, Nels, and Anna Marie. There are no grandchildren.

I first met Walter and Betty at the initial 2001 Darwin Day planning meeting (hosted, with a full meal, by Anna Andrews). They and we (Elaine and I) quickly developed a warm friendship that has continued undiminished.

Walter combined a sometimes curmudgeonly demeanor with warmth, affection, and humor. Elaine and I will miss him, as no doubt will many others.

Below is the notice submitted to the Sacramento Bee, for publication on June 2, by Laurens Gunnarsen, followed by some additional comments by Nels Gunnarsen.

—Bill Potts, President, HAGSA

Sacramento Bee Notice
(placed by Laurens Gunnarsen)
J. Walter Gunnarsen, Ed.D.

Our beloved husband and father passed away on May 27th from natural causes at age 88, after a brief final illness. Born in Mount Vernon, Washington, he grew up in the Pacific Northwest and earned Bachelor's degrees from Walla Walla College and the University of Washington, and later a Doctorate in Education from the University of the Pacific. A Sacramento County resident for 45 years, he worked in education and in business. Survived by his wife of 65 years, Betty Margo, and children Nels, Laurens, and Anna Marie. Always a caring, loving, gentle man and a nurturing, supportive parent, we will all miss him more than we can ever say.

Comments by Nels Gunnarsen

On a more personal note, I would add that while our Dad was never very successful in business, and endured many professional setbacks and disappointments, he was a great father. My life-long love of flying comes from him. When we were just kids, he would frequently take us to the local airport on weekends, just to watch the planes land and take off. He had a little bit of the Viking explorer in him; over the years he must have toured just about every back road and by-way in Northern California, either by car or preferably by motorcycle. He was never a bully, or demanding as a father; he always approved of us and encouraged us all, and delighted in our accomplishments. When I, as a typical disorganized teenager, got behind on my college applications, he very gently helped me to pull them all together and get them mailed off just before the deadline. I vividly remember driving down to the central post office in Sacramento with him, late in the evening, to make sure they were postmarked before midnight!

Dad was a child of the Great Depression, and his early life and many of his most vivid memories were much shaped by hard times and limited choices. He never knew his own father, who died when our Dad was only three years old. Had his circumstances, and the advice and counsel he received, been just a little bit different, he might well have pursued an early enthusiasm for the study of law. I firmly believe that, by the strength of his intellect and his temperament, he would have been well suited to a successful career in the legal profession, quite possibly as a judge or a law school professor.

I’m sure my brother and sister could add many of their own anecdotes. We take comfort in reflecting that we have all been truly blessed to have him actively involved in our lives for so long. We are thankful that he died quite peacefully, from gradual respiratory and cardiac failure. We were present at his bedside when he passed.

Phil Kearney

March 1, 2010 (appeared in March issue of the HAGSA Bulletin, posted here on June 17, 2010)—Longtime HAGSA member and former HAGSA Board member Phil Kearney died of complications of pneumonia on February 14 at the age of 89. His younger son, Stephen, died six days earlier (February 8), of unstated cause, at the age of 56.

Phil had COPD and freely admitted to many years of smoking. Although he needed a constant supply of oxygen, until late 2008 he managed to occasionally attend the Tuesday morning “Ted’s Web” discussions in the UUSS Library.

Phil was a prolific letter writer, both to the Sacramento Bee and to other newspapers. His reputation at the Bee was such that Associate Editor Foon Rhee was moved to write an obituary—”Longtime dissident is remembered for his letters”—in the February 21 issue. This was the first news any of us saw of Phil’s death.

The death notice appeared a few days later. It announced the following:

A celebration of his life will be held on Saturday, March 6, 2010, at 11:30 am, at Saint Mary's Cemetery chapel, 2615 21st Street, Sacramento.

That’s consistent with a message Phil sent me in October 2008, with the subject, “My religious history.” In it, he announced, “I’m sending a first installment of my religious history.” His opening statement to me was “Thanks again for printing my doctrinal letter and explaining my unsecular religiosity.” I think he meant that for someone else. He continued with a narrative, revealing that, although he had many disagreements with the Catholic Church, his ties to it were still strong. He ended his message with “This document will be continued on another file which I will call ‘POTTS108’. Some day soon I hope!”

He never did send me the second installment.

Until about a year ago, Phil and I would occasionally spend time talking on the phone. He would also get me to review some of his letters before sending them to the Bee, or elsewhere, including the Catholic Herald.

Phil was a kind, gentle, and caring man. I’ll miss him. I’ve no doubt that others who knew him will miss him too.

—Bill Potts, President, HAGSA

Mike Weber

June 15, 2008 (corrected June 19)—John Martin “Mike” Weber died last Thursday, June 12, at the age of 94. The cause was congestive heart failure.

