Remembering Kevin O’Donnell: Fourth Peace Corps Director
By Kevin Quigley on Monday, April 16th, 2012
On Saturday, March 10th, there was a memorial mass to remember and celebrate the remarkable life of Kevin O’Donnell, the first country director in Korea and the fourth director of the Peace Corps.
Anne Baker and I attended the wake, mass and the reception afterward and felt as if encountering Kevin’s large and loving family was encountering the Kennedys of Cleveland: Kevin has eight children, 17 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. There were numerous Friends of Korea members in attendance, including Terry Doyle who was living in Seoul when the Peace Corps program opened and provided cross-cultural training and became a life-long friend of Kevin’s.
Many Northern Ohio Returned Volunteer Association members paid their respects and gave thanks for Kevin’s dedication to the local Peace Corps community. Anne, as a native Clevelander, encountered old friends and neighbors, highlighting the many connections beyond the Peace Corps and the tremendous impact Kevin had on so many levels.
It was clear in the memorial service and the words spoken about Kevin that the Peace Corps was a colorful thread woven throughout the course of his long and distinguished life. There is perhaps no clearer evidence of that than the fact that Kevin’s daughter Megan and two granddaughters, Megan Rae and Allison, all served in the Peace Corps. Megan served in Nepal, Megan Rae in Peru and Allison in Honduras.
Allison spoke joyfully about her grandfather visiting her Honduran village when he was 82 years old, traveling on his own, and “acting just like a Peace Corps volunteer.” Kevin’s energy, passion and adventuresome spirit were sources of amazement for Allison’s Peace Corps hosts and counterparts.
Perhaps the most moving moment of the funeral mass was when Chuck Hobbie, who is currently the Associate General Counsel of the Peace Corps and served as a volunteer in Korea under Kevin, presented to Kevin’s family two flags, the American and Peace Corps flags, which had flown at half-mast at Peace Corps headquarters in the week following Kevin’s death.
Another poignant moment at the funeral was when Jon Keeton, an RPCV who was later country director in Korea, bowed to Kevin’s casket in a gesture of love and respect—emulating a gesture that Kevin learned from his Korean counterparts and used with such great effect in cementing life-long relationships between him, his family, and his country and the people of Korea.