- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 29, 2008

RICHMOND | A father and his teenage daughter from a Virginia community that promotes a form of meditation were among those killed in the terrorist attacks in India, a colleague said Friday.

Alan Scherr, 58, and daughter Naomi, 13, were in a cafe Wednesday night in Bombay when they were killed, said Bobbie Garvey, a spokeswoman for the Synchronicity Foundation. The State Department confirmed their deaths Friday morning.

The Scherrs were among 25 foundation participants in a spiritual program in Bombay. Four others on the mission were injured in the cafe attack in the luxury Oberoi hotel, Mrs. Garvey said, including two women from Tennessee.

The Virginia father was a Maryland native and a former college professor at the University of Maryland who lived at the Synchronicity sanctuary about 15 miles southwest of Charlottesville.

“I would call them bright stars,” Mrs. Garvey said of the Scherrs. “Extraordinary, bright, very positive — examples to the world.”

The Scherrs had lived at the foundation all of Naomi’s life, Mrs. Garvey said. Mr. Scherr’s wife, Kia, and her two sons did not travel with them to India.

Mrs. Garvey said the community — in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains — is grief-stricken by the killings and has not fully come to grips with the deaths.

The foundation community is led by Master Charles Cannon, a former leading disciple of Swami Paramahansa Muktananda, according to the foundation’s Web site (www.synch ronicity.org).

Mr. Muktananda is described as a popular spiritual teacher from India who taught a form of yoga.

Mrs. Garvey identified those injured as Helen Connolly of Toronto, who was grazed by a bullet; Rudrani Devi and Linda Ragsdale, both of Nashville, who both underwent surgery for bullet wounds; and Michael Rudder of Montreal, who remained in intensive care after being shot three times.

Other members of the mission narrowly escaped the attack.

Mrs. Ragsdale’s sister, Diane Garrison, told the Associated Press that Linda’s husband, Ben, had recently arrived in the country to see his wife. The family did not know the extent of Mrs. Ragsdale’s injuries and were hoping to get an update soon.

“We’re anxiously awaiting news,” Ms. Garrison said. “The State Department has been outstanding in providing information and staying in contact with us.”

Mrs. Ragsdale is a children’s author and illustrator who teaches and demonstrates art in schools and libraries.

Mrs. Devi, who previously was identified by her mother by the name Andi Varagona, owns a body alignment shop in Nashville and teaches meditation classes.

Mrs. Devi’s mother, Celeste Varagona, said Thursday that her daughter called her husband, Santos Lopez, late Wednesday to tell him she had been shot.

She told her mother early Thursday that she had surgery to remove a bullet lodged in her thigh. A second bullet pierced her arm and grazed her neck.

• Associated Press writers Rose French and Juanita Cousins in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.

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