Death of an Advocate: Glenn Koons

Glenn Koons and Marlee Matlin


I first met Glenn Koons when I was invited to speak at a luncheon in Montgomery County, Pa., being hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It was one of the first speeches that I delivered after publication of my book and before my talk, NAMI Board Member Carol Caruso introduced me to Glenn. I was immediately struck by his easy-going manner. Carol bragged that Glenn was one of the first NAMI trained  Peer-to-Peer mentors in the entire nation. Glenn and I spoke for several minutes and I was impressed by his thoughtfulness and enthusiasm.

Our paths continued to cross during the coming years at various NAMI meetings and conventions. I was always happy to see Glenn and was thrilled when I learned that he had been one of only four NAMI peers who had been invited to the White House by President Obama to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.   Glenn wrote about the event for a NAMI blog.

A few weeks ago, I was asked by NAMI’s Darcy Taylor to write an article for NAMI’s VOICES publication. In my article, I mentioned three “consumers” who have inspired me. They are  Dr. Fred Frese, Diana Kern, and Glenn Koons. 

The day after I submitted my article, an email arrived telling me that Glenn was dead.

According to an article  published in the Berks County News, the police department in Sinking Spring, Pa., reported on July 26th that Glenn had disappeared. The police said there was no reason to suspect foul play and added that Glenn had not been taking his medication. He’d left his wallet, two cell phones, cash and his ID on his bed in his apartment and had vanished.  The police and his concerned family asked for help in finding Glenn.

His body was found on August 31st by an electrical worker at the PPL Electrical Utilities substation outside of Sinking Spring. Details were not released, but he apparently had died from a fall off a rocky area. When I asked several mutual friends about Glenn’s death, they told me that he had suffered a relapse.

Glenn touched many of our  lives and was an inspiration to those who knew him. You can read his obit at the end of this blog. It’s impressive.

Because Glenn was a high-profile peer specialist, his death came as a shock. Which brings me to the point of this blog.  I certainly do not wish to invade the privacy of his family, but what happened? Did his medications stop working? Did he decide that he didn’t need them? One theory making the rounds was that Glenn was embarrassed to seek help because he was always cited as a successful example of someone who had recovered. He didn’t want anyone to think he had failed them when signs of his mental disorder began showing.

Those of us with loved ones, who have been diagnosed with mental disorders, know first-hand that these illnesses are always lying under the surface. Relapses happen.  Recovery is not something that is easily achieved. Nor are relapses something that anyone should be ashamed of.

As I said, I am not interested in morbid details. But what does interest me is how someone as well-respected, popular and as important as Glenn could end-up becoming a missing person.  With all of his knowledge and connections, Glenn should have been able to get meaningful help. The fact that he didn’t, should set off  alarm bells.

The best tribute we can pay to Glenn is to find out what lead up to him leaving his apartment on the day that he disappeared. Where did we fail him? We then should do our best to insure that this sort of tragedy isn’t repeated. 

We will miss you Glenn.  

Glenn’s obit.

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.


  1. Chrisa Hickey says

    So sad, and such a sobering reminder of just how deadly this illness can be.  My thoughts are with his family.

    • I do not
      want to be rude, but sad is not an acceptable comment anymore. I want to know
      what the hell is going on here. I want to know why our people are going over
      the edge. I want to know why the system is failing so many. ALL the money being
      put into research, MI organizations, drugs, and the like, and we have people
      like Koons, well known individuals walking away from life without a clue as to
      WHY. What the hell is going on?

      Sorry Chrisa
      this is not directed at you. However it is directed at my government, health
      care ‘professionals’ with PHD’s in psychology and medical/health professionals
      that know more about this illness than I do. They owe us answers. We are not
      getting any answers, just apologies, and sympathy, well, that’s not good enough

  2. This is so sad.  I’ve seen my own father go from being rock stable for years to all of sudden psychotic all because he was worried about the cost of the pills and felt like he needed to only take half of his doses.  My deepest sympathy goes out to his family

  3. This is very sad, and goes to show there is no security in stability.

  4. You describe so succinctly the fine line that people living with mental illness and are in recovery have to walk.  Thank you for your voice.

