Her Brother Was Killed at an Iconic Stones Concert

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Forty years later, a stabbing victim’s sister speaks.

by Nanette Varian • Editor { View Profile }
The killing of Dixie Ward's brother, Meredith Hunter, was captured in the documentary Gimme Shelter.

Hells Angel Alan Passaro, who is seen stabbing Hunter on film, was tried for murder and acquitted on the grounds that he’d acted in self-defense. A wrongful death lawsuit brought against the Stones by Hunter’s mother, Altha May Anderson, was settled for $10,000. The Alameda County sheriff’s office re-examined the evidence to investigate rumors that a different Angel had killed Hunter, but concluded in 2005 that Passaro delivered the fatal blow. Passaro died in 1985.

Ward says she hasn’t spoken to Patty Bredehoft about the events of December 6, 1969, nor has she seen Gimme Shelter. “I never wanted to see him running for his life, to know what happened when he took his last breath” she says, her voice catching. “You have to understand, I raised him as my child, practically.”

The month before Meredith died, Ward’s husband was electrocuted in a freak accident. She had three small children, and Meredith stepped up, she says, assuming a fatherly role, coming around the house, teaching her youngest how to cross the street. “I’m always going to be there for you,” he assured her. After he died, Ward says, she had no time to grieve, or even to think. She was thrust back into caretaker mode. “My kids were a mess,” she says. “My mother had a nervous breakdown.”

Now a Montessori educator in her late sixties, Ward has seen more than her share of tragedy: During the past five years she’s lost her two remaining siblings, and her mother (who had turned a spare bedroom into a flower- and photo-packed “graveyard” for her dead children, including artificial grass, stepping stones and a bed blanketed with dolls). She takes comfort in her work, her husband (she remarried not long after her brother’s death), her children and grandchildren.

Forty years later, she has “no feelings one way or another,” toward the Rolling Stones. “Nothing can resurrect him,” she says of her brother. “But I think he’d have grown to be a good man.”

Next: A slideshow of images from the new book Gimme Shelter: The Rolling Stones, Altamont and the End of the Sixties.
To buy the book.

 

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