Memorial Gathering for Tonee Mello

As many of you already know, Tonee Mello was murdered at his home in Oaxaca on Monday, April 11. Tonee was a former member of the Oaxaca Lending Library Board, co-founder of the Oaxaca Study Action Group, a gay rights activist, lover of people across age, gender, and race, an animal lover, gardener, with an all around zest for life cradled in arms of great compassion.

Whenever someone dies violently, many people want to know why. What is known so far is that the murder was not political or a gay hate crime. The evidence to date points to a robbery motivated by the need for quick money to buy drugs. The police are holding two persons in jail, one of whom is an American. Tonee was acquainted with the American but was not a friend.

Tonee’s son, John, is in Oaxaca. Not surprisingly, he is quite exceptional. John has been overwhelmed in dealing with his father’s death and with all the attendant details. However, he hopes to meet many of Tonee’s friends this Wednesday when a Memorial Gathering will be held to honor and remember Tonee. Everyone is invited. Please see details following.

Please keep John, Tonee’s sister, and all of Tonee’s family and friends in your thoughts, “prayers,” or in whatever way is meaningful to you.

Memorial Gathering for

Tonee Mello

Wednesday, April 20, 3pm

At Tonee’s house

You are invited to bring:

  • Memories & photos of Tonee
  • Flowers or other tributes consistent with your heritage, such as Mixe, Mixteca, Zapoteca
  • Finger food or beverages to be shared communally

These are not requirements. We are most interested in having you attend.

If you have any questions or need directions, please contact David Myler: 951-117-4867


Memorial Messages:

The following statements are in memory of Tonee’s life. You can add yours below as a comment. Please send photos of Tonee to so we can post some here. Thank you very much for sharing your memories!


When I first met Tonee, I ended up spending the entirety of the gathering we were at talking to him. He radiated a love of life, generosity and warmth, and a dedication to working towards a better world. Within hours of meeting him, he offered freely the use of his motorcycle to explore the area – a gesture that endeared me to him. He cultivated love as he did his garden. When I was in Oaxaca, I was working on starting an organic rooftop garden. Tonee was an essential part of that garden. From locating seeds to visits to the dump for planters, Tonee helped make the garden a reality. He lent me my first books on worm bins which although it may not sound like it, was life changing in how I looked at compost systems in urban communities. He had such a beautiful soul. He made the world a better place just by being it and I am surely a better person for knowing him.

– Kristina Lim


Before moving to Mexico, Tonee lived and worked in Fresno. He will be missed.

– Mike Rhodes


I am saddened beyond words. Tonee was a dear family friend. He spread so much good in the world and still had so much to give.

Tonee, you will be missed.

– Kiel Famellos-Schmidt


Santa Cruz Fighter

Tonee Mello started a Food Not Bombs and Homes Not Jails chapter in Santa Cruz in the summer of 1992 and worked here for several years, raising homeless activism to a new level in organization and spirit.

He fought police misconduct and organized a street education campaign against Officer Loran (“Butchie”) Baker’s sexual abuse against ten women, the homeless population and political activists. He fought for the civil rights of homeless people, involved in organizing protests by Homes Not Jails and standing up against physical violence and personal police harassment.

He fought city council indifference, leading an effort to occupy the offices of the City Council and City Manager in 1992. He helped with early organizing for Free Radio. He stood up against and spoke out against discrimination at homeless services such as the St. Francis Soup Kitchen.

Tonee’s voice very briefly appears on this rebroadcast of a 1992 City Council meeting where he risks arrest and exclusion to ask a question of Santa Cruz Mayor Don Lane, why the police are excluding people from the chambers who want to speak on the issue of Officer Baker’s sexual molestation of the women. (3 hours, 4 minutes, and 57 seconds into the audio file).

I’m looking for more extensive tape of Tony’s voice and will post it when and if I find it.

Thanks, Tonee, for everything.

– Robert Norse


I first met Tonee in the summer of 2008 here in Oaxaca. We bonded over our ideological affinity and San Francisco Bay Area connections. He still followed events there and asked all about the recent FBI raid on the Long Haul infoshop in Berkeley.

