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 Caitlin Nemeth
Photo: William Dennis Grubb (1941–2021), whom Sargent Shriver called “one of the first and one of the best” Volunteers.
Our tributes include Dennis Grubb, whose life was profoundly changed by Peace Corps service — and who devoted decades to Peace Corps ideals. We remember Susan Neyer, who led as NPCA board chair and served the Peace Corps community for many decades. A physician and CEO of Tufts Health Plan. A social worker and a dedicated National Parks Service civil servant. A servicewoman with a long career in the navy and a refugee-serving nonprofit leader. A star athlete and an environmental activist. A social impact pioneer and a civil rights champion. Several lifelong learners and educators. Many veterans who served their country in more ways than one.
We honor the wide range of contributions made by members of the Peace Corps community who recently passed away.
William Dennis Grubb (1941–2021) embodied Peace Corps ideals throughout his life. As one of the youngest and first Peace Corps Volunteers, Grubb served in Colombia at age 19 in 1961. He was a sophomore at Penn State when John F. Kennedy mentioned the idea of a Peace Corps. Grubb decided to drop out of college and became part of Colombia One, the very first wave of Peace Corps Volunteers. His service was life-changing and sparked a dedication to international development. Upon his return from Peace Corps service, Grubb devoted his life to spreading the mission of Peace Corps. As part of a team of Colombia One members, he trained several hundred future Volunteers who would serve in Latin America and Asia. His face became one of the most recognizable ones associated with Peace Corps as his photograph was used in a flyer displayed in USPS locations throughout the country to promote Peace Corps service. Grubb spent time working in Washington, promoting Peace Corps, attending Peace Corps events, and serving as aide to Sargent Shriver — who described him as “one of the first and one of the best” Peace Corps Volunteers. A great advocate for Peace Corps on Capitol Hill, Grubb built a strong foundation for the agency to continue. During his time as a trainer after his Peace Corps service, Grubb earned his bachelor’s degree from the Southern Illinois University School of Law in government, economics, and philosophy. Later, he would earn his master’s from American University and complete a Fulbright fellowship in Tunisia. Grubb eventually transitioned from working with Peace Corps to a financial career, though keeping his passion for international work and peace front and center. He spent the next phase of his career working in a variety of positions at many different banks all over the world. This experience led him to focus on international development where he was able to focus on projects for the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the United States Agency for International Development. With over 30 years in the international banking industry, Grubb was able to introduce reforms in major markets all across the world. In particular, his work for USAID in India provided substantial and dynamic changes in the market there. Over the course of his life, Grubb worked in 23 countries and visited 60, always dedicated to promoting peace and understanding. At the center of it all was his passion for Peace Corps. He died on October 25. A memorial service was held on November 16 at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and Dennis Grubb was buried at the Congressional Cemetery. Contributions in his memory may be made to National Peace Corps Association.
Susan M. Neyer (1939–2021) was a beloved member of the Peace Corps community with a passion for teaching and serving others. She grew up in the Midwest and attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, where she graduated in 1961. Soon after, she joined the Peace Corps, serving as a teacher trainer in the Philippines from 1962 to 1965. Her passion for teaching continued after her return from service, and she earned her master’s degree in urban education from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Not ready to give up Peace Corps just yet, she trained future Peace Corps teachers in Hawaii for 18 months and spent nearly a year visiting them in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. When she returned from her travels, Neyer taught preschool for migrant workers in Milwaukee before moving to Orange County to teach Spanish bilingual classes. She later settled in Berkeley, teaching bilingual classes for 18 years in Oakland Public Schools and the Fruitvale District. Her love of travel never diminished, and she spent her summers off backpacking and traveling in Central and South America. Neyer served as a board member of Northern California Peace Corps Association 1986–89, including two years as board president. She also served as board director of National Peace Corps Association 1986–96, including two years as board vice-chair (1990–92) and two years as board chair (1993–95). She edited NPCA’s Global Education newsletter and Group Leaders Digest for over 20 years. She met her husband Pete Johnson (India 1967–69) through NorCal in the mid-1980s, and they enjoyed traveling together to many Peace Corps countries where they would connect with staff and volunteers. They married in 1993 in Yosemite and would return nearly every year. When Neyer retired in 1995, she remained active in her community, continuing to mentor new teachers for two years, volunteer at the Bedford Art Gallery, and participate in a book club. She passed away after a three-year battle with cancer, but her legacy and commitment to Peace Corps ideals lives on. Contributions in her memory may be made to the Northern California Peace Corps Association Grants Program, with which she and Pete have been actively involved for years.
