As the Peace Corps mourns the recent deaths of Togo volunteer Jonathan Mitchell and Namibia trainee Mitchell Herrmann, we also remember the passing of numerous talented and inspiring individuals, including one of the beloved icons of Peace Corps' formative years.
While best known for co-founding a leading organization devoted to development on the African continent, C. Payne Lucas (1933-2018) was first a leading figure in the early days of the Peace Corps. A graduate of the University of Maryland - Eastern Shore and American University, Lucas served in the Air Force and served on the Democratic National Committee. Not long after the formation of the Peace Corps, Lucas was hired. His work with the agency began as a field representative in Togo. He would go on to serve as a country director in Niger, regional director for Africa and director of the office of returned volunteers. In 1971, Lucas helped launch Africare, the largest African-American non profit organization focusing on African development. At the time of his 2002 retirement, the organization had distributed $400 million to 27 nations to combat poverty and drought, advance agriculture and address the HIV/AIDS crisis.
There are many varied roles played by Peace Corps volunteers throughout history. But how many can say their assignment included conducting the national symphony? That was the case for Gerald "Jerry" Brown during his service in Bolivia during the late 1960's. Jerry attended Arizona State University on a French Horn scholarship. He would also become a skilled pianist and harpsichordist. After graduating from ASU, Jerry performed with the Phoenix symphony and would study conducting at Julliard. During his five years of Peace Corps service, Jerry became the principal conductor of Bolivia's National Symphony. This led to a long post-Peace Corps period of teaching and conducting across Latin America. Jerry spent many years leading the Costa Rica National Symphony and helped create that country's national youth symphony and youth music program.
Rabbi Rachel Cowan (1941-2018) is being remembered as a pioneer in the Jewish healing movement. After her marriage to writer and author Paul Cowan in the mid-1960's, the couple traveled to Mississippi to participate in the registration of black voters, and soon after joined the Peace Corps, serving in Ecuador. Following her husband's death, Cowan in 1990 became one of the co-founders of the Jewish Healing Center, established to provide spiritual resources and wisdom to help people deal with suffering that surrounds personal loss and personal illness. Rabbi Cowan would next move on to the Nathan Cummings Foundation, serving 14 years as director of the center's Jewish Life and Values program. She also worked at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality in Manhattan.
The social justice organization Empower Missouri is nearly 120 years old. For 25 of those years, the organization (formerly known as the Missouri Association for Social Welfare - MSW) was led by Peter Salvatore De Simone (1937-2018). Trained initially as a civil engineer, Peter was among the first wave of Peace Corps Volunteers, serving in Tanzania beginning in 1961. After Peace Corps, Peter's commitment to national service continued with a stint working for Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). It was in 1977, when Peter was hired to lead MSW. During his tenure, the agency contributed to the establishment of the Missouri Foundation for Health and the Housing Trust Fund. In 1995, the Ethical Society of St. Louis awarded Peter with the Humanist of the Year Award for his lifetime commitment to social justice.
Soon after graduating from the University of Washington in 1965, Barbara Bailey (1943-2018) joined the Peace Corps, serving as a volunteer in Turkey. After returning from service, Barbara became a caseworker with the Washington juvenile justice system. A trip to Sun Valley, Idaho to take time off would lead to a major career shift. In between skiing, hunting and softball, Barbara took a job clerking at the Ex Libris bookstore. Her interest in books led her to soon purchase the store. In 1977, Barbara would return to Seattle, where she opened the B. Bailey Bookstore. In 1982 she co-founded Bailey Coy Books. This store became a magnet for bookstores and authors. The store also became a gathering place for Seattle's LGBTQ community. Barbara became a founding board member of Seattle's Pride Foundation, now the largest community foundation of its kind in the country. She also served on the national board of Lambda Legal. After selling her bookstores, Barbara returned to her family home in Chevy Chase, near Port Townsend. Along with her family, Barbara expaned a nearby golf course and established Chevy Chase Cabins, a popular resort on Discovery Bay.
Dr. David S. Smith Jr. (1943-2018) was a man of many interests. After graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in finance, he found himself doing volunteer work in Colombia for the Peace Corps. After his three years of service, he returned to the states and got a job with the Sea Land Corporation. Not long after that, David went back to school to become a doctor. His medical education and training took him to Mexico, New Jersey and Illinois. At the age of 40 he began his practice at a clinic in Delaware, Ohio. When he wasn't working in the clinic, David spent much of his time doing community service. He worked with organizations such as the Delaware County Chapter Central Ohio Diabetes Association, the Delaware County Easter Seal Society, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Habitat for Humanity. Even after he retired, he continued his work as a volunteer physician and went on many medical mission trips to New Zealand, Honduras and Haiti.Throughout his career, David was recognized for much of his work. He was selected as one of the recipients for the Outstanding Young Men of America Award back in 1971 and was more recently honored by the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians as its 2005 Physician of the Year. He also received the Rotary Club Paul Harris award and the Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce Wayne Hillbom Lifetime Achievement Award alongside his wife Dolores.
Below is our In Memoriam list for members of the Peace Corps community who recently passed away:
David Danielson, 8/27/18
Bonnie Daniels Gardner, 8/10/18
C. Payne Lucas, 9/15/18
Phyllis Jean Inman (Belize 1985-87; Nepal 1991-94), 8/28/18
Michael Weintraub M.D. (Guinea, Togo 1966-68)
Gerald "Jerry" Brown (1966-71), 8/12/18
Bevin Smith McCarthy, 8/13/18
Peter J. Murray, 8/22/18
William Cornwell (1962-64), 8/2/18
C. Kermit "Kit" Ewing, 8/7/18
Dr. David S. Smith Jr. (1966-69), 8/22/18
Frederick F. "Buck" Thornburg, 9/19/18
Rabbi Rachel Cowan, 8/31/18
Valarie A. Furst, 8/26/18
Lauren Elizabeth Laabs, 8/18/18
Hugh "Stewart" Gregg (1962-1964), 9/5/18
Lawrence T. Cerep, 8/16/18
Joseph Michael McFarlan (1972-74), 9/15/18
Alexander Reisbord (1971-73), 9/10/18
Joyce Dee Peterson, 7/19/18
Burch Alan Harper (1989-91), 7/10/18
Carol Bergner (1970-72), 9/14/18
Dana S. Kephart (1969-71), 3/1/18
Mitchell Herrmann, 8/16/18
Robert Anthony Garcia, 9/13/18
John David Bowling, 8/13/18
Edward R. Pautienus (1961-64), 8/26/18
Hank Davenport Barberis (1962-64), 7/2/18
Karen Rosalie Emerson, 9/13/18
Jerry Poznak (1961-63), 7/18
Richard Howard "Rik" Rodefer (1962-63), 8/18/18
Roger B. Hirschland (1965-69), 8/18/18
Sharon Lee Milukas, 9/9/18
Donna Fitzpatrick Kennedy (2014-16), 6/25/18
Peter Salvatore De Simone (1961-63), 8/30/18
Jonathan Mitchell, 9/4/18
Ronald Mahka, 8/24/18
Barbara Bailey (1965-67), 9/1/18
COUNTRY OF SERVICE NOT SPECIFIED
James Keith Blalock, 8/13/18
Ronald Gary Findlay, 9/12/18
Elizabeth "Betty" DeWolfe Hummer, 9/6/18
Patrick Kerwin Parsons, 8/20/18
John R. Pettit, 8/10/18
William "Roger" Pickens Jr., 9/17/18
George Robins, 7/29/18
Ida Katherine Yates, posted 9/9/18