Mike was a longime member of both UUSS and HAGSA and, in recent years, was an active participant in Tuesday morning discussion groups at Ted Webb’s house. In fact, Mike was at the latest meeting, last Tuesday, at its new location (the UUSS Library) and under its new name—Ted’s Web.

His life will be celebrated in the UUSS Auditorium at 11 am on Tuesday, July 1.

The following notice is from the June 15 Sacramento Bee:

John Martin (Mike) Weber

Mike WeberIn Sacramento, June 12, 2008, of congestive heart failure. Born in El Centro, CA, April 13, 1914. His widowed mother raised her family of six boys first in California and then in Corvallis, Oregon. Mike received a Bachelor of Science/Master’s from OSU (Corvallis) in Education. Taught in Portland for nine years. Served as school principal in Parker Dam, CA, and Crestline, CA. Moved to Sacramento in 1949 to work as a science consultant with the Sacramento County Office of Education. He retired in 1979.

Mike was active during his 39-year career and in retirement with groups related to history and prudent interaction with our environment: Save American River Association, Renaissance Society at CSUS, CRTA History Committee, groups promoting the planting of native oaks and plants. He was very much a “people person” with many interests and a great desire to know and share knowledge.

His three daughters remember their father for his gifts to them: appreciation of nature, singing together in the car, homemade ice cream, bike rides, photography, and many family gatherings.

Preceded in death by his wife Ferris Jane in 2005. Survived by daughters: Catherine Ferris Castanos; Rachel Anne Curran (Earle); and Martha Jane Drummond (Dan); grandchildren: Amy Curran Barker (Jack); Anne Kristin Simon (Jeff), Marte Emiliano Castanos (Kristen), Benjamin Graciano Castanos (Claudia Pena); Ross Daniel Drummond (fiancee Ashley Latimer); and Melanie Jane Shipley (Phillip); great-grandchildren: Jessica Marie Barker, Robert Earle Barker, Alyssa Michelle Simon, and Mia Grace Castanos. Mike is also survived by many beloved cousins, nieces and nephews.

Memorial service 11 a.m., Tuesday, July 1, 2008, at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento (UUSS), 2425 Sierra Boulevard, Sacramento, CA 95825. Contributions to Mike’s memory to UUSS Endowment Fund (above address) or Effie Yeaw Nature Center, P.O. Box 579, Carmichael, CA 95609-0579, will be greatly appreciated by the family.

Dr. Goparaju Vijayam

Click here for June 17 update.

Dr. Goparaju VijayamJune 2, 2008—The internationally-known Humanist and Indian social reformer, Dr. Goparaju Vijayam, will be in Sacramento from June 19 to 23. He will be in the US for the World Humanist Congress in Washington, DC. There will be several opportunities to meet him. (See Events, below.) 

Dr. Vijayam is Executive Director of the Atheist Centre (AC), in Vijayawada, India. His family has run this unique and successful organization, which they built, for over 60 years. Dr V, as he is usually known, has spoken and written widely and notably. The AC has been successfully engaged in broad range of social reform. Its secular social work has included humane assistance, education, and governmental and social reform in many areas, including economic equality and women’s power.  It has especially worked for cultural and legislative changes needed to eradicate, among a number of cruel inherited customs, the concept of untouchability, which continues to be part of their caste system. It provides many education programs, including adult literacy, health awareness, sex education and family planning, and environmental awareness. The AC was given the International Humanist Award at the World Humanist Congress held in Oslo in 1986. Click on one or both of the links, below, to discover this amazing social institution and its wonderful work:

Atheist Centre          Positive Atheism


So far, two events have been planned. The UUSS Public Forum will feature Dr. Vijayam as their speaker on Sunday, June 22, from 13:00 to 14:30 (1 to 2:30 pm). His topic will be Secular Approaches to Social Problems in India. From there, he will then go to the Summer Solstice Potluck, at 15:00 (3 pm), at Mike Newdow’s house (see Upcoming Meetings), which we hope will provide him and us with a low-key informal setting for interesting conversation.


Nancy Gilbert has now arranged an additional informal event. It will be at the Tower Cafe, on Broadway, starting between 17:45 and 18:00 (5:45 and 6:00 pm) on Friday, June 20 (i.e., this Friday).

You may need to go inside (or outside) and just look for the other attendees. Temperature and space and who arrives first will decide whether the event is inside or outside. Look for Dr. Vijayam himself (photograph above). If it is busy and seems appropriate, Nancy hopes to put a discreet name sign on a table.

If you can’t make it on time, show up anyway. Everyone will be there for quite a while.

Contact Nancy at gilbertn@surewest.net (phone 916-974-7922) if you need further information.  

Ted Gangursky

January 8, 2009—Updated at the request of David Gangursky, Ted’s son, to correct information about Ted's degrees.