Harris A. Berman, M.D. (1938–2021) was an accomplished physician, excellent leader, dedicated family man, and diligent mentor. Born in Concord, New Hampshire, Dr. Berman was president of seven groups during high school, leading the local newspaper to dub him “Busy Bee Berman.” He attended Harvard, graduating in 1960, then finished studies at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1964. That same year, he married Ruth Nemzoff, who shared his desire to join the Peace Corps, and they served together in India 1965–67. Dr. Berman served as chief medical officer, caring for nearly 1,500 volunteers across the region — a formidable duty for a young doctor who had yet to complete his residency. His time in Peace Corps altered the course of his professional life, sharpening his interest in infectious diseases, which would later become his specialty, and persuading him of the crucial benefits of focusing on public health prevention versus relying on disease treatment systems with heavy costs and burdens on communities. Following his return to the U.S., he co-founded the Matthew Thornton Health Plan in 1971 in Nashua, New Hampshire, which was recognized as one of the first staff-model health maintenance organizations in the country. During the 15 years Dr. Berman worked at the organization, he served as medical director and later as executive director. In 1986, he left Matthew Thornton to work as CEO of Tufts Health Plan. The Tufts Health Plan grew enormously under Dr. Berman’s leadership, from 60,000 members to over 1 million. After retiring as CEO in 2003, he began serving as chairman of the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at the Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM). Later, he became dean of Public Health and Professional Degree Programs. By 2011, his position as “interim” Dean of TUSM became permanent; at 73, Dr. Berman was the oldest dean of a medical school in the United States. During his decade as dean, he worked to improve the curriculum, opened new research and study spaces, including an anatomy lab, and developed the Maine Track Program, a pioneering training regime focused on installing a pipeline of physicians to rural Maine. Throughout Dr. Berman’s life, he maintained a passion for service, serving on multiple boards such as the Apple Hill Chamber Players and Celebrity Series, a Boston-based arts organization. He spent six years as board chair of Celebrity Series, helping to bring dance companies and world-class musicians to perform in the city. Dr. Berman took care, in his many positions and roles, to embody the commitment to leave the world better than he found it. During his final days in the hospital, he never flagged in his determination to help others thrive, exemplified by this interaction: a young doctor-in-training approached his bed to conduct an exam and promised to make it quick. Harris Berman replied, “I’m a medical educator. Take all the time you need.”
Sally Regan (1946–2021) was a passionate learner who had a great desire to share her love of education with others. As a child, she dreamed of becoming a librarian or a teacher or a switchboard operator — she managed to do all three over the course of her life. Regan graduated from Wellesley College with a major in ancient Greek and continued her education in classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania for a year before leaving and marrying her husband. They lived all over the country during their marriage, and Regan became a switchboard operator. They divorced in 1979, and Regan returned to her home in Portland, Maine. She worked at the Portland Public Library as a librarian for many years. In 1989, she earned a master’s degree in library and information science at Simmons College in Boston. Regan’s eyes opened to the possibility of international peace when she hosted Russian guests at her home for a period of time; as a result, she realized the power of ordinary people from different countries getting to know each other. Regan became the director of the Rockport Public Library, and, although she greatly enjoyed her position, she decided to join the Peace Corps in 2003 in response to the 9/11 attacks. Regan served in Ukraine, where she taught English to college students for two years, fulfilling her final desire to become a teacher. After returning to Portland, she worked as an English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL) teacher at Portland Adult Education. Fueled by a desire to better help her students, Regan obtained a second master’s in literacy education in 2011. Two years later, she joined the Peace Corps one more time, traveled to Azerbaijan, and trained Azeri teachers in English. She loved her time there, but, unfortunately, it was cut short when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her life looked different when she returned home; however, Regan continued sharing her love of education and peace with others, tutored students, and actively participated in marches and demonstrations in the final years of her life.
Marcus Lee Mt. Castle (1992–2021) was an incredible human with a big heart and desire to make an impact in the lives of others. From a young age, Mt. Castle’s love for music followed him throughout his life, from starring in musicals at age nine to pursuing the Conservatory of Music and Capital University Choir in college and the constant ukulele sessions with his community in Peace Corps. It wasn’t unusual to hear him randomly burst into song to the enjoyment of those around him. Music was just one method that Marcus used to improve the world. In 2014, he graduated from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, with a degree in psychology and minor in music. He started working at Nationwide Children’s Hospital for a year. However, in 2016 he left for a new adventure as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand. A natural with his students, he built strong relationships with them and the teachers in his community. He worked on many projects in Thailand, including bringing his students to a national GLOW Leadership camp, starting a library in his school, and participating in the world map project. Most of all, Marcus was an incredible role model to his students and a true son, brother, neighbor, and friend to those in his community. When he returned to the U.S. in 2018, he pursued a master’s degree in social work from New York University and worked for Women in Need, a homeless shelter for women and children, after graduation. Mt. Castle had an uncanny ability to connect with people from all different walks of life, making them feel special. To ask 100 different people what Marcus meant to them is to hear 100 unique stories of how he impacted their lives. Although he left this world far too soon, his light and love will live on through all who knew him.