  5. I just had my story come out in NAMI’s person-first column of the Advocate. It’s funny, my son who has schizo-affective disorder and is not doing well in many areas is at least happy. I, on the other hand, look normal, but also am not doing well in that I often think of suicide. The point is … no one knows what really is going on on the inside.

  6. Keris_myrick says

    I was also one of the peers with Glenn at the White House event. Glenn picked me up at my Dad’s house and we drove from Philadelphia together for the event. Glenn was an amazing person and friend! I think it’s important to note that Glenn did seek help. And also that for some, solitude – desiring to be left alone is a way to recovery. Each person’s recovery journey is different. I’d hate to come to a conclusion that removing oneself from society is ONLY done out of embarrassment, stigma or shame.
    It is sad to think of anyone, especially someone as gregarious as Glenn alone during what may have been a time of need. Perhaps that’s why we may conclude he needed us but avoided us-
    If the ground had not been wet, leading to the fall claiming his life, would Glenn have re-emergered after a self-imposed exile? I’d like to think so.
    But what I have now are beautiful memories,

    • This does not make sence, him wanting to be left alone. He left all of his personal effects, according to this blog, before he went out. BLESS HIS HEART. This mans tragic as no words to be uttered, this is unacceptable, Our people are not being cared for. Why are they slipping through our hands right before our eyes, and there is nothing than can be done to help nor save them.

  7. So sad.  Glenn was the type of person that burst out at you like an enthusiasm bomb.  He wore his good nature and dedication to help others on his sleeve.
    Rest in Peace my friend.

  8. I have known Glen for 15 years. I was part of a group of his friends who went looking for him. we were too few and the the area vast… but it was not like he was found in a state park. He lived in a rural area, and there should have been people who interacted with him for the many weeks between being reported missing and when he was found…our volunteer network did alot for getting the word out about him being missing.
    He did not just leave his apartment. He was dropped off by a taxi. but was seen walking toward his job by a co-worker. on the hottest day of the year.

  9. Stephanie Mitchell says

    I am a good friend of Glenn’s as well, and I’d like to share what I know to be true of Glenn’s disappearance and eventual death.  I’m hoping that as people examine the true facts of this case, that they begin to question the conclusions that have been reported regarding my dear friend’s death.
    First of all, one of the biggest mistruths out there is that Glenn had stopped taking his medicine.  On the day that Glenn disappeared, he had been discharged by the treatment team of West Reading Hospital and deemed to be doing well.  He had signed himself into the hospital (therefore he DID seek treatment) and had been medicated while in the hospital.  He was discharged, given a voucher for a taxi fare, seen getting into the taxi, and confirmed to be dropped off at the address of his residence by the cab driver.  Two hours later, Glenn was seen by a co-worker walking down Mountain Home Road towards Wernersville, about 3/4 of a mile from his home. It was 103 degrees out that day, with 90 something percent humidity, and Glenn was in obvious distress from the heat.
    That was the last time Glenn was reported seen alive.
    Prior to signing himself into West Reading Hospital, Glenn had arranged for a co-worker to drive him there so that he would not have to leave his car at the hospital.  According to the co-worker who drove Glenn to the hospital, they stopped by Glenn’s apartment on the way to hospital so that he could drop off his car.  Glenn went inside his apartment to put his laptop, his work and personal cell phones, his medication, and wallet safely away.  The only item reportedly in his possession at sign in was his insurance card.  The only items in Glenn’s possession at discharge were reported to be his insurance card and a perscription for medication that the doctor at the hospital gave him.  He wore the same clothes he was wearing when he signed himself in:  a long sleeved black button down shirt and long jeans.  Both his insurance card and his perscription were both confirmed to be found still in his possession when his body was found.  His body was found wearing the same clothes he was discharged wearing.
    It was reported by the police that is was unclear whether or not Glenn ever reentered his apartment after the taxi dropped him off.  All of his belongings were still in the place his coworker witnessed Glenn putting them.  It’s not too hard to imagine there is a possibility that he did not have keys to his apartment.  His father did report that there was an extra key stashed only where Glenn and he both knew, but who knows who Glenn might have also told about that… .perhaps a girlfriend, or peer, or whoever else Glenn might have befriended in the area.  Many people close to Glenn lost touch with him after his move to Reading, so we really have NO idea.

