Friends, fellow parishioners of slain California couple feel an ‘emptiness’

LOS ANGELES – In the weeks following the death of Scott and Jean Adam, memories of the gregarious sailing couple and the inspiration they gave others remained strong in the hearts and minds of their friends and fellow parishioners.

The Adams, who for the past seven years had been on an around-the-world-boating adventure and acted as “friendship missionaries,” were taken hostage Feb. 19 by pirates off the coast of Oman in the Indian Ocean; they were found shot to death Feb. 22 after their hijacked vessel was boarded by U.S. forces who had tried to rescue them.

Also killed were two friends traveling with them, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle. The four were the first Americans killed by Somali pirates since hijackings of boats off the coast of East Africa began several years ago.

Private funeral services were to be held for the Adams at St. Monica Church in Santa Monica, where they were parishioners.

“There’s a definite emptiness here,” said Ed Archer, who conducted the St. Monica choir that Jean sang with regularly for many years. “When someone’s gone, that’s when you realize how many people they touched by their presence.”

Many recall the gentle but outgoing Jean, a 66-year-old retired dentist, and Scott, a 30-year veteran of the entertainment industry who, with a spiritual awakening late in life, took to studying at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena where he received two master’s degrees, in divinity and theology. Both had been previously married; both shared a love of sailing and both had a deep spiritual side.

Scott and Jean were married at St. Monica in the late 1990s and were, as Archer recalls, active participants. Along with being in the choir, Jean was involved with small faith groups while Scott assisted with liturgies and even helped establish the fledging liturgical dance ministry group, Flight.

Archer remembers the generosity of the Adams, who joined him and other adult chaperones in 2000 to take 35 high school students to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to sing.

“They really wanted the opportunity for the kids to travel and sing,” said Archer, who pointed out that the Adams paid for eight of the students to make that trip. They also secured donations for six other students in the group.

When the word came down that the Adams died at the hands of the pirates, Archer and members of the choir gathered in prayer.

“We were feeling all kinds of emotions — anger, sadness, devastation,” he told The Tidings, newspaper of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. “What was especially hard was to see all the idiotic things people were posting online about Jean and Scott, how they were trespassing or pushing religion on others. They couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

Indeed, the couple’s goal in traveling the world aboard their 58-foot custom-built yacht, dubbed Quest, was two-part: to combine their love of adventure with their faith. Jean’s postings on their website,, is a cheery colorful travelogue featuring photos, small stories, snippets of sailing experiences as well as their desire to distribute Bibles — but only to those who asked for them.

The couple in 2005 started their six-months-on and six-months-off pattern of exotic travel followed by docking back in Los Angeles. Over the years, they visited hundreds of places, including numerous tiny islands in the South Pacific, discovering small villages, churches, hospitals and schools.

Bibles weren’t the only things the couple handed out. In one instance, they gave up some of their gasoline so locals could fuel their lights for an evening soccer game. Someone requested crayons and pencils, so both Jean and Scott ransacked their boat to find every available writing instrument possible. Sometimes they would speak at local Christian churches followed by dinner with the villagers and perhaps time enjoying local music, dance or other customs.

“What they were doing was ‘light evangelization,’“ said Jim Muneno, St. Monica parishioner who, for 12 years, was in the same faith-sharing group with Jean. “Their intent was not to convert, but to spread the word of God in whatever way they could.”

“It’s ironic because their mission was pretty low-key and only their friends and family knew what they were doing,” he continued. “Now, the whole world knows what they were doing. They never wanted to be famous or well-known but now, in a way, they are.”

For Muneno, coming to terms with the couple’s death was has been a real challenge. “We continue to struggle with it, but it hasn’t made us pull away from our faith.”

Maureen Martorano counted Jean as one of her best friends; they met at St. Monica choir practices. “She was so much fun, great sense of humor and always upbeat,” she said. “(She and Scott) were the kind of people who took control of their lives and didn’t wait for things to happen. They went out and made things happen.”

Monsignor Lloyd Torgerson, pastor at St. Monica, said he was “extremely grateful to God that I could serve these two great people.”

“I really do believe they have won the crown for being good and faithful servants,” he continued. “They have given us an example of how to follow Jesus Christ. But I want to add, that to be people of peace, we must work to end violence in this world – whenever that violence is.”

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.