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In Memoriam – January 2020

In the early Peace Corps days, some Volunteer assignments included developing and expanding sports programs. Among the many achievements of community members who recently passed away, sports played a central role in their professional careers.
Michael R. Hebert (1944-2019) played volleyball at the University of California, Santa Barbara, but upon graduation his connection with the sport was just beginning. First, however, he decided to join the Peace Corps, serving in Nigeria from 1966-1967. Following his service, Mike earned a Ph.D. in Educational Philosophy at Indiana University. Then it was back to volleyball. He coached both men’s and women’s volleyball at the University of Pittsburgh and then moved to New Mexico for three years where he coached women’s volleyball. In 1981, he became the women’s volleyball coach at Illinois in the Big Ten. Mike’s teams won four Big Ten titles and made two NCAA Final Four appearances for the first time in team history. At the end of his 13 years, his teams had won 323 games. He then moved to Minnesota in 1996 and over the next 15 years his teams amassed a record of 381-137 with 14 appearances in the NCAA tournament and three in the Final Four. Mike was Big Ten coach of the year five times and was inducted into the American Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2006. Mike was also a fixture of USA Volleyball, including serving as head or assistant coach between 1987 and 2016. Mike was named USA Volleyball’s Donald S. Shondell All-Time Great Coach in 2011.


George Nicolau (1925-2020) worked with Sargent Shriver in Washington, D.C. and conducted field research selecting volunteer work/living sites. Later in his career, he became a distinguished professional sports labor arbitrator, who ruled against baseball owners in two collusion cases, and served as president of the National Academy of Arbitrators. George also served as independent arbitrator for the National Basketball Players Association and the NHL Players Association. As a young man, George went into the Army Air Corps, flew four missions over Germany during World War II, and lost a leg during his service. After a year’s convalescence, he attended the University of Michigan. George went on to Columbia Law School and became a labor lawyer. After his service at Peace Corps headquarters, he worked for the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, New York City’s Community Development Agency, the Fund for the City of New York, and the Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution. Besides sports, Nicolau ruled in disputes involving ABC, NBC, and the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians.


Nancy Butler (1967-2019) joined the Peace Corps after graduating from the University of Colorado and was assigned a post in Suceava, Romania. After meeting her partner Lee in 2000 while both were working in Antarctica, the couple returned to their native Colorado, settling in South Fork. Nancy was hired in 2002 as Executive Director of the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT). Although she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, Nancy refused to slow down. She soon became a respected leader in the field of land conservation. Among her achievements, RiGHT’s Rio Grande Initiative was credited with protecting over 27,000 acres of the Rio Grande and Conejos River corridors. The Palmer Land Trust awarded Nancy with its Friends of Open Space award in 2014. While under Nancy’s leadership, RiGHT was honored with the Phil James Conservation Award from the Colorado Nature Conservancy in 2011 and an award for outstanding work by a non-profit organization by the El Pomar Foundation in 2013.



Andrew J. Bell III (1929-2019) was responsible for early Peace Corps operations in Eritrea, Ethiopia and then Nigeria, supervising and supporting volunteers, developing jobs and relationships with the countries ministries and departments, and securing the safety of volunteers and staff during coups and political unrest. Jay became the director for all Peace Corps operations in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1970’s, responsible for more than 2,000 volunteers and 260 staff spread throughout 22 African countries. In the United States, he worked to improve living conditions through the Model Cities program, which was part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He set an example of lifelong learning, earning three masters degrees and a doctorate in international education followed by an online course with England’s Oxford University for advanced study when he was 75.


Kathryn Campbell Merriam (1932-2019) received a B.A. in Education from UCLA, a Master’s in Education from Idaho State University, and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from UCONN. She taught school and founded an education business “Synthesis.” A community activist, Kay served as Chair of Bannock County Planning and Zoning Commission, state and local president of League of Women Voters, taught for New Knowledge Adventures, hosted a television program “Conversations,” and was an Idaho State Journal correspondent. Her most recent recognition was the NAACP Medgars Evers Award for Distinguished Service in 2019. Kay joined the Peace Corps at age 68 to serve in South Africa.


