In Memoriam – September 2013
By Sam Foote on Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
The Peace Corps community is saddened to learn of the passing of several of its esteemed and well-regarded members. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who passed this September leave a legacy of commitment and service to worldwide peace, acceptance, and friendship. The following individuals who passed this September led diverse, rich lives. A unifying trait among them is their dedication to public service.
A long-time community role model and leader, former NPCA Board member John B. Blake (1950-2013) served in the Peace Corps in Brazil from 1971-1972 and Afghanistan 1973-1974. Blake began his long career in the agricultural industry as a PCV in Afghanistan, where he successfully introduced two wheat varietals to the country, Mexipak and Larma Rojo. After his Peace Corps experience, Blake went on to become an Agricultural Commodity Grader for the Federal Grain Inspection Service in his home of Texas. Blake continued to help others through his donations and work with Friends of Afghanistan, FOA-funded Afgahn women charities, Gulf Coast Council of RPCVs, and the Texas 4-H Alumni Association.
Lewis A. Sleeper (1923-2013) led a life of devout service to country and those in need. Sleeper’s diverse career of service began in the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he ran missions as a ball turret gunner over the Ploesti oil fields and Bucharest rail yards. After being taken as a prisoner of war during World War ll and surviving both Allied and Axis bombing in Romania, Sleeper was rescued and later returned to school at the University of Michigan under the G.I. Bill. After his career as a successful Life Insurance executive, Sleeper retired to Tucson, Arizona, where – among other things – he co-founded the Senior Learning Center at the University of Arizona. Working with Peace Corps and USAID, Sleeper led business efforts in Kenya. As a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and the American Red Cross, Sleeper continued his extensive humanitarian efforts.
Through her service in the Peace Corps and CARE, Marion Frances McCullam (1927-2013) lived a life committed to helping others across the globe. Following a career as a school music teacher in Southern California, McCullam served in the Peace Corps in Chile. Inspired by the impact her service in the Peace Corps brought to her Chilean community, McCullam and her husband Bob joined CARE. The duo enjoyed helping others in Guatemala, Nigeria, Lesotho, Ecuador, India, Bangladesh, and Thailand.
In 1984, Geraldine Holman (1943-2013) volunteered in the Peace Corps in Fiji with her husband Gerry. Before her service in the Peace Corps, Geraldine worked as a bookkeeper, business training adviser, and Presidential secretary for Northwestern University, the University of Illinois, and several large corporations. Holman earned an associates degree from Kendall College. Following her service as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Holman became the first woman consultant in the Ministry of Cooperatives.
Lifelong public servant Thomas B. Kurth (1938-2013) volunteered in the Peace Corps in Liberia, where he helped an abandoned leper colony become self-sufficient. Following his stint in the Peace Corps, Thomas continued to lend his helping hand to others through his work for the international aid organization CARE. Through CARE, Kurth served in Yugoslavia, the Philippines, and Liberia. Kurth concluded his career as a city planner, overseeing the development of parks, remediation of polluted areas, and other improvements to the community of Brewer, Maine.
After graduating from Randolph Macon College, Thomas Cantwell (1939-2013) spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi. After returning, Cantwell embarked upon a lifelong career of public service. In the 1960s, Cantwell participated in numerous Civil Rights activities in the Washington, D.C. area. He enrolled in the medical program of the Autonomous University of Guadalajara in Mexico in 1977, later working in a state hospital in Virginia. As a psychiatrist, Cantwell dedicated his life to serving the mental health needs of the patients in his community.
Bob Ellis (1933-2013) was a advocate for peace his entire life. Bob joined the Peace Corps in the 1960s, serving in Nigeria. This experience inspired many of Ellis’s future successful peace-related endeavors. Upon returning, Ellis raised money for famine relief. He also launched the Restorative Justice Movement in Franklin County, Massachusetts in 1996. The Restorative Justice Movement involves both the offender and the victim in the process of healing the hurt created by a crime. Ellis presided over the Mountain Preservation Association which was successful in re-routing Route 2 from cutting through the Bear Mountain Forests in Wendell. Ellis was also Director of the Kestrel Trust in Amherst which put many acres of land into conservation.
For the 23 years she lived in Oquossoc, Maine, Judith Serbe Hunger (1941-2013) was the Publisher/Editor of The Rangeley Highlander newspaper, served on local planning commissions and was active with the Episcopal Diocese of Maine. Judith was also a member of the local school board and served as the President of the Maine School Boards Association and Vice President of the Northeast Regional National School Boards Association. It was following her husband’s death in the late 1990’s that Judith decided to join the Peace Corps. Her service as a teacher in Poland propelled Judith to various ESL positions at the college/university level. This work took her to China and also to India, where she served as a volunteer teacher through the Peace Corps-Encore program. She concluded her service to others as a volunteer at the Pardadi Educational Society, a girls’ vocational educational school in rural India.