Norman D. Schoenthal, Ph.D. (1928–2021) was born in Herman, Minnesota. At age 14, he and his family moved to California. He attended Santa Rosa Junior College, where he learned about the need for teachers in North Dakota. Hired immediately, he taught at a one-room school near Hankinson, North Dakota. After teaching for a few years, he was drafted to the U.S. Army and became a medic and instructor. When he returned stateside, Dr. Schoenthal used the GI Bill to finish his undergraduate degree; following this, he began teaching music and science in Leonard, North Dakota. He moved on to teach high school science in Three Forks, Montana, where he pursued his Ph.D. at Montana State University. From 1958–62, he would go on to juggle teaching high school biology and chemistry and researching the effects of DDT on a fish hatchery in Ovando, Montana. Dr. Schoenthal was elected to the role of Alderman of Billings City Council in 1971. He served two terms and played a major role in environmental issues and zoning laws. In 1975, he worked in reclamation in Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda. Dr. Schoenthal was an Army reservist for 30 years, and he received the Legion of Merit Award as a Command Sergeant Major in 1987. After he retired from lecturing at Eastern Montana College, he joined Peace Corps Fiji, developing environmental education programs and preserving mangrove shorelines. After his service, Dr. Schoenthal returned to Billings and became the Two Moon Park caretaker, part of the Yellowstone River Parks Association. He also helped plan the Conservation Center, now known as Montana Audubon Center, as well as the building of the Norm Schoenthal Field Lab. He lived out the rest of his life supervising prison inmates, Boy Scouts, church groups, family and friends, and countless others in various projects.
Diane Pittock Perkins (1942–2021) was born in Portland, Oregon. She graduated from Lincoln High School in 1960, where she was a star athlete in golf and tennis. Her love of sports went beyond the court and green to include racing sports cars as a member of the Cascade Sports Car Club. Her adventurous nature led her to jobs at Joie Smith’s Ski Shop and Alpine Towing, where she was part of the mountain rescue squad, adept at assisting by road or horseback. While living in the Cascades, Perkins took care of the famous St. Bernards of Timberline Lodge before serving in Peace Corps Paraguay for three years. Her thirst for travel only increased after her service, leading to Perkins spending a few years in Nigeria where she toured by helicopter and dinghy. In 1973, she moved to Alaska, commuting from Big Lake to Anchorage where she worked as a dispatcher for the police department. Her love for the outdoors led to many camping, fishing, and skiing trips; she hiked the Chilkoot and adventured many times into the Yukon. In 1980, Perkins moved to Fairbanks, where she joined the local softball league, playing shortstop for the Bettye’s Bullets. She also entered the Alaska Senior Games at 68, winning ten medals in one year for events such as women’s pistol and table tennis. In addition to playing sports and enjoying the outdoors, Perkins had a passion for art – namely, photography and singing. Quite a few of Perkins’ photos earned awards at the Tanana Valley State Fair, and she sang in the University Symphony Chorus.
William “Doug” Lindsay, Jr. (1940–2021) loved growing up on his family’s camp on Vermont’s Groton Pond with his large family. After graduating from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1962 with a bachelor’s in political science, Lindsay began a life of service to his country. In 1963, he joined the Peace Corps, serving in Tanzania for two years before joining the Army National Guard. He was a soldier for six years during the Vietnam War. When he returned home, Lindsay began working for Dunn and Bradstreet and then the National Institute of Health. In 1969, he made a shift to the National Park Service, where he would spend the rest of his career. Lindsay made an immediate impact on the organization. During his tenure, Lindsay was the inaugural site manager for the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, overseeing placement of monuments and memorials in Washington and managing the city’s bicentennial celebrations. However, he had a great desire to move closer to his treasured home in Vermont. This saw him accepting a position as a superintendent at Massachusetts’ historic Springfield Armory and later holding the same role at Saratoga National Historical Park. Lindsay had an incredible career with the National Park Service, but he most enjoyed his life as a family man, devoted to spending as much time with them as possible.
