As we mourn the loss of members of the Peace Corps community, we celebrate the lives they led with a commitment to service.
By Molly O’Brien and Tiffany James
Our tributes include Dennis “DJ” Crawley-Smith (pictured), the creator and founding president of Lost&Found — a South Dakota-based nonprofit that aims to help eliminate suicide among young adults and is now found on multiple college campuses throughout the Midwest. We remember Ronald P. Wertheim, a retired senior Superior Court judge and former Peace Corps Deputy General Counsel and associate director. A published writer whose mystery series sought to bring representation to and challenge misconceptions of gay protagonists in fiction. An essayist and poet with four decades of teaching experience.
We honor the wide range of contributions made by members of the Peace Corps community who recently passed away.
Dennis “DJ” Crawley-Smith (1992–2022) grew up in Mitchell, South Dakota. Before graduating from Mitchell High School in 2010, Crawley-Smith engaged in a debate on Facebook with Kayla Roszkowski of Dearborn, Michigan, about whether writing the word “love” on their arms would be enough to help friends struggling with mental health and thoughts of suicide. Together, they created a Facebook group mobilizing friends and peers to complete goals meant to help people in exactly that situation. A year later, the group had grown into an informal Facebook network with more than 3,600 members. Crawley-Smith developed the ideas behind and creation of Lost&Found — a South Dakota-based nonprofit that aims to help eliminate suicide among young adults and is now found on multiple college campuses throughout the Midwest. He served as Lost&Found’s board president during the organization’s first four years, while pursuing a double major in political science and English at the University of South Dakota. While there he helped launch the first Lost&Found chapter at the University of South Dakota in 2011. By the time he graduated in 2014, Lost&Found chapters had been formed at South Dakota State University and Dakota State University. Afterwards, he stepped down from his leadership role at Lost&Found and joined the Peace Corps, addressing public health issues and water needs in Tanzania, where he met his future husband, Ben. Crawley-Smith returned to the States after a health condition emerged, which was later diagnosed as brain cancer. In the years that followed, Crawley-Smith taught in the Mitchell School District, earned his master’s from the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, served as a census field supervisor for the U.S. Census Bureau, and married his husband on August 6, 2021. One of his greatest accomplishments is said to be his uncanny ability to make everyone around him feel special, welcome, and befriended.
Richard “Dick” S. Lipez (1938–2022) was a writer renowned for his book series about a gay private investigator named Donald Strachey. After graduating from Lock Haven State College, Lipez met his wife, Hedy Harris, during his two-year service with Peace Corps Ethiopia. After returning stateside, he worked as a Washington-based program evaluator who visited Peace Corps workers around the world. Lipez and his wife divorced in 1995, and he married his husband Joe Wheaton in Massachusetts on May 17, 2004 — the first day the state legalized same-sex marriage. He reviewed books, often mysteries, for the Washington Post and Newsday and wrote editorials for The Berkshire Eagle and articles for Harper’s, The Atlantic, and Newsweek. Under the pseudonym Richard Stevenson, Lipez wrote 16 books in his Don Strachey series, using wit and intrigue to share Strachey’s experiences as a gay detective. The books sought to bring representation to gay protagonists in mystery novels and to correct misconceptions of the gay “masochistic killer” or “ice pick lesbian” stereotypes. During an NPR interview, Lipez stated that writing about Strachey helped his own coming out process, and his writing aimed to address important issues such as conversion therapy and violence against the LGBTQ+ community. Many of the Strachey books have been adapted for film, and the series is being republished by ReQueered Tales, which features gay and lesbian fiction. Two books that Lipez wrote before his death are also set to be published — one of which will be the 17th installment of the Donald Strachey mystery series.
Harris C. Bostic II (1963–2022) studied at Morehouse College and, having begun a career with a Wall Street firm, left in 1988 and became a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea, in West Africa, where he served as a microcredit advisor. He returned to his hometown of Atlanta to serve as a program manager for the historic Atlanta Olympics. The Peace Corps was fortunate to have him back as regional director for the Western U.S., 1998–2005. Further work took him to positions with Prepare Bay Area, the Clinton Foundation, Abyssinian Development Corporation, Coaching Corps — and, since 2016, with Tides, where he served as senior advisor. In that role he worked with some 140 nonprofit organizations and 300 foundations, “bringing the community organizing and change-making skills together,” as he said, “being a leader who can balance out the power imbalance between funders and those working on the ground. I take a lot of those core competencies developed or honed in the Peace Corps and bring them into my career.” He focused on supporting Black, Indigenous, and people of color-led entities to achieve redistributions of power, growth, social capital, access, and collaboration. And, as colleagues at Tides noted, “He was a natural connector and empathetic leader, a true friend and mentor to many.” He was also an avid cook, Scrabble-player, and jazz-lover. He served on the Board of Directors for National Peace Corps Association and in recent years took time to speak at events on African Americans and the future of the Peace Corps as well as philanthropy and business. He passed away on March 6 surrounded by family. Harris is survived by his loving husband, Tommy Fortin, a sister, two brothers, two nephews, and his playful dog, Ms. Ginger, as well as countless friends from coast to coast and abroad.
