Family celebrates life of commune founder, counterculture icon - WKRN News 2

Family celebrates life of commune founder, counterculture icon

Posted: Updated: Jul 06, 2014 09:46 PM
Stephen Gaskin died at the age of 79 his home in Summertown, Tenn. Stephen Gaskin died at the age of 79 his home in Summertown, Tenn.
Gaskin's wife, Ina May, held a public wake for mourners at their home July 6. Gaskin's wife, Ina May, held a public wake for mourners at their home July 6.
SUMMERTOWN, Tenn. -

Stephen Gaskin, the founder of one of the country’s oldest communes called The Farm, died last Tuesday at his home at the age of 79.

His wife, Ina May Gaskin, held a public gathering to celebrate his life at their Summertown, Tennessee home Sunday afternoon.

“Grief is work, you know, but it doesn’t have to be grim,” she told News 2.

Ina May said the public celebration was so a diverse group of supporters could come together where he passed.

“Stephen was very big about making ties with the neighbors,” she explained.

And people came from far and wide.

“Long Island, southern California,” Ina May added, “I’m getting messages from far places. Iceland, Austria, Italy.”

SLIDESHOW: Stephen Gaskin, The Farm

Gaskin, who is leaving behind a legacy, was a marine combat veteran, a visionary, a teacher and a preacher, but most know him as the founder of The Farm.

The Farm, located just a few miles from the Gaskin’s home, is one of the largest and longest-lasting communes born of the counterculture in the country.

The community was started in 1971 after Gaskin led 300 followers from California to Tennessee in a cross-country caravan.

It was home to around 1,500 people at its peak, becoming a nearly self-sustaining society with a school, clinic, publishing house and, most notably, midwifery.

Ina May said she doesn’t describe her husband’s death as a loss.

“Sometimes when you check out of your physical body, your work takes on a new dimension,” she explained.

Ina May, who spent more than half her life with Stephen, also described him as an adventurist.

“My friends, death is the greatest adventure of life,” Ina May said, recalling a saying she’d recently heard.

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