Author Archives: eerpcv

In Memorium

Bartley A. Brennen (Yirgalem 1964–66)


Michael Morris (Derbe Zeit 1963–65) South Park PA

Edmund Lynch writes The Herald:
“Mike and I were classmates at St Francis College, PA and colleagues is Ethiopia. Ethiopia II Volunteer Mike Morris passed away suddenly on May 17 at his home in Pittsburgh. Mike served in Debre Zeit from 1963 to 1965 where he taught in the University Extension Program. Mike was raised in the Wilkinsburg section of Pittsburgh. He graduated from St. Francis College, PA where he excelled on the tennis and cross country teams. After Peace Corps service, Mike earned graduate degrees from Duquesne and the University of Pittsburgh. He devoted himself to teaching students in Pittsburgh schools and was noted for leading them on walking tours  of historic neighborhoods including the settings of the plays of August Wilson.
Mike is survived by his wife Nancy and his daughter Julie and son Jeff.
Mike was a good man who is missed by many.”

 


 

E&E RPCVs Group News

Recently our group — that’s E&E RPCVs for short — made a donation through our RPCV Legacy Program to a Peace Corps Partnership Program project in Ethiopia. We have received the following letter from the PCV who applied for the grant:

Dear Ethiopia and Eritrea RPCVs,

My name is Matt Westerberg and I am the Peace Corps Volunteer
overseeing the grant project you recently donated to in Yechila,yechila
Tigray region, Ethiopia.

First of all, thank you so much for your generosity and help! This
project is particularly special because it was generated from members
of the community who saw the need. It is also notable because much
of the funding for this project is being provided by donations from
parents, local business owners, and other community stakeholders in
Yechila.

Your generous donation will be combined with these hard saved
community funds to build two new bathrooms, one for Yechila Secondary
School, and another for Yechila Preparatory School. In addition, some
of the funds you have donated will go towards building 20 new desks to
reduce overcrowding by allowing the secondary school to utilize a new
classroom that was recently built.

I will keep you updated with pictures and written accounts of our
progress. Thank you again for you help and support!

Matt in "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

Matt in “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

Matt Westerberg
Education PCV
Peace Corps Ethiopia

P.S. Also, below is an article from the BBC on our most recent English Club
project! Enjoy!

CLICK: Ethiopian students perform “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for Dave Grohl’ birthday

 


In Memoriam

Burr Angle (Harar 1963–65)
See Rob Albritton and Pat Egan Bolles remembrances of Burr

Babbette Brackette (Addis Ababa 1964-1966) died in July, 2013.

Josh Brackette (Addis Ababa 1964-1966) died April 26, 2012.

John R. [Jack] Dugan (Dessie 1964–66) died November 4, 2009.

Judy Minkus (Jimma 1968–72) (formerly Judy Lawson) died 8/30/2015.

E. John [Jack] Prebis (Gondar, Addis Ababa 1962–64, PC/W staff 1964–65, PC/Ethiopia 1965–67: Associate Peace Corps Director) died Oct. 22, 2015.
To sign the Guest Book.
See also Dick Lipez’s salute to Jack.

Gerald Solberg (Dessie, Addis Ababa 1962–64) died 10/4/15

Click on linked names to read published obituaries.

If you would like to write a remembrance or share a link to an obituary of a deceased fellow Volunteer, send it to Editor Janet Lee at janet.lee35 [at] gmail [dot] com

 

In Memorium

Remembering Jack Prebis (1933-2015)

by Dick Lipez (Debre Marcos, Addis Ababa 1962–64)

Edward John “Jack” Prebis, 82, died at his home in Leverett, Massachusetts, on October 22, 2015. Jack had suffered from a number of ailments the last few years, and in the end they all ganged up on him fatally. In the weeks preceding his death, Jack had been looked after by many friends and neighbors who loved him. Among them were pals from Ethiopia I Peace Corps days, 1962-64.