Joseph P. Martin (1950–2022) received his bachelor’s degree in political science and his master’s degree in park administration, both from the University of Illinois, before volunteering with the Peace Corps Guatemala 1977–79. While in Guatemala, he served as an agricultural specialist working on soil conservation and reforestation, and he met his wife, Linda D’Alonzo, and they wed in 1982. Martin was working with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) performing inspections at ports of entry when he decided to devote himself to refugee work. In 1990, he helped found the U.S.–based program Asylum Officer Corps, and he directed the Asylum Office in Arlington, Virginia. From six years, he ran the INS Nairobi, Kenya, office conducting refugee interviews for resettlement in the U.S. In 1998, he was at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi when it was bombed by terrorists. He escaped and then reentered the building three times to rescue survivors. For his “extraordinary courage,” he was awarded the U.S. Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service and the Newton-Azrak award for Heroism from the INS Commissioner. Martin worked in Beijing as a Supervisory Refugee Officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the U.S. Embassy before retiring in 2012. He continued to work with refugees and asylum seekers as a consultant to the UN High Commission for Refugees around the world. He volunteered with the International Rescue Committee and World Relief, and served as Refugee Ministry Coordinator at Epiphany Episcopal Church.
Ann E. Staley (1946–2022) grew up in the Green Acres suburb of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In 1968, she graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor’s in English and a teaching certificate in language arts. She joined the Peace Corps and served with her first husband in Bahia, Brazil, as community organizers. After returning to the States and separating from her husband, Staley embarked on a 10,000-mile, cross-country journey, visiting everyone she knew before spending a year living in a remote cabin 19 miles east of Ashland, Oregon. During that year, Staley realized how much she missed working with adolescents and committed herself to what would become a 40-year teaching career. Early in her career, she taught writing and literature at Hedrick Junior High in Medford, Oregon, as well as high schools in the Ashland and Philomath districts. Staley eventually obtained two master’s degrees in teaching and humanities from Southern Oregon University and a third in leadership and public policy analysis from Stanford University. In 1980, she attended the first summer of the Oregon Writing Project — which follows a “teachers teaching teachers” model. Over the course of her teaching career, Staley worked in not only high schools but also community colleges, universities, prisons, and creative retreats. One of her many contributions to education was her help designing the rubric for scoring the writing assessment for the State of Oregon. In addition to teaching, Staley was a published essayist and poet as well as a writer-in-residence at the Island Institute in Sitka, Alaska.
Ronald P. Wertheim (1933–2022) received his bachelor’s from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance and Commerce in 1954 and his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1957. He spent the following four years in Philadelphia practicing trial law and serving as an assistant public defender, before earning his diploma from The Hague Academy of International Law in 1962. Afterwards, his legal experience included teaching as an associate professor of law at the University of Virginia and serving as Peace Corps deputy general counsel before becoming the associate director in northeast Brazil. After work with the Peace Corps agency, Wertheim worked for 10 years as an attorney in private practice in Washington, D.C., where one of his more well-known cases involved representing former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Robert C. Mardian in a successful appeal of a 1975 Watergate cover-up conspiracy conviction. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter nominated him for the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, where he oversaw the competence of the federal civil service. Two years later, he was recommended by President Reagan to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. When asked during his 1981 Senate confirmation hearing to explain how his experience had prepared him for a seat on the bench of the Superior Court, Wertheim said his broad legal experience “exposed me to people of very different social, economic, racial circumstances and helped me to recognize that every person before a judicial body is entitled to the same courtesy and dignified treatment as any other person regardless of the number of dollars that might be involved in the matter at issue.” He served as an associate judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia until retiring in 1992 and served as a senior Superior Court judge until 2019. Shortly after retiring, Wertheim relocated to Maine with his second wife in 2021.
PEACE CORPS STAFF
Victor S. Goraya (India, In Country Staff), 3/13/22
Sister Rose Kershbaumer (U.S. Staff), 3/20/22
John B. Nicholson (U.S. Communications Director), 1/4/22
Ann E. (Benoit) Staley (1968–69), 2/25/22
Douglas R. Brown (1993–95), 3/25/22
Wayne P. Frank (1965–67), 4/6/22
Lilian C. Taylor (1985–87), 3/15/22
John C. Weber (1973–76), 3/7/2022
Robert E. Ransom (1975–77), 3/11/22
Charles B. Shafer (1964), 2/25/22
Miriam J. Dorsey (1966), 1/12/22
William G. North (1967–69), 3/25/22
Ruth N. Cox (1997–98), 3/22/22
Melinde Behrens (2004–05), 3/17/22
Ruth E. (Hickson) Barchard (1968), 4/3/22
William L. Lorah (1962–64), 3/2/22
Franklin R. Schultz (1963–64), 4/3/22
Paul R. Gouin (1962–64), 3/22/22
Douglas M. Jewett (1966–68), 2/2/22
Kathleen Bander (2009–10), 12/3/21
Walter M. Davis Jr. (1970–72), 3/12/22
Philip M. Hellmich (1985–88), 4/1/22
Richard V. Nepstad (2006–07), 3/20/22
Dennis “DJ” Crawley-Smith (2015–16), 3/21/22
Frank Gillespie (1962–64), 1/29/22
Don E. Smith (1972–75), 3/28/22
Cleo M. Silver (1964–66), 3/31/22
Donald “Keith” K. Williams (1973), 2/27/22
Jean P. (Bauso) Arrington (1969–71), 1/5/22
Winifred Yunker (2000–02), 3/9/22
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