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In Memoriam – December 2020

Remembering those we’ve lost recently in the Peace Corps Community

Count among those we have lost recently a man who was considered to be the greatest athlete in the world — a man whose athletic achievements in his youth were paired with a lifetime of humanitarian commitment.



Rafer Johnson (1934–2020) was the world’s greatest athlete, winning the gold medal in the decathlon and setting a new world record during the 1960 Summer Olympics. That was just one of the many awards and honors he received in his lifetime both inside and outside of sports. The Olympic gold marked Johnson’s retirement from competitive sports and catapulted him forward in the fight for racial and social justice. Johnson began his civil rights work assisting the NAACP and Urban League 60 years ago, taking part in initiatives to combat housing discrimination and voting rights. Inspired by President John F. Kennedy, Johnson worked with Peace Corps during the early days of its founding. On the heels of Olympic victory, he lent his prestige and renown to launch the Peace Corps. “I really believed that it wasn’t what my country could do for me,” he said years later. “It was what could I do for my country?” He also became extremely active in the Special Olympics led by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Johnson was at the side of Senator Robert F. Kennedy on the night Kennedy was assassinated, and Johnson helped subdue the gunman. Overcome with grief, he was encouraged to channel his emotions by establishing a West Coast branch of the Special Olympics. He used his alma mater – UCLA – as his base of operations. UCLA has hosted more than 20 Special Olympics, most recently in 2015.


Dr. Ronald Ausbrooks (1942–2020) attended D.C. Teacher’s College, Howard University, and the State University of New York at Buffalo, earning a master’s of social work. In 1972 Ausbrooks accepted a position in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service and became a U.S. Public Health Service Officer. He continued his education and went on to earn a master of science in public health administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a doctorate of education with a concentration in mental health administration from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Prior to his service in the Commissioned Corps, Ausbrooks was deeply involved in the civil rights movement, including being an active member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He was hired to work with both VISTA and Peace Corps. He was a founding member of Blacks in Government. Throughout his life he openly expressed his opposition to racial and economic injustice. In 2014 Ausbrooks was inducted into the Washington D.C. Hall of Fame with The Legacy Award in Health.


Betty M. Palfy (1932–2020) was a teacher and lab technician before joining the Peace Corps in 1975. Her service as a health Volunteer in Niger marked the beginning of a 40-year career as a medical missionary, which included several years in Nepal with the Dooley Foundation, time in a Somalian refugee camp with Church World Service, and four years at the Hospital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti. Her medical service led her to eight additional countries around the world. It was not simply service abroad. Palfy’s trips and travels stateside led to time spent helping to resettle refugees at Jubilee Partners in Comer, Georgia; cleaning up after Hurricane Katrina; and teaching science for a year in Sitka, Alaska. Palfy’s deeply caring spirit is perhaps best defined by her 25-year commitment to the leprosy and tuberculosis patients she cared for in Liberia at the Ganta Leprosy and TB Clinic. Working alongside the Consolata Missionary Sisters, Palfy compassionately tended to the needs of many people whose lives had been affected by years of civil war, disease, and the stigma of leprosy.


Irene Bristol Allen (1940–2020) taught biology as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines. She continued teaching high school biology when she returned to Brookline, Massachusetts. She combined her interests in art and computer science by working in computer graphics at Technical Education Research Centers (TERC) in Cambridge. With her husband, Tony Allen, she co-founded Barrington Books, which they operated for 22 years. Irene created abstract paintings to celebrate the color and energy she saw in nature. She regularly entered her work in regional exhibits, winning several awards. She was active in the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative, serving on its board for many years. Irene was active in environmental causes, particularly with the Civic Alliance for a Cooler Rhode Island (CACRI). Her last art work was a collection of posters for the Livable RI Poster Campaign, an exhibit of environmentally-friendly activities that opened at the state Health Department and then traveled through the state.