Jack’s obituary in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on December 5, written by his nieces back in the Midwest, describes his childhood on a Wisconsin farm and then growing up and going to college, Loyola University, in Chicago. After two years in the Army, Jack worked at a bank. Pretty bored by that, and with a strong sense of wanting to be socially useful, he joined the Peace Corps and soon found himself in Gondar, Ethiopia.

jack-funny-book

Jack in the Ethi I Funny Book

In Gondar, Jack taught math and science at the secondary school. His organizational skills, calm demeanor, and his nice way with people soon led to administrative duties. He was a kind of assistant headmaster who was much respected at the school.

After two years, Jack was one of a number of Ethi Ones who followed Ethiopia country director Harris Wofford back to Peace Corps headquarters in Washington. Jack’s job for a year was developing the Book Locker that each Volunteer household received back in those days. He later described it as “the best job I ever had.” Jack  picked all of the 250 titles and managed to include, despite State Department anxiety, Catch 22. (He gave in and deleted No Exit. Which was just as well — “Hell is other people” isn’t an appropriate Peace Corps mantra.)

Jack loved his Peace Corps/Washington job. The agency, he later wrote, was “fresh, free-wheeling and un-bureaucratic, shot through with idealists.” But Ethiopia called once again, and after a year in DC he returned to Addis Ababa as an Associate Country Director. Among his worthy tasks was getting Volunteers out of big-town clusters and into remote burgs that had been left out of the first wave of American teachers that hit the country in 1962.

Post-Peace Corps, Jack worked as a Volunteers in Service to America administrator for several years, overseeing the work of VISTA volunteers across the lower 48, as well as in Alaska and the South Pacific.

From 1974 to 1994, Jack was back in Washington at OPM, the Office of Personnel Management. He eventually became, in effect, the chief financial officer for the entire federal bureaucracy. This was a very-big-deal job — he had a corner office with a flag next to his desk — but he approached it with the same mix of modesty and put-in-an-honest-days-work that was characteristic of everything he did. At OPM, Jack’s droll humor stood him in good stead, too. In an essay about his earlier Book Locker job, he wrote, “Sad to say, as a financial management bureaucrat for the Feds, I no longer get paid for reading fiction. Though I sometimes wonder .  .  .. ”

After Jack retired and moved to Massachusetts near some of his old Gondar friends, he continued to travel, which he loved, and take pictures, at which he excelled. There’s a plan to get his exquisite Ethiopia photos into the Ethiopia/Eritrea Peace Corps collection at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University.

Jack also collected art and Amish quilts. He went bungee jumping in New Zealand and took flying lessons briefly. As his Daily Gazette obituary pointed out, “He was always proud of his Polish roots and enjoyed studying his family history.”

Jack is survived by his sister Jean Prebis and her partner Judy, by several nieces and nephews, and by many grand-nieces and grand-nephews in Wisconsin. I met two of his nieces, Jean Schmidt and Mary Ann Eidem, and the wife, Jan Helfenberger, of a nephew, at an Amherst get-together a few weeks after Jack’s death, and they all spoke lovingly about “adventurous” Uncle Jack.

His beloved greyhound, Cookie, has found a new home she reportedly likes.

I have a lot of fondly remembered Jack Prebis travel stories, including some recent ones about visiting Thailand and rural Laos with him and our friend Jane Campbell Beaven, who was on the Ethiopia staff with Jack back in the ’60s. One my favorite Jack-out-in-the-world stories is from 27 years ago.

In 1988, at the height of the Mengistu horrors in Ethiopia, Jack and I went back there as journalists. I had wangled an assignment from the “Outlook” section of the Washington Post. Ostensibly, we would report on two PCVs returning after 25 years. Our visa applications said we wished to report on “developments in secondary education.” Our real aim, of course, was to do a job on the Mengistu regime, and I think whoever approved the hard-to-get visas probably knew what we were up to and had his own reasons for giving the okay.

Jack, meanwhile, came up with an additional wrinkle. Mengistu was in a bloody war with, among others, the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front. An Eritrean acquaintance of Jack’s in Washington said we really ought to visit the EPLF in rebel-held Eritrea and tell the story of what many at the time considered Africa’s most humane liberation army. Jack managed to obtain an assignment from Mother Jones magazine; he would take pictures and I would report and write the story of the EPLF’s noble cause. (Later on the EPLF morphed into something dreadful, but at the time, who knew?)

