February 17, 2021
John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono spent decades apart from her daughter Kyoko after her ex-husband, jazz musician Tony Cox, abducted her at the age of 8.
When Japanese artist Yoko Ono first met John Lennon in 1966, she was already married, as was he. The two fell in love, and Ono divorced her then-husband jazz musician Anthony Cox, with whom she shared a daughter.
A vicious custody battle ensued, and Cox resolved the issue by abducting their 8-year-old daughter Kyoko Ono Cox. Cox joined a cult and vanished with little Kyoko, and it would be 23 years before Ono saw her daughter again.
THE COST OF LOVE
At first, Lennon explained, it seemed as if Ono's divorce from Cox would be amicable, and no formal custody agreement was filed with regards to Kyoko. But as time went on, things soured between the exes, and Cox absconded with the little girl.
Lennon and Ono traveled in search of the child, from America to England, Denmark, and Spain, and finally decided to sue for custody in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Ono and Cox's divorce had been filed.
The Lennons won custody of Kyoko in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but when they went to take custody of the child, they discovered that Cox had moved to Texas, where he had set up residency and was countersuing them.
The battle for Kyoko started all over again, but when Cox saw that Ono and Lennon were on the verge of winning the case after they agreed to the Judge's stipulation that they raise Kyoko in America, he fled with his daughter.
For two decades, Cox and Kyoko lived under assumed names to avoid being found by Ono and Lennon.
In December 1971, Cox and Kyoko vanished without a trace, and despite Lennon and Ono's best efforts and considerable resources, they could not find them anywhere. It would be nine years before Ono heard from Kyoko again.
When Lennon was murdered on December 8, 1980, shot dead outside their New York apartment at the age of 40, Ono received a telegram expressing condolences on her husband's death, signed by Kyoko and Cox.
LIVING WITH A CULT
Cox later revealed that he and Kyoko had sought refuge with a friend who belonged to the Church of the Living Word, a pseudo-Christian cult known as The Walk. Cox, his wife Melinda, and his little daughter lived with the cult in rural Iowa, and he converted.
Cox became an elder, a prominent member of the cult, and was considered a "prophet," but he became disillusioned with The Walk. In 1978, Cox decided to leave, and his wife Melinda divorced him and remained with the community.
LIFE ON THE RUN
For two decades, Cox and Kyoko lived under assumed names to avoid being found by Ono and Lennon. The only contact Ono had with her daughter -- she didn't even know if she was alive -- was at the time of Lennon's death in 1980.
Lennon and Ono had welcomed their only child together, Sean Ono Lennon, in 1975, and the then-5-year-old had never met his sister. Ono was desolate. Lennon's death devastated her, and she became something of a recluse.
Cox always maintained that his daughter wanted to stay out of the limelight and away from the furor surrounding her mother, and in 1986, Ono wrote an open letter to her daughter, in which she stated that she loved her and thought of her every day.
In 1997, the 31-year-old Kyoko, married, herself a mother, made contact with Ono. The two reunited. Kyoko met her brother Sean and introduced her mother to her two children and her husband.
TOGETHER AT LAST
Since then, Kyoko has remained very close to her now 87-year-old mother. Kyoko avoids publicity and lives with her family in Colorado, where she has followed in her mother's footsteps and works as an artist.
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