The Rev. Bhagavan Friend—a Redondo Beach resident who founded his own religion—died Sunday following a long battle with prostate cancer, the Daily Breeze reported Friday. He was 69.
Friend, whose empty chair memorial at the corner of Catalina Avenue and Sapphire Street serves as a reminder of troops who died in past wars, was a supporter of the construction of the Redondo Beach Veterans Memorial at Veterans Park.
He also hosted an in honor of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Friend was born John Lee Douglas on March 29, 1943, in Des Moines, Iowa. Over the course of his life, he experienced two near-death experience—one at age 8 after falling down a flight of stairs and another in 1977 while sitting in his Volkswagon van outside his house—which shaped his God's Eternal Universal Religion.
His 2,000-plus followers, known as Maitreyians, believe that Friend's "mission is to free all souls from suffering, sorry, death and rebirth; enlighten all people and guarantee perfect total freedom at the end of this life; bring peace, love understanding, compassion, freedom, truth and joy to the living; bring forth the age of Universal God's pure divine truth on Earth; and ensure the continued survival of humanity," according to the religion's official website.
A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at , located at 901 Torrance Blvd. in South Redondo Beach.
- Full story: Redondo Beach Religious Leader Rev. Bhagavan Friend Dies at 69 [Daily Breeze]