February 13, 2008—Ted Gangursky, longtime member of the Humanist Association of the Greater Sacramento Area, died of congestive heart failure at his El Dorado Hills home on February 2. Ted, who was 81, is survived by his wife Helen, three adult children, and four grandchildren.

Ted was not only a dedicated Humanist and Unitarian-Universalist, but also an excellent pianist, and a linguist, fluent in French, German and Russian. He had a BA in psychology from what is now San Diego State University, an MA in sociology from UC Berkeley and an MA in French from Sacramento State University. He taught history and government at Sacramento High School. 

He was a strong supporter of Democratic causes in the overwhelmingly Republican El Dorado County, and a generous donor to Barack Obama's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. He was also a very enthusiastic supporter of UNICEF, to which those who knew him might want to make a donation in his memory.

HAGSA Member's Book Wins Award

May 16, 2007—At the April 27, 2007 NCPA (Northern California Publishers & Authors) Awards Dinner, which honored books published in 2006, Bill Potts’ Bushopedia was announced the winner in a new category, Best Political Commentary. 

HAGSA Member
Wins Another Poetry Contest

October 29, 2006—Elizabeth Bernstein's very moving poem, A Touch of Victory, won first place in the May 2006 Contest of the California Federation of Chaparral Poets. Were it not for Elizabeth's modesty, we would have known sooner, but she only provided the information a couple of weeks ago.

Elizabeth read her poem to an appreciative audience at the beginning of the October 22 HAGSA meeting.  It will appear in the November issue of Human Interest

HAGSA Members Elected to AHA Board

September 27, 2006—The results of the American Humanist Association Board election were announced today. The successful candidates included HAGSA members Beverly Church (VP, HAGSA) and Mynga Futrell (who has filled many roles in both HAGSA and AOF). Here are all the new board members (in last-name order):

Beverly Church
Chuck Debrovner
Edd Doerr
Mynga Futrell
Susan Sackett
Lisa Swinehart
Marilyn Westfall

Chuck Debrovner, who received somewhat fewer votes than the other six candidates, will serve the remaining two years of the four-year term of a Board member who resigned. The other six were elected to full four-year terms.

There will be additional information about Beverly and Mynga in the October issue of Human Interest.

Fred Pratt

September 15, 2006 (update)—On Thursday, September 14, the Sacramento Bee published an obituary, written by staff writer Robert Dávila. As long as it remains on the Bee website, you can view it by clicking on this link:

Fred Pratt Obituary

Dr. Fred PrattAugust 26, 2006—Dr. Fred Pratt, that wonderful HAGSA and UUSS member who spent much of his retirement performing reconstructive surgery on children in Central and South America (and elsewhere), who were born with such deformities as cleft palate (whose visible manifestation is a "hare lip"), died of pneumonia on Friday morning, August 25.

Fred was suffering from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which progressively impairs the capacity of the lungs to supply the blood with oxygen. There is no known cause (as implied by "idiopathic") and, as yet, no cure. Few even knew about his condition until he revealed it, in his usual quiet and unassuming manner, at the July 22 fundraising event at Beverly Church's house.

In May 1998, Fred was presented with the AHA's Humanist Distinguished Service Award at the annual conference in San Diego.

He will be sorely missed, as is clearly evident from the following note written by Ted Webb:

"The only way I have come to know a man like Fred Pratt has been though reading books of fiction. Such heroes as Fred hardly exist but in our imagination. Authors with their fertile persuasive ways have given the world heroes who calmly and creatively treat the ailments of men, women and children needing specialists, a doctor who visits the sick and lonely in their homes, treats them in foreign lands, a man who supports liberal religious undertakings, makes donations to men and women running for political office, and who is inventive when it comes to supporting organizations of the importance of the United Nations.

"It will be a long time before we see another Fred Pratt, except as an approximation of the fictional Horatio Alger -- doctor, ministerial type, promoter, and a curious mortal ever eager to know more about what exists and why." 

There will be a memorial event to celebrate Fred's life on Sunday October 1, at 3:00 pm, in the UUSS Auditorium.

The following notice, from the August 30 Sacramento Bee, was added on August 30:

PRATT, Dr. Frederick
Dr. Frederick Pratt was a dedicated physician, local and international volunteer, and peace activist, who above all else gave himself entirely to the service of mankind. On the beautiful morning of August 25, 2006, Dr. Pratt died in his home surrounded by family. In addition to his wife Patricia M. Pratt, who shared with him his passions and work, Dr. Pratt is survived by his children, Gwynne Pratt, Daryl Pratt and wife Alison, Marcelle Pratt and husband Dr. David Koster, Serena Pratt and fiance John Robinson, and Dr. Dyveke Pratt; grandchildren Kelan Pratt and wife Jeannette, Carin and Jennifer Pratt, Arthur, August and Arie Koster; great-grandchildren Sydney and Lauren Pratt and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by sister Elizabeth, and brothers Robert and Arthur Pratt.

