Piracy victims' colleagues, friends hold memorial

By Gillian Flaccus

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 2 2011 5:15 p.m. MST

Scott Sternberg, friend and former student of Scott Adam, and his wife Lynn listen at a memorial service for Scott and Jean Adam, shot to death Feb. 22 by Somali pirates while sailing south of Oman, at the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., Wednesday, March 2, 2011. Fuller Theological Seminary is where Scott Adam was a student, then an adjunct professor,after leaving a 30-year career as a Hollywood associate producer.

Reed Saxon, Associated Press

PASADENA, Calif. — Weeks before Scott and Jean Adam's yacht was hijacked by Somali pirates, the couple told their friends in a monthly e-mail that they were about to approach the Horn of Africa but were traveling with a large flotilla and didn't feel afraid of what lay ahead.

The couple had been sailing around the world in their 58-foot yacht, the Quest, for years and joked that they felt more at home on the high seas — even with the risk of pirates — than in their native Southern California.

"She spoke of the dangers of piracy that lay ahead and assured us they were not taking any risks," said their friend Scott Sternberg. "She said she was more afraid of driving on the 405 freeway. I only wish she'd been right."

The Adams' ship was hijacked by pirates a few weeks later and the couple was killed Feb. 22 while sailing several hundred miles south of Oman. Their friends, Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, were also killed before Navy SEALs boarded the boat.

Dozens of mourners gathered Wednesday at Fuller Theological Seminary to memorialize Jean and Scott Adam, who had earned his masters and doctorate the school after leaving a 30-year career as a prominent Hollywood associate producer. Adam left show business in 1996 and enrolled at Fuller two weeks after having what he described to friends as a mystical experience that called him to God.

"He said, 'I looked around at the colleagues of mine who were my age in this business, which was hugely stressful, and everybody's either having heart attacks or funerals,'" said the Rev. Clayton Schmit, a professor at Fuller and a good friend of the Adams. "And he said, 'I don't want to do that. I want to do some other things.'"

After nearly a decade in the Fuller community as a student, teaching assistant and adjunct professor, Adams retired and he and his wife, a dentist, decided to sail the world delivering Bibles to remote congregations. They often invited friends on their yacht and kept loved ones up to date with a monthly e-mail detailing their adventures around the world.

Before the memorial Wednesday, slides of the couple scuba diving in crystal waters, relaxing on the yacht and riding elephants scrolled across a screen as a pianist played. The service featured the musical selection "The Navy Hymn" and readings from the Book of Ecclesiastes, which Adam loved to debate with friends.

The writer's dual message of the messiness and the beauty of life spoke to Adam, said his friend, Catherine Barsotti.

"Some of the words may seem jarring, but Scott was never afraid of jarring. I can hear him saying now, 'Kid, read it,'" she said, laughing. "For some reason, he always called me kid, even though he knew my name and wasn't that much older than me."

The Adams were as passionate about their faith as they were about sailing, Schmit said.

"Not only did Jesus walk with them as a partner in their journey in life, Jesus was an occupant in their boat as they chose to sail around the world," he said. "Even as the cargo hold of the boat was filled with the word of God, so the cargo hold of their hearts was filled with the nearness of the word of God, the presence of Christ."

One of Adam's students, Michael Malek-Evans, recalled being awestruck when he learned that his professor had credits on some of his favorite childhood shows and movies, including "The Goonies" and "The Dukes of Hazard." Adam also worked on "The Love Boat" and "McCloud" and was deeply involved in Fuller's Reel Spirituality Initiative, which focused on combining faith and film.

Malek-Evans said he was amazed that Adam would give up such a lucrative career to get his masters in divinity in 2000 and then his doctorate of theology last year.

"Once when Scott was encouraging me to move outside my comfort zone, he said, 'Michael, you can't live your life in fear. I lived most of my life like that, but I don't want to live like that anymore. That's not living,'" said Malek-Evans, who took the "Media and Ministry" course that Adam developed and taught at Fuller.

"Well, teacher, friend, I hope that the next time I cower in fear I'll see you look at me across the deck of the Quest saying to me, 'Michael, you can't live your life in fear,' and I hope I'll learn the lesson this time."

Sternberg, another of Adam's former students, said the Adams had invited Sternberg and his wife to sail with them for a few weeks each year since 2006 and offered them spots on the vessel as it sailed from New Zealand to Hong Kong as a wedding gift. The newlyweds were too busy, Sternberg said, but had finally planned to join the Adams when the Quest reached the Mediterranean this summer.

"That was a dream or a song that was always in the background of our whole relationship when we were dating and we got married and we finally decided to go. We could go. We had some money," Sternberg said. "Even though their recurring invitation is no longer there, in a way it is there: Live your own adventure, have your own adventure."

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