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In Memoriam – March 2022

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

Photo courtesy PVSBond, Wikimedia


Our tributes include Robert Beckel (pictured), a Fox News commentator, USA Today columnist, and former presidential campaign manager. We remember John Polhemus, an advocate for farmland preservation and former New Jersey state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. An early Volunteer and international educator, who devoted her career to teaching people far and wide. An RPCV with over 30 years of experience in the Foreign Service.

We honor the wide range of contributions made by members of the Peace Corps community who recently passed away.


Robert G. Beckel (1948–2022)born in New York City, was raised in Lyme, Connecticut. He obtained a political science degree from Wagner College, on Staten Island, before serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines 1971–72. Beckel started working for the U.S. Department of State in 1977, becoming the youngest deputy assistant secretary of state for President Jimmy Carter. During that time, he participated in President Carter’s effort to win passage of the Panama Canal Treaty and led Carter’s 1980 Texas reelection operation. Beckel made a career shift away from campaign management after leading the unsuccessful 1984 presidential campaign of Walter Mondale. He established a consulting firm, advising major organizations on media strategies. As a political commentator, he made appearances on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Fox’s “Off the Record,” and CNN’s “Crossfire.” In 2011, after working as a Fox News commentator, Beckel became a co-host on “The Five,” a popular roundtable discussion show, where he was often the only liberal voice.


John Polhemus (1940–2022) was raised on his family’s dairy farm in White Township, New Jersey. After graduating from Belvidere High School, Polhemus obtained a bachelor’s degree from Albright College. With the intention of becoming a minister, he attended McCormick Seminary of Chicago before responding to President Kennedy’s call to action and volunteering with one of the first classes of Peace Corps Volunteers in 1962. During his service in Bolivia, he taught farming techniques to the Quechua people in the jungles of Beni River. Later, he bought and managed Bamboo Bar in La Paz. While in La Paz, he met his future wife, Rita, and they got married in 1966. The following year they moved back to New Jersey to raise their family and run the family farm. After his wife died from breast cancer in 1975, Polhemus continued to farm and devoted himself to raising his three daughters. His commitment to the community inspired him to run for local office, and he served in various roles, such as a school board member, township committeeman, mayor, and planning board member. Polhemus was twice elected as a Democrat to the Warren County Board of Freeholders and served six years in the role. President Bill Clinton appointed him as New Jersey state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. After using the state’s Farmland Preservation program to ensure that his family’s farm remained as such, Polhemus sold it in 2004 and retired to Baltimore. He eventually moved to Hingham, Massachusetts, in 2020 to be closer to his daughters. Over the years, he loved gardening, cooking, following the financial markets, and traveling — which resulted in him visiting five continents and more than 30 countries.


Jane Josselyn (1942–2021) volunteered in one of the first classes of Peace Corps Volunteers and served in the Ivory Coast 1962–64. Later, she worked as a teacher and trainer for new Volunteers at the School for International Training in Vermont and then in Micronesia. After graduating from Portland State University in 1969, Josselyn worked for 14 years at the Catlin Gabel School where she taught French, English, and history, as well as holding other roles, including director of off-campus programs. She spent a year working as headmistress at the French-American Bilingual School before later coordinating international enrichment and exchange programs with the Network of Complementary Schools and American Heritage Association. In 1988, she embarked on an adventure in China that lasted nearly two decades. During that time, she taught English, business, and tourism. She held the position of full professor at the Jilin University of Technology, in Changchun, and became the first foreigner to receive an “honored Teacher/Worker” certificate at the university. Josselyn was the only woman to receive the “Friendship Award” — the nation’s highest award for foreigners — in 1995 from the government of the People’s Republic of China. She worked for a time in Beijing as a senior consultant for the Chinese State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs and the China Association for International Exchange of Personnel, where she facilitated exchange programs and wrote training materials. In 2007, Josselyn retired in Portland and volunteered with the Hollywood Senior Center, where she fought for improved senior resources. She spent her final years at Russellville Park Senior Living. Josselyn had a strong connection with animals and a passion for travel, diverse cultures, and helping others. She spent her life teaching people far and wide, connecting people and families with opportunities to experience other cultures.


Larry Colbert (1940–2022) was born in Glouster, Ohio, and earned his bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Ohio University. After graduating from the University of Missouri with a master’s degree in European history, Colbert served as a Volunteer in Turkey 1964–66. Afterward, he joined the Foreign Service, where he met his wife, Christina. For his first post, Colbert was a refugee advisor in Da Nang, Vietnam, where he witnessed the Tet Offensive from the roof of his apartment. During his assignment in Oran, Algeria — where he had been promoted to a one-officer position — Colbert decided to focus on the consular side and became head of the consular section at his next post in Dublin, Ireland. He returned to the State Department in Washington, D.C., as the director of visa operations and attended National War College, graduating in 1987. Colbert spent 14 years as consul general in locations from Tijuana and Madrid to Ciudad Juarez and Paris. Colbert retired in 2001 but continued working as an inspector with the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General, conducting audits on U.S. consulates and embassies for several years.​​