Born in North Clarendon, VT, on August 18, 1926, he was the son of Roy and Mary Pratt. A World War II veteran, Fred attended the University of Vermont on the GI bill, graduating in 1950 with a Bachelors Degree in Science. He entered the University of Vermont Medical School where he earned his M.D. in 1953. During medical school, he met and married Anna Temple Condos (Dr. Anna Pratt, pathologist, deceased 1974).

In 1954, he moved to Folsom, CA, and began his career as a general practitioner. After four years of practice Dr. Pratt returned to the East Coast to complete a residency in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Upstate New York Medical Center, Syracuse. He returned to Sacramento, CA, in 1962 and began a private practice in plastic surgery. Dr. Pratt was also an assistant clinical professor, Department of Plastic Surgery, University of California, Davis, School of Medicine and founded the Sutter Cleft Palate and Orofacial Anomaly Panel, Sacramento. He married Patricia, a surgical nurse, in May of 1976. After 25 years Dr. Pratt "retired" from private practice to begin a second career of volunteerism. This career took Dr. Pratt to the far reaches of the globe to help those most in need of medical care. He was also committed to local health activities. He founded a plastic surgical clinic through the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society SPIRIT program to help Sacramento's uninsured residents. Other community activities included; Sacramento Area Peace Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, United Nations Associations of Sacramento and Town and Country Democratic Club. He will be remembered and missed by people around the world, as Fred, Dr. Pratt, "Doc," and "the doctor." His love and generous spirit embodied in the hugs he gave so freely will be missed by all. The following excerpt from Two Tramps in Mud-Time by one of his beloved poets, fellow Vermonter Robert Frost, was one of his favorites:

"only when love and need are one and
work is play for mortal stakes
is the deed ever really done
for Heaven and the futures sake"

Contributions in his memory may be made to the Agape Foundation (Agape is a Greek word meaning "unselfish love of one person for another"), at 1095 Market Street, Suite 304, San Francisco, CA 94103.

A memorial service will be held to celebrate Dr. Pratt's life and work at 3:00 pm on October 1 at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento, 2425 Sierra Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95825.

Vashti McCollum

August 24, 2006—Vashti Cromwell McCollum, the courageous Illinois woman who won the landmark 1948 Supreme Court ruling in McCollum v. Board of Education (333 U.S. 203), died on August 20 at the age of 94. Robert Alley, who died six days earlier (August 14), wrote in his book on leading church-state cases, The Constitution and Religion (1999), "The McCollum decision was the first Supreme Court case to erect barriers against those who wished to employ the public schools for proselytizing."

Vashti was the author of One Woman’s Fight in 1950, served from 1962 to 1965 as president of the American Humanist Association, and is honored in the Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. She is survived by her three sons, James McCollum (with whom she attended the 2005 AHA Conference), Dannel McCollum, and Errol Cromwell.

Virginia Hansen

Virginia Hansen, December 18, 2005August 24, 2006—AHA/HAGSA member Virginia Hansen died at the age of 89 on June 17. A memorial service was held at UUSS on July 15. Here is the notice from the June 29 issue of the Sacramento Bee:

Hansen, Virginia Drew

In Sacramento, CA, on June 17, 2006. Born in Chicago, IL, on Jan. 11, 1917, to Laurence and Mabel Drew. She graduated from Carroll College, WI, 1948, M.A. at Mills College, CA, 1950. She served in the USNR "WAVES" in the 1940s. Survived by loving husband Frederick D. Hansen of Sacramento; niece Gina Molina of Lake Worth, FL; grandniece Janet Branum (husband Shawn); and great-grandniece Alyssa Branum in Sacramento. Virginia was a truly professional elementary teacher who taught in Stockton USD, Colegio Jorge Washington, Cartagena, Colombia, for two years, San Diego USD, Napa Valley USD as a reading specialist, and a Fullbright Exchange Teacher in Dundee, Scotland (1958-59). She traveled appreciatively in Europe, South America, Mexico, New Zealand, and Australia. She was active in civic theaters in Stockton and in Napa, CA, as well as in UUSS, Theater One. She was also active in Sacramento Area Peace Action and The United Nations Association, Sacramento.

[Replaces item of August 9]

Halina Wilsnack

August 9, 2006—HAGSA recently received a letter, dated June 17, from Dorie Wilsnack, informing us that AHA/HAGSA member Halina Z. Wilsnack died on March 24, 2006, at the age of 95.

The letter contains the following statement: "Halina was always clear and proud of her humanist beliefs. She appreciated your newsletter. Even at an elderly age, she would read through the articles and underline points that were important to her."

HAGSA Banner

May 12, 2006—In early April, Board Member and Publicity Chairman Shelly Ebenholtz donated a banner to HAGSA. It's about 180 cm (71") wide by 57 cm (22") high. It will be used for events such as Darwin Day and Freethought Day to identify the HAGSA table. It may also be used at HAGSA meetings.