    During Glenn’s disappearance, the police conducted at least 3 searches. One of the searches was by helicopter, one by horseback, and the last one I was told about was with blood hounds and the dogs caught his scent at a bridge over a very small stream that goes under Mountain Home Road.  The dogs traced his scent to the side of the road by the stream, and then lost it.  After that, the police began to investigate the possibility that Glenn was picked up by someone.  Those investigative efforts came up with nothing as did the two other searches.  Friends of his, including myself, organized a foot search party and not only searched the local area but also canvassed neighbors and businesses.  At least 50 full page flyers were posted within a few miles of the last sighting of Glenn.
    So, a fully medicated, reported “well” Glenn, decides to take a walk in 103 degree heat (anyone who knows Glenn knows he would NEVER take a walk for the hell of it in that kind of heat), wearing a long sleeved shirt and long jeans, towards his work pretty much immediately after being discharged from an inpatient stay at a hospital.  He vanishes the same day. Not a single sighting is seen, and not a single communication with Glenn is reported for weeks until 44 days later his body is found a little over a mile from his residence at an electrical substation.  His body had been 2-3 days deceased, as per the coroner, and it appeared he died from a slip and fall where he hit his head on a rock.  They also made it clear that his death did not appear suspicious.
    PLEASE someone explain to me how a man reported in good mental health is missing for 44 days and is found dead just over a mile from his home and had only been dead 2-3 days is NOT SUSPICIOUS?!?! That means for 41 days Glenn was without money, without food, without clean drinking water, in extremely unsuitable clothing for the heat, and had NOTHING but an insurance card and a piece of paper.  HOW IS THAT NOT SUSPICIOUS?  HOW IS THAT NOT FULLY WORTHY OF INVESTIGATION?
    Instead, it seems police have written this off as if Glenn decided to stop taking his meds, ran off and went totally crazy, wandering around the somewhat suburbanized rural less than 1/2 square mile wooded area between his house and where his body were found for 41 days, then fell, hit his head, and died only to be found 2-3 days later. The same area that myself, and the few others who showed up for the search party had completely covered telephone poles, restaraunts, and traffic lights with missing posters that had big color photos of him all over it.   It’s an easy out for the police who were investigating, and it’s an easy explanation for most people to swallow… after all… many people who knew Glenn also know first hand how devastating mental illness can be.  We know all too well that many people DO stop taking their medicine and end up tragically in a similar situation.  But please, step away from that, if only for a moment, and take a look at the facts.  It really doesn’t add up.
    As friends, admirers, coworkers, and family of Glenn, I am asking that everyone remember his amazing advocacy skills and all he gave to the our community, our state, and our country.  In remembering him, please ask this question and advocate for his case to be fully investigated.  This is unacceptable for anyone, but especially for Glenn… who spent his life giving to everyone else.

    • Alan Stone says

      Dear Stephanie,

      I agree with you that the case be reopen and investigated thoroughly.  Glenn was a friend of mine for almost 6 years.  I am attending the NAMI PA Conference  this week and I am going to miss his presence.  He encouraged me to attend this conference in 2006 and I have not missed one since then.  Glenn was a very careful person. Once I was driving with him to an event and he told me that I should not drive on a road that is being reconstructed because it could be dangerous. He joked and called the road “New Iraq”.  Glenn loved to make jokes about little things.  I am hoping that a memorial award will be in his name at NAMI PA. I gave a contribution in his name to begin this last month. When I am at the conference I will ask if NAMI PA will consider this.  He always new how to lift my spirits and he is missed by many people.

    • For me its strange that h did not have a wallet with him. I know he left it at home but that does not make sense. It doesn’t make sense without wallet and keys he left the hospital alone. No one picked him up. If some one took him to hospital why didnt they pick him up. I understand from 2 of his freinds he had the numerous ECT’s while in hospital. That  may be the best explanation.  A person who is ont internet fb and listserves as much as Glenn was if he had his memory would not be out some 41 days without contact.

  10. Stephanie Please Continue To Push For Glenn’s Disapearance To be Re-Opened. Im With You As Something Appears To be Really Wrong With This Picture. Stay On It As There Are Way Too Many Unanswered Questions.