Benton “Ben” Leslie Moyer (1941–2020) joined Peace Corps shortly after graduating from Yale University in 1964. After serving as a Volunteer in Colombia, Ben went to Cornell Business School and then joined the international department of the Bank of Boston in 1969 with a first assignment to Australia for two years. That began a 17-year period in which he worked in five other countries. In 1993, following the leadership roles of his parents, he joined the Board of Copper Cannon, a summer camp in Franconia, New Hampshire for underserved young people in the state. In 1996 Ben joined Wainwright Investment Counsel where he worked for the next fifteen years. In 2002, he joined the Board of ProMujer International, a micro finance institution providing micro loans to women in Central and South America, and for two years served as CEO.



Ronald Ausbrooks (1966–68), 10/13/20

Rafer Johnson (1960s), 12/2/20

Edward Scott Sr. (PC HQ Staff 1968–70; South Korea Country Director 1971–73), 11/25/20



Phyllis A. Luff (Sierra Leone 1971–74; Armenia) 12/3/20



Robert Pruitt, 11/20/20



Sharon Alister (1974-75), 12/3/20

Hans Boerner (mid 1970s), 11/13/20

Joseph Harris (staff 1964-66), 12/4/20



Dr. Gary Bernard Wetterberg PhD (1967-69), 12/1/20



Donald G. Bellefeuille (1966–68), 11/29/20

John Joseph Greven (1964–68), 11/22/20

Thomas Lenovich, 11/22/20

Benton Ben” Leslie Moyer (1965–67), 11/16/20



Steven “Steve” Nelson Carter (1962–64), 12/1/20

Richard W. Martyn (1973–75), 12/5/20



E. Merritt Hulst (1968–70), 11/16/20



Norman Skarstad (1966–67), 12/12/20



Renee Phillips Robbins (1971–73), 11/26/20



Karen Fernstrom (1970–71), 12/2/20



Edwin “Ed” Samuel Clark (1988–90), 12/11/20



Patricia Weis (1987), 11/13/20



William “Bill” M. Howe, posted 11/26/20



Ronald Edward Hofsess (1965–66), 12/3/20



Grace Mary Riley (1988–90), 11/29/20

Ann Wilson, 3/6/20



William “Will” Maxfield Alexander (1979–81), 6/27/20

Robert Glazer (1971–74), 11/22/20



Michael “Mike” James Carney (1970s), 12/7/20



Deborah McCane, 6/7/20



Kathleen M. (Murray) Devanna (1962–65), 12/6/20

Kevin Frederick Lind (late 1970s), 11/25/20

Joan C. Poepoe (1964–66), 12/12/20



Thomas Edsell (1974–76), 12/2/20

Stephen Kurth (1963–65), 12/8/20



Betty M. Palfy (1975–77), 12/7/20



Hershel Zelig Herzberg (1961–63), 11/20/20

Carol Rose Howes (1968–70), 12/10/20



Abeda Mohamed (staff), 12/3/20



Conway Olmstead (1960s), 12/11/20



Irene Bristol Allen (1964–66), 12/2/20

Marilyn Brown (1962–64), 11/20/20

Carol A. Hong (1964–66), 11/17/20

Mary McFate (1962–64), 11/24/20

Shirley Arlene (Miller) Stevens (1985–87), 11/16/20

William Van Noy Taylor (1960s), 11/28/20



Janet Ruth LaGrave (late 1970s), 11/23/20



Marcia Louise Nenno (1975–77), 12/6/20



Mary Theresa Merna (late 1970s), 12/12/20



John Edwin Boone, 12/3/20



M. Sue Henry (1963-65), 11/20/20



Cynthia “Cyd” Coogan, 9/14/20



Harvey A. Himberg (1968–70), 12/14/20



Steven Campbell (1970’s), 12/10/20

Gregory D. Maronick, 11/7/20

Steven Poquette, 11/24/20



If you have information you would like to share for our monthly In Memoriam post, please reach out to us at [email protected]Thanks to NPCA intern Kaylee Jensen for assistance in preparing this post.

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