jagee

Early Life

The Agee siblings

Narada (left), his sister Loretta and brother Joe

From Joseph Agee, Narada’s Brother

Narada was born and raised in Bakersfield, California.  This is a major town at the most southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, one the largest agricultural regions of the world.  Our family goes back several generations, many having arrived in the 1880’s, with last in the early 1900’s.  The family business was a long-established funeral home, Payne and Son, that his father, Herman Agee, directed until his death in 1961.

People may be surprised to know that Narada, in his teens, was an avid racing enthusiast for both boats and cars.  We were privileged to have very sophisticated models of these vehicles and it’s my guess that this is where he got some of his proclivities and talent for mechanical things.   The electric car he built recently is certainly a good example of what he could do!

Narada went to Catholic schools throughout his education, and attended high school at the St. Thomas Military Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota.  I started at the academy a year later so we spent three years together in a starkly cold environment about as far away from sunny California as you can get.    However, I think this experience greatly helped his transition into the Army as it did for me.  Fortunately we made many trips across country going back and forth from St. Paul to Bakersfield and got to traverse the cornfields of the Mid-West to the vast desert regions of the West.

After graduation in 1961, Narada began working in the funeral home with his dad.  When his dad died, he continued working in there to assist his mother, who later opened a new funeral home in Shafter, a small town outside of Bakersfield.  He remained there until 1965, when he was drafted into the US Army.  He was stationed in Korea until he was discharged in 1967.  From there he moved to Alaska where his sister, Loretta, was living with her family in Soldotna, a small town on the Kenai Peninsula, not far from Anchorage.

Alaska to California

From Joseph Agee, Narada’s Brother

While in Anchorage, Narada trained to become an electrical contractor and worked there until 1974 when he decided to go back to the “Lower 48”.  He packed all his belongings in his truck and drove south until he happened to find the Ananda Community near Nevada City in California that Swami Kriyananda had recently founded.  Meeting Swami signified a major spiritual transformation, causing Narada to decide to devote the rest of life to the community and to promoting Swami’s mission.

A Place He Loved

From Joseph Agee, Narada’s Brother

When Narada moved to Ananda, I started visiting almost every summer, and when my sister moved to Marysville near Sacramento it became an annual event.  I have a lot of fond memories spending time with my brother at a place I knew he loved.  Of course, I got to see the community slowly grow over the years from just a few geodesic dome houses and a small store to a large community with different types of housing and a complete village, with main roads, etc.

Solar Energy

From Joseph Agee, Narada’s Brother

During his time at Ananda in California, Narada worked tirelessly as an electrical contractor, both in and outside of the community, and directly contributed to its growth.  He can also claim credit for having designed and developed one of the first inclusive electrical circuit boxes that allowed the complete connection for solar powered homes.  This came of his years of experience helping set up solar components for many homes in the area.   He saw the need for some kind of device that would make the process simpler and more feasible for the average home.  Working with several colleagues in the community, he founded the Ananda Power Technologies Company that prospered for several years and set the standard in the solar power industry.

Evelyn Agee

From Joseph Agee, Narada’s Brother

Narada with his mother, Evelyn

Narada lived happily in the Ananda Community and raised several stepchildren.  His mother, Evelyn Agee, was a frequent visitor and part-resident at Ananda over many years, becoming an honored figure in the community.  Toward the last years of her life, she lived continuously with Narada in his small trailer near the ashram complex of buildings.  During her final months, she and Narada stayed at the ashram where he cared for her up to the time she died.   It was a moving experience to see the numbers of visitors from the community who came daily to show concern, share spiritual awareness, and assist her passage to another life.

Surprising His Family

From Joseph Agee:

There is a story about Narada that not only involves him but an important part of our family history that goes back to 1961 and before.  When our father died in 1961 there was a major breakup of the family.   Due to a series of circumstances, my mother became estranged from one of her two brothers, Bruce Payne.  Thus, after 1961 we had no knowledge about Bruce’s activities and his family although, up to that time, we maintained good relations.  Fortunately, some of my other relatives did keep touch.  When my mother died in 1998, one of my older cousins mentioned that I had a cousin living in Atlanta.  It turns out her name was Sonha Payne; she was the daughter of Christopher Payne—Bruce’s son. Sadly, her father had died some years before and she was living in Atlanta with a step-family.  The ironic part of it all was that she grew up only a short distance from where I lived, and had graduated with a Ph.D. (in Chemistry) from Emory University, the same place I had graduated from with a Ph.D. (in Spanish) exactly 20 years earlier. During all this time our paths had probably crossed without having the slightest idea of any connection.  When I finally found out about her existence I made contact and we have been in touch ever since.

By now I know you’re wondering where Narada comes into the picture.  Since Sonha had little or no knowledge of my family, I thought it would be a good idea to go with her to California to visit as many people as possible, including, of course, Narada.  When I called Narada to tell him we were coming his way, he reacted about as blandly as I expected. By that time it was clear he was embedded in the community. I always remarked that it would take at least a crowbar, or more likely several sticks of dynamite, to get him out—especially on an extended trip.  I gave him a perfunctory invitation to visit relatives with us and got an equally perfunctory response; something to this effect:  “Thanks but I’m really not interested in taking any trips.”   But when we finally got to Ananda and Narada met Sonha, his eyes immediately lit up.  As we were getting ready to leave, I made another perfunctory invitation for him to go with us for the rest of the week-and-a-half trip.   This time, much to my astonishment, he accepted!   As far as I know, this was the first time he had any extended stay outside of Ananda, unless it was directly involved with Swami’s work.  So we began the tour with Narada, whose presence also astonished everyone else in the family.  It was truly a significant event in all our lives and one that I will always remembers with a great deal of joy.

Leaving California

From Joseph Agee, Brother:

Eventually, Narada left Ananda California to live with a Hindu priest in Stockton, California.  From there, he was called to the Ananda Community in Seattle where he met his wife, Dakshina.

Chapters