I would like to apologize to Shelly for the delay in acknowledging his kindness.

Bill Potts, President


New HAGSA Mugs

May 7, 2006—At the May 5 meeting, Bill Potts introduced the new blue-on-white HAGSA mugs to the thirty people in attendance. They are available for a suggested donation of $5. However, for the month of May, members (and others) can take advantage of a buy-one-get-one-free offer. Larger donations are, of course, acceptable. Mug donations, at the meeting, totaled $30.

The mugs, which have a capacity of 300 mL (10 fluid ounces) are both microwave- and dishwasher-safe.


Guilbert Dumont

Guilbert DumontApril 10, 2006—Former longtime HAGSA member, Guilbert Dumont, died on March 24 at the age of 95. A wonderful obituary appeared in the Sacramento Bee on April 5. Because it is copyright, we cannot reproduce it here. However, as long as it remains on the Bee website, you can view it by clicking here:

Guilbert Dumont Obituary

A further, more personal obituary appeared on April 9 in the death notices section of the Bee. It is reproduced here:

DUMONT, Guilbert
September 22, 1910 - March 24, 2006

Unique, fortuitous wanderer on planet earth, his mission to help each person he touched, with becoming. Beloved friend to countless hundreds of Sacramentans, disciple of Plato/Socrates, lamenter of the power of the Oligarchs, believer in the potential of the common man, Guilbert led the transformation of American River from Junior College trade school to a full potential educational venue for the working class. A man who knew that human contentment flowed from the pure play of the child’s ever-shifting appeal with the new. A wise, gentle genius, rarest treasure of human beings, Guilbert was a man who inspired one to accomplish one’s highest aims and had the uncanny ability to live, perceive and enjoy the now. He had many life cycles in each of which he was engaged to the fullest.

Guilbert passed from the earth the morning of March 24, 2006. He will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved him. They were many. In his more than twenty years as an educator, including many years as Philosophy instructor at American River College, he imparted to his students a questioning attitude and a deep love of learning. His wide-ranging experience first, as a concert musician in Depression-era San Francisco, where he played on occasion with the San Francisco Symphony under the directorship of Pierre Monteaux. While working his way through Berkeley with his music, he provided support for his family, including helping his sister, Helen Putnam, through Berkeley, who later became Mayor of Petaluma. He organized a group of musicians who then played their way round the world on a cargo ship in the 1930’s. In the 60’s he became a developer in downtown Sacramento. For whatever abstract philosophical concept needing explanation, Guilbert had a story.

After retiring, Professor Emeritus, from American River College in 1978, Guilbert did not retire from life. To keep active he took up ballroom dancing “and won awards” for his effort and married again at 92. He took on the daunting task of refurbishing a property in the Historic Preservation district of mid-town Sacramento, where he lived long enough to spend his last three weeks of life. Donning a green hat and painted green shoes, he took his concern for his country very seriously, canvassing his district in the last two presidential elections, Guilbert went door to door registering voters for the Green Party, battling for the environment, constitutional rights and economic justice.

He leaves, grieving, his wife Helen Livingston Dumont; who has lost her dearest friend, son Guilbert Dumont of Napa, grandson Leslie, great-grandson, Dominic DuMont of Ventura and one niece, Kate Oliver of Honolulu, Hawaii. Claimed as father and grandfather by Andrew Patero, whose tender care replaced his frail legs and supported his failing body, Sean Patero who would not be a trumpeter without Guilbert’s teaching and guidance, daughter-in-law Imelda who cooked his fish just right and received piano lessons in return. Phoebe Celestin with whom he had the father-daughter relationship neither ever had. Connie Moss, with whom he shared a passion for Kleinian psychoanalysis, David Peters; whose mission Guilbert joined to saved the planet from global warming; James Henkel, commercial pilot, whose first call when he flew in was to check on Guilbert’s welfare. Scott Cook, Professor of philosophy at San Jose State with whom he shared a love of Philosophy and music and more recently, Chung Wai Soong, who sang his way into Guilbert’s heart and co-hosted Guilbert’s recent travels to hear the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus. Judge Lloyd Connelly, with whom he shared his love of justice and the American Constitution. Tom Schmidt, Merced, and Larry Salerno, Sacramento, who were part of Guilbert’s American River Faculty Jazz Band, and jammed at many a venue at the Sacramento Jazz Festival. Joy Custer, Linda Lawler, Ann Malcolm, Trudy Sills who all stayed in touch, Evan, Mike, Jeanne, Mindy, Carly, Patrick, Colin and Stephanie, Georgia and Lavonne, as well as many others, just as important but not named.

He had to leave undone his last self-imposed task; to get close enough to George Bush to make a citizen’s arrest for his many violations to the Constitution of the United States; the basis of our democracy upon which Guilbert placed a very high value.