So. After two weeks in Addis (where a former student of mine told me with a laugh that people were talking about Jack and me as “those two CIA guys”), we made our way to Khartoum and then to Port Sudan, where the EPLF had an office. Nobody there knew quite who we were — word from DC hadn’t made it through — but a Toyota Land Cruiser was soon leaving for “the field,” and we were welcome to ride along. Among my vivid memories of that night-time bumpy ride on a dirt track down the Red Sea coast is one of Jack in the backseat next to a guy with an AK-47 that was lodged between the soldier’s knees and aimed pretty much at Jack’s head. From up front, I heard Jack say, “Hey, would you mind pointing that thing in some other direction?”

I asked him later if it was at that moment that he started having second thoughts about what our friends in Addis were discreetly referring to as “Dick and Jack’s other visit.” He said something like, “Mmm.”

We spent ten days in the mountains, traveling only at night with the car lights out, mostly up and down dry stream beds. We visited EPLF installations — schools under trees; a schoolbook printing operation; the EPLF political capital in a stone hut in Orota; and a pharmaceutical factory in a cave. We interviewed top EPLF officials — not including Isaias Afewerki, who was at the war front, which we chose to avoid — and we talked with Ethiopian prisoners of war. Most of them were young men who had been dragged off schools yards unwillingly to fight for Mengistu. They reminded us of our students 25 years earlier, and it was painful to see these kids huddled on a hillside, hot and bored, surrounded by armed guards and doing nothing, their young lives wasted.

Among Jack’s terrific pictures of that trip is one of an angry tribal woman, part of a group whose village had been bombed by Ethiopian MIGs. She told us that the EPLF had provided her with powdered milk and with wheat (pilfered from USAID in Sudan). But, she asked, trembling with rage, “Where am I supposed to get any coffee?”

War is hell, but sometimes it’s just heck, and that can be bad enough. Jack’s pictures show both.

The EPLF kept us safe, and they housed and fed us as well as they could. We ate donated corn flakes in Maltese Tang and tinned anchovies with pasta. We got sick, but we didn’t get shot. Unfortunately, the Mother Jones editor who assigned the story left the magazine while we were incommunicado, and the new editor wasn’t interested in the EPLF. Our story never ran (we were given a puny kill fee), though the magazine did use some of Jack’s photos in a brochure. (The Washington Post story did run and helped spread the word of harsh life under Mengistu.)

The EPLF adventure was in important ways a fiasco. But here’s something that happened that made it all worthwhile. The EPLF fighters and volunteers were wary of visitors like us. Other journalists had come and gone, and nothing had changed for these freedom-fighters living tough, dangerous lives in the wilderness. But for Jack and me the cool skepticism that we met vanished whenever we mentioned that we weren’t just reporters, but that we had been Peace Corps Volunteers. Men and women would break into grins, and greet us, and tell how years before they had been taught English or typing or maths in Asmara by Miss so-and-so or Mister so-and-so. Now they were using the skills they had been taught by PCVs to free their country, and they recalled their Peace Corps teachers with fondness and gratitude.

I loved it that Jack, a guy at a desk in DC, had had the casual gall to lure me into this mis-adventure that turned out not to do much for the Eritrean cause, but  did so much to add to our own ongoing education about the worth of the Peace Corps and its place in Ethiopian and Eritrean history. We talked for years afterwards about our visit to “the field” and what it meant to us. It was characteristic of Jack that he would roll his eyes and shake his head over so much about that trip. (I’m sure that well-mannered Jack was aghast that I got into an argument with a swindling taxi driver in Port Sudan and yelled at him that Jack and I were going to walk the four miles to the EPLF office.) But as with so much of Jack’s rich good life, he wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

After his Peace Corps service in Ethiopia, Dick Lipez worked for three years as a Peace Corps program evaluator. Later he worked in community action before becoming a journalist and fiction writer. He writes a series of private eye novels under the name Richard Stevenson, and reviews books for The Washington Post. Lipez is married to sculptor and video artist Joe Wheaton. They live in Becket, MA.


