Piecemakers founder dies

Known for both living communally and fighting City Hall, Marie Kolasinski succumbs to natural causes at age 90.

April 23, 2012|By Lauren Williams
  • Viola Smith, left, is greeted by her cousin Marie Kolasinski, 90, as she arrives to celebrate her 99th birthday at Piecemakers Country Store in Costa Mesa on Nov. 25. Kolasinski died Monday.
Viola Smith, left, is greeted by her cousin Marie Kolasinski,…

Marie Kolasinski, a fiery government critic who founded a Christian commune and popular craft store in Costa Mesa, died Monday. She was 90.

Kolasinski died of natural causes, according to a statement from the Piecemakers.

At the Piecemakers Country Store off Adams Avenue on Monday afternoon, employees held back tears as they somberly described Kolasinski as a woman of deep conviction who worked to preserve traditional crafts, such as woodwork and knitting.

"She's one of the most exceptional people I've known, and I will always be grateful to her," said Shirley Chism, who was reading and taking notes in a yellow "Words of Life" booklet written by Kolasinski. "She taught us who our true God is, and she showed us the way back to the Father. She gives meaning to life."

Others will remember Kolasinski more for her clashes with government officials. She held absolutist views when it came to property rights and routinely sparred with City Hall over seemingly trivial issues.


Kolasinski made national headlines in 1997, when she faced criminal charges for not obtaining a city permit after illegally putting on a play and holding a crafts fair, both in the Country Store parking lot.

The group chose to not obtain the required permits, saying they had the right to do whatever they wished on their property.

"She would go into battle with the powers that were wrong without batting an eye," said Piecemakers member Linda Ryan. "If you ever wanted someone beside you, it was Marie."

In 2007, at the age of 85, Kolasinski spent seven days in jail for operating the craft store's tea room without a permit and for resisting inspectors who came to examine the shop.

Kolasinski developed relationships with inmates while in jail, and continued to write her cellmates and other inmates, said Piecemakers member Kerry Parker.

Kolasinski wrote inmates hundreds of letters a day, Parker said; the group was trying to reach officials and reach out to counselors who would be able to console grieving inmates.

"[The other inmates] thought she was an angel," Piecemakers member Doug Follette said. "The Holy Spirit stayed in the jail."

Until recently, Kolasinski continued her unsparing attacks on government officials, occasionally penning pieces for the Daily Pilot's Forum page.

Kolasinski wrote in 2009 that "work is a four-letter word for any government employee, as they live off the blood of the working class of the nation they govern."

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