If desired, contributions may be made to the Guilbert Dumont Philosophy Scholarship at American River College. Friends wishing to send comments for a memorial booklet, please do so to helendumont@comcast.net. Memorial services to be announced.

Ernie Conrad

Ernie ConradNovember 22, 2005—Ernie Conrad died at age 74 on Sunday, November 20, following open-heart surgery. He was the second member in a week to die of this cause. Although he had not attended meetings in several years, Ernie was a longtime HAGSA member. In fact, he was an honorary AHA/HAGSA lifetime member. Below is his death notice from the Sacramento Bee. Ernie and his wife, Lorine, were Mormons at the time of their marriage, 53 years ago, and the LDS Church in Rancho Cordova offered their facilities and help in arranging the celebration of Ernie's life and the following reception. Lorine has invited HAGSA and UUSS members to attend both the celebration and the reception, noting that they will be warmly welcomed.

CONRAD, Ernest C.
On a beautiful autumn Sunday morning, Ernie completed his journey and passed away on November 20, 2005, following complications from open-heart surgery. Born July 31 1931, in San Francisco to Clever Conrad of West Virginia and Hilma Marie Hendrickson of Sweden. Sisters Helen and Rosemarie, nephew Melvin Hansen of Eureka, wife of 53 years Lorine Marie, daughter Coleen Marie, son-in-law Walter Lucas, and grandchildren Erin Marie and Kurtis George. He graduated from Eureka High School and served during the Korean War on board the U.S.S. Yorktown as a combat medic. He graduated from University of Utah, then taught 40 years for Grant Union School District at Don Julio and Rio Linda Senior High and was "Teacher of the Year, 1994." He established curriculum in anthropology for high school, originated the "Knowledge Bowl" and presented "character" discussions of WWII events. In summer, worked as a Park Ranger/lecturer at Lassen and Mesa Verde National Parks. Received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to work at the "Flower Dew One Hundred" project in Virginia excavating early colony settlements. In October this year, he co-authored a McGraw-Hill supplemental college textbook, "Readings in Physical Anthropology." He was a rabid Cal fan who lived to see Cal win the Big Game on Saturday. He was a scholar and very funny man who will be missed. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Ernest Conrad Memorial Scholarship Fund, Rio Linda Senior High School. A Celebration of his life will be held on Saturday, Nov. 26, at 10:30 AM at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 2400 Cordova Ln, Rancho Cordova (between Zinfandel & Coloma Rd.) Reception to follow at the church. 

Anatole Lubovich

Anatole Taràs LubovichNovember 18, 2005—Anatole Lubovich died at age 68 on Wednesday, November 16, following coronary bypass surgery.

He will be missed, especially by those of us who have enjoyed his considerable erudition and his delightful poems, many of them very funny, at HAGSA meetings and other events.

On May 22 of this year, along with some of his fellow members of the Sacramento Poetry Center Workshop, Anatole put on a program of his poetry and music. He and they played to a packed room and a very appreciative audience.

Anatole was also a HAGSA Board Member.

Arrangements for a meeting to celebrate Anatole's life are pending.

Click here to see the report of the May 22, 2005 meeting.

Revised November 21, 2005.

Freethought Day 2005
Stand Up for Reason!
Reported by Jerry Bachman

November 3, 2005—The Fourth Annual Freethought Day celebration was held at charming Waterfront Park in the heart of historic Old Sacramento on Sunday, October 9. The annual event commemorates the end of "spectral evidence" in the 1692 Salem witch trials. But the spirited program was not without its own magic. The audience was spellbound as the many performers mixed a cauldron of joyous entertainment, including inspiring speakers, talented musicians, comedic skits … even a magician and a ventriloquist.

Event Chair, Beverly Church, energetically opened the program at noon with a warm welcome to the visitors. Mel Lipman, nationally renowned president of the American Humanist Association (AHA), broke the ice with an amusing joke and a poem. To a respectfully silent audience, well-known activist Jerry Sloan read with powerful articulation the Mayoral Proclamation declaring October 9, 2005 as Freethought Day in Sacramento. Don Knutson, president of AOF, appealed to all to "think of life in an optional capacity." HAGSA president, Bill Potts read from the Humanist Manifesto. Freethought Day had officially begun!

Music, magic and mirth reigned in Waterfront Park for the remainder of the afternoon. It was something to behold! Local musical talents lit the air on fire with their original works. Ever-popular Roberta Chevrette's opening song was a passionate reminder to "live each moment for what it's worth." Singer-songwriters Robert Pelletier and James Israel each in turn paid folksy lyrical homage to Freethinkers everywhere. Multi-talented Mynga Futrell led the audience in song with her reinterpretations of classic singalongs enhanced with a refreshingly new perspective of reason. A variety of presentations continued seamlessly throughout the afternoon.

