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O.C. commune leader dies at 90; once went to jail for serving tea

April 24, 2012 | 11:59 am

Marie Kolasinski outside the Newport Beach courthouse in 2005

A fiery government critic and founder of an Orange County Christian commune, who in 2007 made headlines when she went to jail for refusing to get a permit for serving tea at her crafts store, died Monday.

Marie Kolasinski died of natural causes, according to a statement. She was 90.

At the Piecemakers Country Store in Costa Mesa,  employees held back tears Monday as they somberly described Kolasinski as a woman of deep conviction who worked to preserve traditional crafts, such as woodwork and knitting.

"She's one of the most exceptional people I've known, and I will always be grateful to her," said Shirley Chism, who was reading and taking notes in a yellow "Words of Life" booklet written by Kolasinski. "She taught us who our true God is, and she showed us the way back to the Father. She gives meaning to life."

Others will remember Kolasinski more for her clashes with government officials. She held absolutist views when it came to property rights and routinely sparred with City Hall over seemingly trivial issues.

Kolasinski made headlines in 1997 when she faced criminal charges for not obtain permits to stage events in the parking lot of her store.

In 2007, at the age of 85, Kolasinski spent seven days in jail for operating the craft store's tea room without a permit and for resisting inspectors who came to examine the shop.

Until recently, Kolasinski continued her unsparing attacks on government officials, occasionally penning pieces for the Daily Pilot's Forum page.

Kolasinski wrote in 2009 that "work is a four-letter word for any government employee, as they live off the blood of the working class of the nation they govern."

In a 2002 newspaper ad, the Piecemakers called two county code inspectors "rapists," "Martian reptiles" and "Gestapo whores." They later settled a libel lawsuit with the inspectors for $20,000.

Though the Piecemakers enjoyed some support from anti-government types, many critics labeled them a cult — an allegation Kolasinski vehemently denied.

The 25-member organization practices an unconventional form of Christianity where members say they abstain from sex and live communally as brothers and sisters.

The Piecemakers also landed on the FBI's radar in 1995 when they sent county officials a salty letter that alluded to the Oklahoma City bombing.

Memorial services are scheduled to take place at noon Friday at the Piecemakers store.


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-- Lauren Williams, Daily Pilot

Twitter: @lawilliams30

Photo: Marie Kolasinski outside the Newport Beach courthouse in 2005. Credit:  Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times