Peggy Winnett (1933–2022) was born in Evanston, Illinois. She attended college in Oakland, California, and met her husband John at the equestrian center they both frequented. They got married in 1954 before moving to Colombo, Sri Lanka, for two years, allowing Winnett’s husband to work with the oil company CalTex. She volunteered with the World Health Organization, assisting a female obstetrician who provided free birth control to women in the community. Two years later, the couple relocated with their first born child to Bombay, where Winnett immersed herself in Indian culture by taking dance lessons and performing for small, local audiences. After 23 years of marriage and with their children were grown, Winnett left her husband and relocated to San Francisco. She earned a bachelor’s in sociology and a master’s in international relations, before serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jacks Hill, Jamaica, where she turned 50. She helped organize a new community center by securing phone lines, gaining support funding, and gathering other necessities needed for running the center. Shortly after returning to the U.S., Winnett rejoined the Peace Corps in Lampang, Thailand, and she assisted with the maintenance of teaching materials in preschools supplied by the United Nations. She also took on a secondary project that involved helping Thai civil servants improve their spoken English. Upon returning to San Francisco, Winnett earned an ESL certification. She accepted an assignment teaching English at Guangzhou Foreign Language University in China for three terms. For her third term, Winnett conducted trainings for Chinese High School teachers on how to teach English in their classrooms. Winnett was a member of Learning in Retirement (LIR) and the Florence Poets Society. She wrote and published Silent’s Teacher, which explores her educational experiences in China.



Gordon A. Tripp (Medical Staff Cameroon and Nigeria 1962–64), 1/25/22



Roderick “Mark”  Buie, III (Nepal 1973, Honduras 1989–91),  2/27/22

Marguerite E. “Meg” Carter (Senegal 1975–77, Uganda 2007, Guinea 2010–11), 4/16/21

Gary R. Toombs (Guatemala 1993, Dominica 1994–95), 2/3/22

Peggy Winnett (Jamaica 1983–85, Thailand 1989–91), 2/20/22



Joseph T. Mulloy (1970–71), 1/26/22



Adam Nicholoff (1990–91), 2/15/22

James C. Parker (1968–69), 1/30/22



Ann Anthony (1980–82), 2/22/22



John D.  Polhemus (1962–65), 2/12/22



Thomas A. Philipp (1971–73), 2/25/22

Choo J. Whyte (Unspecified), 1/30/22



Colleen J. Sanders (1998–2000),  3/7/22



Guy J. Mattei (1971–74), 1/5/22



Lanny L. Overson (1966–68),  2/21/22



Betsy R. (Long) Bucks (1964–66), 2/22/22

Jeanne A. (Robinson) Cunningham (1976–77), 2/12/22

John A.  McGonigal (1966–68),  2/27/22

Clauson T. Smoot (1967),  2/22



Margaret J. Killorin (1989–91), 2/10/22

William “Roger” R. Swango (1986–88), 1/18/22



Jane E. Josselyn (1962–64), 11/26/21



Rose-Marie Ullman (1987–89), 2/19/22



Margarita B. Valdez-Stehle (1981–83),  2/15/22



David A.  Costello (1998–2000),  3/4/22

Robert L. Hoffman (1988–90), 2/22/22

Keith J. Walker (1962–64), 1/28/22



Bracken C. O’Neill (1969–70), 1/29/22



Mary W. Stephano (1962–64), 2/18/22

Richard P. Stringer (1962–64), 1/26/22



Steven E.  Ullrich (1968–70),  3/2/22



Edgar Katzenberg (Unspecified), 1/26/22

Judith Nielsen (1966), 1/19/22



John V. Salandra (1966–68), 2/13/22



Gregory Churchill (1969–70), 2/19/22



James A. Grosskop (1972–74), 1/29/22

Bernice  Haner (1991–93),  2/13/22



Edward  Brylawski (1965–67), 1/30/22



Robert “Stu” S. Greenebaum (1969), 2/4/22



Robert G. Beckel (1971–72), 2/20/22

Judith Gregg (1985–87), 2/6/22

Thomas J. Jarvis (1967–69), 2/25/22

Judy (Markessinis) Piniazek (1966–68),  3/7/22



Jennifer H. (Grattan) Corner (1965–66), 11/11/21



Maxine A. Stanesa (1967–69), 2/8/22



Gerry L. Chambers (1965–67), 1/24/22

Randall P. O’Donnell (1976–78), 2/14/22



Lewis F. Smith (1962–64), 2/13/22

Leslie A. Sowle (1983–85), 2/8/22



Brian T. Nicholson (1986–87), 2/23/22



Larry G. Colbert (1964–66), 2/4/22



Richard J. Naberhaus (1966–69), 2/2/22



Colleen A. Cowhick (1988–90), 1/5/22



Allen F. Adams (Unspecified), 2/18/22



If you have information you would like to share for our monthly In Memoriam post, please reach out to us at [email protected].

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