Gerald B. “Jerry” Hildebrand (1942–2021) was a social impact pioneer with a resolute commitment to making a difference in the world. Hildebrand joined the Peace Corps, serving in Peru 1964–66. His time as a Volunteer inspired him to keep serving his various communities throughout his career. As a member of the Stockton, California, community for over 25 years, he took a leadership role in many organizations in the nonprofit sector. Hildebrand led the Katalysis North/South Development Partnership from 1989 to 2003, which is an international microfinance development organization that funded nonprofits in the area. He was also part of the Katalysis Bootstrap Fund, which served nonprofits in Central America. After his involvement with Katalysis, Hildebrand wanted to influence and interest students in serving the world. In 2006, he founded the Global Center for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. After leading it for a number of years, he became the director of Middlebury Institute’s Center for Social Impact Learning. He had a great desire to pass on his knowledge to students and get them involved as global citizens. This eventually led him to Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, where he established the Ambassador Corps program and was the director of the Social Impact Lab. The Ambassador Corps program allowed students to explore purpose-driven careers though apprenticeships both in the U.S. and abroad. His students remember him as making a profound impact upon their lives through their experiences.
Joan Elizabeth Means Khabele (1943–2021) was well-known for her passions for justice, adventure, and education. She was born in Austin, Texas, to a family of civil rights activists and active political members of the Democratic Party. Khabele attended Austin High School in its third wave of Black students, integrating the local public school at a time when national tensions were high. For a high school publication, Khabele wrote about how her trip to East Harlem “opened [her] eyes to another world.” When she learned that Black students would not be allowed on the senior year field trip since the locations, Barton Springs Pool and Zilker Park, were segregated, she took action. She was one of the first Black Americans to participate in “swim ins” at Barton Springs Pool in 1960 to protest this inequality. Two years later Barton Springs integrated. After graduating from the University of Chicago, she joined the Peace Corps, serving in Ethiopia 1964–66. Khabele went on to earn a master’s in African Studies from UCLA, and then taught at colleges and universities in Botswana, Lesotho, Nigeria, and Zambia. She met her husband, Paseka Khabele, while he was earning his doctorate at Fordham University in New York City. Very recently Khabele was honored, along with other trailblazing women of color, during the Central Public Library ceremony installation of their mosaic portraits in the plaza.
Jane Brown Michener (1926–2021), a strong proponent of civil rights, made an impact in the church, at a school system, and abroad. Michener was one of the first women in Maryland to receive a master’s degree in chemistry. She did not stop there with her education, earning a second master’s. Devoted to the church, she was a Sister of the School Sisters in Baltimore’s Notre Dame for 25 years, teaching organic chemistry. Michener created programs at the college to combat racism which ultimately led to widespread organizational change. In the early 1970s, she decided to make a change in career and left the convent to work with Baltimore County Public Schools. Motivated by her passion for civil rights, she worked as a specialist in staff and human relations. During this time, she met her life partner, Nancy Geyer, who was also passionate about race relations. Together, the pair joined the Peace Corps and served in the Philippines 1979–82. They continued working abroad for many years, supporting women in development programs. In 2010, she met and married John Michener while living in a retirement community and remained there until her death at 95, having lived a life dedicated to inspiring others to be the best they could be.
Robert J. Hoyle (1939–2021) grew up in Minnesota where he graduated from St. Olaf College in 1961. Shortly afterwards, he quickly joined the newly formed Peace Corps and was selected as one of the first two Volunteers from Minnesota. Hoyle served as a teacher in the Philippines for two years before returning to the United States to earn his master’s in public administration from Northern Illinois University. Then, he continued to work abroad, spending three years in Jerusalem and Jordan working for the Lutheran World Federation distributing food to thousands of displaced people. His life of service continued, working as the Executive Director of Zambia Christian Refugee Service. When he came back to Minnesota, Hoyle served as the Executive Director of the International Institute of Minnesota from 1970–2005. During his time at IIM, Hoyle oversaw the resettlement of 20,000 refugees, initiated a nursing assistant program, and made the Festival of Nations an annual event. On April 25, 1990, he was honored with “Robert J. Hoyle Day” by the St. Paul mayor. Outside of work, Hoyle enjoyed being active in his community through work at his church and hosting foreign exchange students.