James Thomas O’Meara (1943-2019) said he was inspired to join the Peace Corps by a line in John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech: “If a free society fails to help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” After graduating from DePaul University, he became a PCV in the Philippines, where from 1965 to 1967 he used construction skills to plan and supervise the building of a rural schoolhouse, library, and clinic. He then went to Vietnam with the U.S. Agency for International Development. As part of a military-civilian team in the Binh Duong Province, he was often in harm’s way, especially during the Tet Offensive of January 1968. The State Department gave him its Award for Heroism that year “for courageous action while under fire in Vietnam.” Jim’s jobs at USAID took him to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In 1983, USAID gave him its Distinguished Honor Award “for sustained distinguished service.” As Acting Director of the Food for Peace Office from 1990 to 1992, he devised a plan to get shipments of food to Ethiopia and Djibouti, which were being stalled at the port of Assab. Jim continued his food aid career at the U.S. Agriculture Department, where he traveled frequently to help the former states of the Soviet Union fight hunger and develop greater food security.


Below is our In Memoriam list for members of the Peace Corps community who recently passed away:



Andrew J. Bell III (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria), 12/20/19

Rev. Dr. Robert E. McAuley, 1/10/20

Henry Edward McKoy, 1/4/20

George Nicolau (1963-65)



Robert M. “Mike” Culp (Ethiopia 1968-69; Malawi – staff 1985-89), 1/19/20

Brian Steinwand (Dem Republic of Congo 1982-87; Cameroon 1987-90), 12/22/19



John Coggins (1965-67), 12/20/19



Mario LaMorte (1965-67), 12/16/19



Daniel P. Reardon (1969-71), 1/4/20

Richard W. “Dick” Weber (1962-64), 12/14/19



Sonia M. Walter (1993-95), 1/5/20



Dan L. Smith (late 1960’s), 12/19/19



Margaret Corcoran “Peg” Clark, 12/31/19



John Edwin Green, 1/9/20

Jack J. Rosenblum (1962-64), 1/13/20



Leslie Houston (1992-96), 1/14/20

John Rothchild (1968-70), 12/26/19



Joseph Michael Ciuffini (1964-66), 1/10/20



Betty Catherine Baker (1967-69), 12/26/19



Frederic Hjalmar Floodstrand (1972-74), 11/18/18

Dean Striebich (1982-84), posted 1/22/20



Richard Karl Evans (1966-68), 12/17/19

Fredde L. Schertz, 1/6/20



Doreen Hall, 12/23/19



Kay Riley, 12/23/19



Judy Feimer (1971-73), 1/1/20

Dennis Hattem (1975-78), 1/14/20

Guy Ulysses Priest (1962-64), 1/3/20



Robert Heil Jr., 1/11/20



Leslie C. McDonald (1963-65), 12/26/19

Joseph Anthony Moriarty (1990-93), 12/2/19

Daniel Reardon (1969-71), 1/4/20



Michael R. Hebert (1966-77), 10/21/19

Robert H. Scheppler (1961-63), 11/1/19



Margo Heineman Daniels (1960-63), 1/2/20

Charlie Gonzalez IV, 1/17/20

Carl Hoffman, 12/26/19

James Thomas O’Meara (1965-67), 12/18/19



Nancy Butler, 11/29/19



Michael Leonard Cunha (1966-68), 1/12/20



Kathryn Campbell Merriam, 12/4/19


eSWATINI (Formerly Swaziland)

James Randy McGinnis (1981-84), 12/14/19



Diane Weis, 12/14/19



Janet L. (Johnston) Chorbajian, 12/29/19



Lawrence M. “Larry” Busch (West Africa 1967-70), 12/28/19

Michael Collopy, 10/26/19

Rev. Susan M. Scofield (1967-69), 12/27/19

Marylee B. Ward, 12/27/19



If you have information you would like to share for our monthly In Memoriam post, contact [email protected].

Thanks to Betty Pyle for her assistance in preparing this month’s In Memoriam page.

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