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B. Reynolds; Activist for World Peace

February 16, 1990|DAVID HALDANE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Barbara Reynolds, whose 1958 protest voyage with her husband and two children into America's forbidden Pacific nuclear test zone made international headlines and propelled her into a career as a peace activist, has died at the age of 74.

Mrs. Reynolds was a housewife and author of children's books in 1951 when her husband, Earle, a physical anthropologist, was sent by the U.S. government to Hiroshima to study the effects of atomic-bomb radiation on the growth of children. Three years later, the study completed, the family set out in a 50-foot yacht called the Phoenix for a four-year tour of the world. It was near the end of that tour that they encountered a group of Quakers en route to the Bikini Island area to protest nuclear testing.

"We (began) to realize that they were by no means crackpots," Mrs. Reynolds told an interviewer in 1984. "Well, we just got involved."

Because they had announced their plans in advance, the Quakers were prevented from entering the nuclear test zone. So the Reynoldses, who were unknown, entered instead, and their lives were never the same.

Instant celebrities, the family was taken to Honolulu where, after a well-publicized two-year trial, Earle Reynolds was acquitted of all charges. They made one more protest voyage together--a much-heralded but otherwise uneventful trip into Soviet testing grounds in 1961. But being on the international stage had created domestic stress, family members said, and they were divorced in 1964.

Barbara Reynolds went on to organize two more international "peace tours"--both times by air--and eventually returned to Hiroshima where she spent the next several years working with survivors of the bombing. She founded the World Friendship Center, a hospitality center in Hiroshima, and created the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Memorial Collection of nuclear memorabilia at Wilmington College in southern Ohio near where she was born.

In 1986, Mrs. Reynolds became the first non-Japanese woman ever to be designated as an honorary citizen of Hiroshima. Her experiences on and off the sea have been chronicled in several books, among them, "All in the Same Boat" which she co-authored with her former husband, and "Forbidden Voyage," which Earle Reynolds wrote himself. For the last 10 years, Mrs. Reynolds had lived in Long Beach where she worked with Cambodian refugees.

According to family members, death--of heart failure--came Sunday in Wilmington, Ohio, where she had gone to gather historical material for presentation at commemorative ceremonies to be held this summer in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"The main thing she did was help Americans face what happened in Hiroshima," said her daughter, Jessica Shaver, who also lives in Long Beach. "I feel privileged to have been her daughter."

A memorial service is scheduled at 11 a.m. Saturday at First Friends Church in Long Beach. Two sons also survive.

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