Lisa K. McWhorter (1956–2021) was dedicated to service to her country and served in the U.S. Navy. Born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, she pursued a bachelor’s in biology from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. Then, she earned a master’s in pharmaceutical chemistry from Ohio State University. Afterwards, McWhorter joined the Peace Corps in Zaire from 1983–84 and used used her technical skills to teach nursing students in French. After her Peace Corps service, McWhorter began another type of service with the U.S. Navy. She started her career as a hospital corpsman, though quickly progressed to become an officer, commissioned as a lieutenant junior grade. Her 28-year career saw McWhorter serving in a variety of roles, progressing up the ranks. Notably, she was the commanding officer at the Navy Drug Screening Laboratories, a testing program manager for the Navy and Marine Corps Drug Testing program, and she retired as a navy commander. After retirement in 2012, McWhorter continued to serve as a civilian inspector for the National Laboratory Certification Program and was active in The Society of Forensic Toxicologists. Not one to rest, she channeled her love of travel and spent time as a tour guide across the U.S., Europe, and Central America for many years.
Daniel M. Wemhoff (1937–2021), an engaged social activist, grew up in Michigan and led a very active life from a young age. He played baseball for the City of Detroit and St. Paul High School, winning American Legion titles. Rather than take a contract with the Baltimore Orioles, Wemhoff decided to earn his degree from the University of Detroit. He stayed active in college by playing baseball and editing the sports desk for the school newspaper. After graduation, Wemhoff joined the military before serving in the Peace Corps, becoming part of the first group to go to Colombia in 1961. This sparked an interest in international relations, service, and justice that would follow him throughout his life. After his return from service, Wemhoff earned a master’s degree in international relations from Catholic University as well as a law degree from Antioch Law School. He practiced law in Washington D.C. for thirty years and was a dedicated social activist who took on cases pro bono for Amnesty International, Catholic Charities, and other nonprofit organizations.
PEACE CORPS STAFF
Harris A. Berman, MD (Chief Medical Officer in India from 1965–67), 10/30/21
Mildred J. Wilkins (Nurse in Peace Corps), 10/25/21
Sally Regan (Ukraine 2003—05, Azerbaijan 2013–14), 10/21/21
Xhevdet Shehu (Unspecified), 11/3/21
Maxine N. Hands (2003–06), 10/26/21
Anne T. Terborgh (1963–66), 6/25/21
Debra L. (Barber) Chandler (1976–78), 10/5/21
Benny “Ben” L. Coplan (1973–75), 10/18/21
William Dennis Grubb (1961–63), 10/25/21
Daniel “Dan” M. Wemhoff (1961–62), 10/7/21
Arnold P. Hano (1991–93), 10/24/21
Kim M. Bloomquist, PhD (1977–78), 10/27/21
Daniel “Dan” H. Deeny (1972–75), 10/15/21
Joan E. (Means) Khabele (1964–66), 10/11/21
Norman D. Schoenthal, PhD (1994–96), 9/30/21
David C. Hansen (1963–65), 10/29/21
Patrick R. Cantlon (1963–65), 10/7/21
Douglas H. Reinhart (1967–68), 10/29/21
Jeffrey N. Moore (1981–84), 6/28/21
William “Bill” J. Jackson (1965–67), 10/7/21
Gordon “Kem” K. Lowry (1966–69), 8/17/21
Alison R. (Fry) Montgomery (1966–69), 10/24/21
Paul E. Stanger (1969–70), 10/28/21
Dale W. Spaulding (1971–73), 12/12/20
Kenneth “Ken” L. Mather (1970–72), 10/23/21
Michael A. McDermott (2005–06), 10/21/21
Theodore A. Brattstrom (1978–82), 10/2/21
Ronald E. Holden (1969–71), 11/7/21
Dolores Johnson (2002–04), 5/15/21
Charles “Chuck” S. Little (1977–79), 8/9/21
David E. Joseph (1970–72), 10/25/21
Robert “Bob” P. Burchard (1965–66), 9/21/21
Julia C. Downs (2004–06), 10/5/21
Diane (Pittock) Perkins (1966–68), 10/27/21
Raymond A. Pokoski (1994–96), 10/12/21
Gerald “Jerry” B. Hildebrand (1964–66), 10/5/21
Robert “Bob” J. Hoyle (1961–63), 10/23/21
Jane W. (Brown) Michener (1979–82), 8/10/21
Susan M. Neyer (1962–65), 9/15/21
David L. DeJean (2009–11), 10/10/21
William D. Lindsay, Jr. (1963–64), 10/23/21
Loyal W. Fisher (1964–66), 10/23/21
Marcus L. MtCastle (2016–18), 10/8/21
Anthony “Tony” L. Fullenkamp (1967–69), 11/4/21
Wallace G. Pinfold (1968–70), 11/1/21
Kenneth “Ken” R. Lish (1971–74), 10/16/21
Lisa K. McWhorter (1983–84), 10/21/21
If you have information you would like to share for our monthly In Memoriam post, please reach out to us at [email protected].