Accomplished magician, Richard Kowaleski, mystified the audience with a bag of tricks that defied explanation. Karen Scott, from the Interfaith Religious Liberty Foundation, reminded us of the history of the American tradition of Church-State separation established by Rhode Island colonist, Roger Williams. Ventriloquist Chris and her friend Derrick talked about Camp Quest, a summer camp that emphasizes critical thinking for kids 8 to 12. A young mid-town couple, who have been harassed for their outspokenness against the war in Iraq, shared their shocking experiences in a community that sometimes allows blind patriotism to ignore civil liberty. Local activist, Rena Lowry introduced her young daughter, Brieta, who has been subject to unconscionable discrimination by her public school for being a Freethinker.

Against the backdrop of artist Joel Pelletier's huge painting, American Fundamentalists, were many exhibits and booths. Popular booths included the Progressive Freethought Exchange, a newly formed internet social club represented by Al Ludtke; Sacramento Atheists and Independent Thinkers Alliance, an online think-tank which meets over pizza twice a month, dutifully manned by Brian Jones; Sacramento Organization of Rational Thinkers, a monthly round-table discussion club headed by husband and wife science writers, Kit Moser and Ray Spangenburg. Of course, local mainstays, AOF and HAGSA had a potpourri of Freethought paraphernalia distributed by the usual suspects Ken Nahigian and Wayne Luney (plus Bill Potts and Sheldon Ebenholtz), respectively. Notable participants were the Sacramento County Voter Registration, Kid's Science Center, and various organizations too numerous to mention. There was literally something for everybody.

The non-stop hubbub of well-organized activity was powerfully effective in reaching out to the community. A well-orchestrated Reason Revival invited everyone to "Stand up for Reason!" Curious passing tourists gravitated to the booths and activities, happily surprised to discover that a large constituency of positive rationality exists right here in River Town. Thanks to the hard work of all those involved, the success of Freethought Day 2005 demonstrated that the Rational Community is alive and thriving in Sacramento!

Highlights overheard:

  • Dave Kong, California director of American Atheists: "These events are vital to raise the visibility and respectability of the Freethought Community."

  • Jim Heldberg of the San Francisco chapter of American Atheists: "We're impressed with the work Sacramento is doing. We are happy to be part of it."

  • Paul Geisert on 19th Century Freethinker, Robert Ingersoll, "He was a marvel of a man and a powerful speaker."

  • Mynga Futrell, singing "What a friend we have in reason."

  • Artist Joel Pelletier referring to his extensive research of his painting American Fundamentalists: "Understand your opponent."

  • Ed Coleman, well-known Redding Freethinker, facetiously stated, "The whole place is full of fucking Atheists!"

Click below to see (or return to) the photographs of the event: 

Freethought Day 2005 Photographs

Marguerite Webb

July 18, 2005—Marguerite Webb, who, with her husband Ted, was a longtime member of both HAGSA and UUSS, died on Wednesday, July 6, at the age of 89. (Ted is also Minister Emeritus of UUSS.) Here is the notice that appeared in the Metro section of the July 10 Sacramento Bee:

WEBB, Marguerite Elfrieda (nee Wilson)

Died at home on July 6, 2005, surrounded by her family--husband Theodore; daughters Roberta Webb and Christine Webb-Curtis; sons Theodore Ford Webb and Noel Webb; daughter-in-law Jeanne Ford Webb; granddaughter and husband Renee and Jason Cahill; and great granddaughter Jade Cahill. Born in St. Stephens, New Brunswick, at the only hospital available to residents of Calais, Maine, on July 23, 1916, she grew up in Calais and became an accomplished pianist. She studied music at the University of Maine and Juilliard School of Music in New York. She met her husband of 62 years when she was accompanist and he sang in the chorus of the Bangor Theological School in Bangor, Maine. After living many years in New England and New York, she moved to Sacramento in 1971 where her husband served as minister of the Unitarian Universalist Society. She was active in church and community activities, especially the Women's Alliance and bridge clubs. She is survived by her husband and four children, 11 grandchildren, six great grandchildren, and cousins Lydia DiCenzo of Calais, Maine, and James Marratty of Derry, New Hampshire. Memorial service to be held at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 23, 2005.

HAGSA Business Cards
Now Available to Members

January 12, 2005—At the January 7 meeting, Bill Potts, HAGSA President, introduced the new HAGSA business card to the members who were present. Each person took a small number to hand out to other people who might be interested in HAGSA.

Here is what the card looks like.

The reverse side of the card contains the six points enumerated as bullet items on the home page of this website. So you won't have to return to the home page to see them, here they are:

  • Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis.

  • Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change.

  • Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience.

  • Life's fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals.

  • Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships.

  • Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness.