Continue reading Scott Campbell’s memories of Tonee


  1. My partner Will Siegfried & I were introduced to Tonee a dozen or more years ago through Gay Amend, here in Fresno, CA. We have happily had the opportunity to visit with Tonee during our annual December trips to Oaxaca ever since, and have become great friends. We did get to participate in Tonee’s activism in minor ways as in packing my suitcase with cases of condoms I’d purchased at his request, to take to Oaxaca for free AIDS prevention condom give-aways, in which he was involved. But mostly, we simply celebrated life with Tonee during our visits. His capacity to share his joy of life and his joy in helping others seemed boundless.

    Since we could not make it to Oaxaca from California to attend the Memorial Celebration of his life at his house at 3 pm today, we set up our own candle-lit memorial here, replete with a carved Oaxaqueño armadillo playing a sax for the silent music the occasion required. I think Tonee liked it. I do hope that some of the people in the indigenous communities whom Tonee empowered through installing low frequency local radio stations, broadcasting news in their own idiom, were able to attend the Oaxaca memorial.

    El aleteo de una mariposa se puede sentir en el otro lado del mundo (dicho Mexicano)

    Thad Mummert

  2. I am saddened beyond belief and so disturbed by the violence Tonee endured in his last hours. What a desecration of his little Eden. I’m trying to wipe away those images because he had found such peace and happiness in that home, and I felt that peace there, too. I am so grateful to have met him and to be able to count him as a friend if only for a short while while visiting with him these past two summers with my friend Barbara.

    So these are the images I am trying to keep in the front of my mind: Riding in his truck with Barbara as Tonee took us on one of his “short cuts” that left us all weak with laughter, all the while certain that we were going to crash spectacularly. Making the rounds with him as he fed all his animals and then cooking up omelets with fresh eggs and herbs from his own little farm. Celebrating the third birthday of Carlito, one of Tonee’s many fans.

    People tend to elevate the dead and credit them with more than they really deserve. This is not the case with Tonee. His kindness and generosity were extraordinary. From lame animals to troubled kids, there was no one he wouldn’t try to save. He’d spend money he didn’t have and do what ever he could to help those in need, and if rules needed to be broken to do it; rules were broken. It wasn’t in him to look the other way and say, “It’s not my problem.”

    I know he will be missed terribly by his family and his friends in Oaxaca. Well, there are some friends here in Virginia that are mourning him, too.

    Ann Furniss

  3. I met Tonee once at the gym of his sons work, Jon. Over the years of knowing Jon and learning of his father I had always wondered who was this Man, Jons father, that seemed to be living such an interesting and important life. I was curious to know him better.
    Now after reading the posts and doings of this Man I realize more and more that I have missed a great opportunity to know this Man more and to have learned from him the important things in life of helping others and being of service.
    Ive known his son Jon for many years and I see in Jon the same traits that I read about in Tonee. I will not forget meeting you Tonee. Rest In Peace.

  4. Tonee Mello’s Memorial Service as recollected by Stuart Loomis

    On Wednesday last [April 20, 2011], we weren’t certain that the police would let us come to Tonee’s house in Tlalixstac for our planned memorial gathering. It was still being considered a crime scene. But finally they relented, and we went ahead as we had planned. Folding chairs were brought out from the Lending Library, a long table was set up in Tonee’s bodega to serve as a shrine, photos and flowers were arranged there, and finally Tonee’s ashes were placed in the center. As soon as people began arriving, everyone started to help out. The chairs were arranged under the trees in front of the bodega, the microphone was set up, food and drink were being brought to the kitchen where Guillermina, Tonee’s cook and housekeeper, was in charge. Tonee’s favorite Mexican beer, Indio, was handed around. It was a lovely afternoon, cool, with fleecy clouds gathering in the light blue sky with a promise of rain in the offing.

