HOMER (AP) -- ''Brother Asaiah'' Bates, considered the patron sage of the Lower Kenai Peninsula, died Monday in Homer, the town he called ''our cosmic hamlet by the sea.''
Bates, who had serious heart problems, checked out of South Peninsula Hospital about two weeks ago so he could die at home. He was 78.
Bates, who called everyone by their first names preceded with ''Brother'' or ''Sister,'' was a colorful figure who wore his white hair gathered in a ponytail. He showed up at just about every public meeting in Homer.
Bates, who moved to Kachemak Bay in the 1950s to establish a religious commune, was the town's most beloved eccentric. He was born Claude Donald Bates on April 19, 1921, in Greenville, S.C., to an unmarried mother. His formal schooling ended after third grade.
In World War II, he served in the South Pacific as a nose gunner on a bomber. At the end of the war he was discharged. He said his war experience was the reason he devoted himself to peace.
Bates found a messianic leader in California named Krishna Venta who taught that mankind came to Earth in 12 rocket ships powered by cosmic energy, that man has 110 interconnecting senses and that one's negative thoughts are registered on the bodies of others. Venta renamed Bates ''Brother Asaiah.''
In the 1950s, Bates and other disciples established the Wisdom Knowledge Faith Love commune at the head of Kachemak Bay. They wore long robes and went shoeless, even in winter. They became known in Homer as the Barefooters.
The movement fizzled after Venta was blown up by two excommunicated followers in 1959.
Bates moved to Homer where he was elected to the Homer City Council and joined the Chamber of Commerce. He wore thrift-store clothes and became a janitor for the phone company.
Unlike many of the constituents who speak at City Council meetings, Bates was unfailingly positive, said councilman Mike Yourkowski.
''He'd say things like 'This is the finest group of minds I've ever been around,''' Yourkowski said.
Peninsula Clarion ©2015. All Rights Reserved.