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Friends of California couple slain by Somali pirates mourn their loss

February 22, 2011 | 12:38 pm

Scott and Jean Adam in an undated photo. Friends of Scott and Jean Adam, the Southern California couple taken hostage and killed by Somali pirates, described them Tuesday as a fun-loving couple who most enjoyed sailing around the world and spreading the word of God.

The owners of the yacht Quest, the Adams of Marina del Rey and another couple, Phyllis Macay and Robert Riggle of Seattle, were on an around-the-world sailing trip when they were taken hostage by pirates Friday off of Oman. They were mortally wounded Tuesday morning by their captors, shortly  before a U.S. special operations team boarded the hijacked vessel, killing two of the pirates and capturing the rest.

Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson of St. Monica Catholic Church, which the Adams attended when they were in town, said he heard the news about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. He offered 6:30 and 8 a.m. Masses in their names, praising their spirits and spirituality.

“They wanted to spend time … making loving disciples,” Torgerson said. “They felt they could bring the Scriptures to all parts of this far-flung world.” The Adams had carried Bibles aboard their yacht the Quest and distributed them along their journeys.

“They died doing what they wanted to do,” Torgerson said in an interview at the parish office in Santa Monica. “Isn’t that a wonderful thing? … They found so much joy in doing it.”

When the Adams weren’t sailing, Jean Adam sang in the choir. “She’s a beautiful spirit,” said Merrill Collins, an organist who played at the same 11:30 a.m. service. Collins wiped away tears as she headed into the parish office for a musicians meeting Tuesday.

Jean Adam had been Torgerson’s dentist, the cleric said. Scott Adam had converted to Catholicism many years ago and brought intense passion to his faith. In retirement, Torgerson said, the Adams, like other people of faith, were “looking deep down inside to see how we bring peace” and make a difference in the world.

During the morning Masses, Torgerson said, he was struck by a passage from Scripture (1 Peter 5:1-4), and he paraphrased: “If we are faithful, we will win the crown.” The Adams, he said, “won the crown. They’re at peace.”

A candle that had been lighted for the couple over the weekend in a prayer for their safe return remained illuminated Tuesday.

Torgerson said he was waiting to hear from the family about how the church should proceed with regard to a memorial service.

Richard Peace, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, described himself as a close friend of the Adams and a former professor of Scott’s.

Peace said Scott Adam was a lifelong filmmaker who worked on movies “Deliverance” and "The Goonies.” He said Scott had a high-stress life as a filmmaker and at some point in his mid-50s, he had a “mystical experience where God was calling him to ministry.” It was a revelation that he needed to be closer to God, Peace said.

“Scott being Scott with his high energy, two weeks after God’s calling, he enrolled at Fuller,” Peace said.

Scott Adam, who grew up in Chicago, entered Fuller when he was in  his mid- to late 50s in 1996 and completed his master’s degree, Peace said. He eventually entered a PhD program in his 60s, but never finished. He was awarded a second master’s degree last year.

At one point, Scott Adam considered becoming an ordained priest or teaching, but instead, his missionary work became tied with his sailing, Peace said.

“He was very bright, very interested, very energetic,” Peace said. “He didn’t have to be here, but he had a great sense of commitment.”

Scott Adam found a lot of fulfillment in the dual sailing and missionary effort, Peace said. It was a change from his high-pressure job as a filmmaker.

Scott Adam was well aware of problems with pirates and had talked about the dangers, Peace said. He said the only reason he had decided to sail into this particular area was because the couple were part of a convoy, from which they later departed.

“Some of the story just doesn’t make sense to me,” Peace said. “Why would he depart from the group? That’s the only thing that gave him a sense of security.”

He said he had heard from Scott a few weeks before he was captured. The couple was in India and sounded very happy, Peace said.

Was he armed? No, Peace said. “That would have been an anathema for him. He’s not a trained soldier."

“This was his way of having a presence around the world,” Peace said of Scott Adam’s decision to sail around the world. “They loved being out on the water." Jean, his wife would say, “I need the gentle back and forth of the water beneath me.”

“They had a very real faith and I believe that’s what sustained them through this hard time,” Peace said.

Meanwhile, the mood was somber at the Del Rey Yacht Club, where the couple often moored their boat when they were in town. They had been members of the club since 2001.

Club Commodore Gary Deitsch, who ordered the club’s flag flown at half-staff, described the couple as “very dedicated to serving mankind.”

He said they had been sailing around the world for several years.

“The Del Rey Yacht Club was their home away from home,” Deitsch said. “All of us at the club are devastated this horrific event has occurred.”


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Killing of Southern California couple marks grim escalation for Somali pirates

-- Esmeralda Bermudez, Martha Groves and Nate Jackson

Photo: Scott and Jean Adam in an undated photo. Credit: Svquest.com