    Very soon, the house and the garden were overflowing with everyone from Tonee’s world. There were long-time friends, close companions, neighbors, business associates, whole families who had known and loved Tonee. There were old folks who needed assistance moving around the uneven surfaces of the garden paths, I was one of those. There were children large and small, dressed up for the occasion, some solemn, others running around in the garden playing with Chispa the cat or feeding the chickens in the hen house. The vet who had cared for Lucky. the donkey, and who had become great friends with Tonee, was there with his elderly mother who had often had Tonee over for dinner. His auto mechanic, his barber, his lawyer, his gardeners, the folks from the little restaurant up the road, everyone was there.

    Tonee’s friend, David Myler, a retired chaplain, presided over the gathering. Moving remembrances were offered by friends, young and old. Tales of how he had helped those in need, encouraged and taught the young how to survive in life, taught them how to love and be loved, how he brought joy and laughter to all who knew him. Tonee was the hub in a large wheel of friendship, he was connected to so many of us in deeply personal ways, each of us thought we were special to him. The sense of loss for all of us is profound.

    Jon, Tonee’s son, was surrounded and supported by everyone bringing their condolences and offering their help. Asael, the young Mixe man who had been closest to Tonee over these years, was there with his wife, and their little boy who played happily with his toys under the feet of the adults who were crowding around. Tonee would have smiled.

    Thunder and lightning rattled the skies and bounced off the distant mountains. The darkening clouds began to drop a light rain, chipi-chipi, as the natives call it. And slowly the crowd drifted off, each holding tight their remembrance of Tonee, all taking comfort from the embrace of the circle of his friends.

  5. our involvement with tonee goes back to his development of food not bombs here in fresno…for some reason we were included in the group that he put together to begin planning, collecting, preparing and serving food here to hungry souls in the park…my partner annie and i worked in the kitchen for a number of months when the process first started…as i recall tonee did most of the leg work himself…he found the location for the food preparation, he chose the site for distribution and for the most part he made the contacts at local grocery stores for food pick up…he worked sooooo well with people that from the beginning the “team” was on the same page, and because one could see no “ego” showing thru with tonee, that rubbed of on the process…(several years ago i checked back in with food not bombs here in fresno and that same tone that tonee set was in full view…)

    because annie and i had some past radio experience when he began the work of setting up the location for KFRF the low power radio station here in fresno, he asked us to be involved in that work…we were in from the beginning and we watched a group of young people take hold of that process and make it their own…

    one of the exciting experiences there at kfrf was the attempt on the part of the anarchists here to stop the take over of the central valley trauma center by a less than honest community hospital association..i think the “powers that be” were shocked at the ability of those young people to put a wrench in the works…it didn’t stop the process but it slowed it down and i know that tonee and his approach helped those young people get knowledge about how things work and what they could do about it…

    as has been said by soooo many people on this site we saw the side of a human being that we don’t see always in our fellow human beings…he worked without gill, he worked without resentment, he worked without worry about the outcome…he knew that there was a job (hell make that dozens of jobs) to be done and he set about doing the job…AND HE HAD A GREAT SKILL OF BRINGING PEOPLE FROM LOTS OF DIFFERENT PLACES TOGETHER TO DO THE HEAVY LIFTING WITH HIM…

    my only sadness is that in all the projects that i saw him start here in fresno, i was not a part of the needle exchange program here….i don’t think i had the guts to do that work…he did and he knew who else to get involved…

    i am hoping that there will be people from allllllll the communities where tonee sprang to life commenting on his work with them…my guess is that the list is long and the projects (in most cases) are still in operation….(there would still be a kfrf in fresno if someone had not stolen the transmitter…)

    blessings to all you all who called tonee friend…and blessings to tonee’s family….(i don’t want to get “religious” here and i don’t want the atheists among us to be offended, AND i do want to say this from the bottom of my heart….i saw tonee as a buddhist, hindu, muslim, native american, wicca, non-believer, jesus prophet-holy person…i am pretty sure i will never meet another tonee mello, and that is to bad…the world needs to be filled with such persons….)

    om shanti, jim and annie compton-schmidt, fresno, ca

  6. I believe this is the Tonee Mello living in Minneapolis in the earl 90’s. I am so sorry to hear this. This was truly the most reamrkable person I have ever met. I am sorry I did not have a chance to see him before his life was taken. I love you Tonee…always will…….I will be thinking about you and “fish”…… louie

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