Members should feel free to add their name, phone number and email address to the blank area on the front of the card. A supply will be available on the literature table at all meetings.

HAGSA Member Wins Two Poetry Contest Prizes

April 26, 2004—Anatole Lubovich recently submitted three poems and won first prizes for two of them in the 78th annual Berkeley Poetry Contest.

One was for The Periodical Room, in the People category. The other was for To My Road Hog (a poem he has read at a HAGSA meeting), in the Humor category.

Those who have heard Anatole read his excellent poems at some of our meetings will not be surprised by his success in the contest.

This item first appeared in the April 2004 issue of Human Interest.  

Park Service Continues to Push
Creationist Theory at Grand Canyon

From the now-defunct Web site bushgreenwatch.org

February 27, 2004—Ignoring recommendations by its own senior scientist to withdraw approval for a creationist book now being sold in park facilities, the National Park Service appears to be supporting religious doctrine over sound science, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

"Based on our review, we recommend that the book not be sold in park bookstores because the book purports to be science when it is not, and its sale in the park bookstores directly conflicts with the Service's statutory mandate to promote the use of sound science in all its programs, including public education," states a January 25 memo sent by David Shaver, the Chief of the Park Service's Geologic Resources Division, to Headquarters.

Last summer the Park Service initially approved Grand Canyon: A Different View, by Tom Vail, for sale in park bookstores and museums one week after NPS Deputy Director Donald Murphy ordered the Grand Canyon Park to return three bronze plaques bearing biblical verses to the public viewing areas in the Canyon's South Rim.

The "appropriateness" of offering a book claiming that the Grand Canyon developed on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time scale was questioned by the Grand Canyon National Park superintendent in August.
Ignoring the controversy, top leadership of the Park Service has approved hundreds more copies of the book, is offering it for sale on the Grand Canyon Association's website as "natural history," blocked publication of guidance for park rangers and other interpretative staff that labeled creationism as lacking any scientific basis, and refused requests by the Grand Canyon superintendent, agency geologists and others for a ruling on whether the book violates Park Service rules.

"In order to avoid offending Christian fundamentalists, the National Park Service has been forced to adopt a position of geological agnosticism," said PEER Executive Director Jeff Runch. "On the same basis that public schools do not approve creationist books as science textbooks, the National Park Service has no business promoting Christian ideology masquerading as science."

HAGSA Member Wins Poetry Contest

January 6, 2004—Elizabeth Bernstein's poem, Urban Cowboy, has won first prize in the California State Poetry Society's June contest.

Another of Elizabeth's poems, Blind Faith, appears in the Society's Poetry Letter number 4, for 2003.

HAGSA Featured in Grass Roots News

December 30, 2003—Grass Roots News, the newsletter of the AHA Chapter Assembly, has a Chapter Highlight article in every issue, profiling an AHA Chapter. The January/February 2004 issue featured HAGSA. Here is the article, in its entirety:

Chapter Highlight

The Humanist Association of the Greater Sacramento Area

The Humanist Association of the Greater Sacramento Area (HAGSA) is an active and successful AHA Membership Chapter. As a Membership Chapter, HAGSA benefits from the AHA's handling of HAGSA's member renewals and enhanced publicity. HAGSA's newsletter, meetings, events, and outreach efforts help build a dedicated core of members.

HAGSA's newsletter, Human Interest, is available in print and online in PDF. The monthly newsletter is filled with news alerts, such as updates on church/state cases before the courts. Human Interest also contains columns, such as Massimo Pigliucci's Rationally Speaking, and Bill Potts's President's Message, where he recently commented on the perils of touch screen voting. Finally, a segment of the newsletter is devoted to members' letters. HAGSA's newsletters parallel their regular meetings, where panel discussions and dramatic readings occur. They also hold potlucks during the winter and summer solstices.

HAGSA has an aggressive and effective approach to keeping members involved. A Caring Committee helps some members get to meetings. Newsletters also provide birthday greetings. New attendees are asked if they would like to introduce themselves and then are applauded and welcomed as a group. Snacks are available for those who congregate both before and after meetings. HAGSA maintains a comprehensive website, http://hagsa.org, which provides quick access to the AHA online application form, back issues of Human Interest, and reports of past meetings. Bill immediately sends out copies of Human Interest to people who are interested in the group.

HAGSA also connects with the local freethought community. This year, HAGSA's winter solstice potluck will be in conjunction with Atheists and Other Freethinkers (AOF), an AHA Affiliate. Human Interest also lists AOF's meetings and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento's events. This kind of outreach work, the careful planning and execution of events, and Human Interest, have paid off by creating a vibrant Humanist community.

To receive Grass Roots News via email, send an email message, requesting it, to grn@americanumanist.org. To send a message right now, click here. An email message composition window will open, with the request already indicated in the subject heading, and with clarification in the body of the message. All you need to do is add your name and click on Send.

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