In Memorium

Remembering Burr Angle (Harar 1963–65)

Rob Albritton (Harar 63–65 writes:
From 1963 to ’64 Burr Angle (Eth II, 63–65), Jim Brannon (Ethi I, 62–64), and myself (Eth II 63–65) shared a house together in Harar. As house mates we got along very well, and as I recall we spent a good deal of time exploring what was a very interesting city and region of Ethiopia. Burr and I worked at the new University Extension Program run by the Peace Corps where he taught English and I Political Science. We also both taught English in an elementary school. Burr was quiet, very bright, and had a wry sense of humor.

For the 1964-55 school year I was transferred to Asmara, and don’t know how Burr did in our second year, but I imagine the household would have changed since I left at the end of the teaching year and Jim Brannon  left to return to the US. It is possible that Burr kept the house and was joined by two Eth. III Volunteers. After leaving Ethiopia in 1965 I never saw Burr again, but I think that he became an academic. I am sorry to hear of his death. He was a fine man.

Patricia Egan Bolles (Harar 63–66) writes:
Thank you for notifying me of Burr’s death.

angle-fac-pic

CLICK to see Burr with the rest of the faculty of Harar Secondary School, 1963

I have wonderful memories of my time in Harar and Burr was part of much of it. We were both assigned to the University Extension Program (evening classes), but by the second year we were also teaching at the secondary school where there were many PCV III’s (64–66), one French PC man, an Ethi I, and, of course, Indian and Ethiopian teachers.

Burr thoroughly enjoyed teaching at both locations and was always prepared and enthusiastic about what he was doing. During our second year in Harar we were the only Ethi II’s. The first PC group had left and the 3’s arrived in September with the 4’s arriving a shortly thereafter.

Over our first summer when we had the opportunity for a three-week vacation, Burr decided to stay in the Harar area, moved out to Bisidimo [just east of Harar]  and worked with the Canadian and German brothers who ran the lepers facility. He had a great experience and was glad he hadn’t left the country. I admired his ability to take on such a challenge. He was a great friend and admirer of Ato Adam, our Director of the H.S. University Extension Program, who was also the Director of the Teacher Training School in Harar.

Over our spring/Easter break Maura Hurley (a PCV 3), Burr and I traveled up to Lake Tana to see the Tissisat Falls. We spent a couple days enjoying the area and the relaxed atmosphere. He was easy to travel with and full of more information about the place than either of us could remember.

On another occasion I witnessed a flash flood with Burr while traveling by bus from Dira Dawa back to Harar. We had gone there one Saturday to buy a copy of TIME, and apparently a heavy rain had fallen in the Harar region. Fortunately, we were on a road above the deep dried river bed when the five or six-foot wall of water raced by — an amazing sight — camels leaping out of the way, rocks being tossed in the air.

Jim Paradis, Hedy Harris, Frieda [Kellems] Mitchem, Maura Hurley, Steve Moody, and his housemate, Thurman Ragar and the other “3’s” will remember him fondly.

Burr was good company, had a quick mind and a great sense of humor. He was quiet, inward, thoughtful, positive and completely honest. I remember long conversations with Burr and many of the above-mentioned friends over coffee, beer, watt, of course, and more beer. Burr took his work seriously and knew exactly what he wanted to do after Peace Corps and I think he did it. I was fortunate to have been one of his friends.

I stayed in Harar for another year and we corresponded occasionally — it was his way of staying in touch with PC and Harar. I missed him that third year — we had shared a wonderful time and place — and I am sorry to know he’s no longer with us
 


In Memorium

  • Paul Reagan (Nazareth [Adama] 1962–64) — who lived a life of service. see Legacy.com

Friends

A daughter is looking for her parents’ friends

A letter from Lea Setegn

My mother was Diane Campbell. She was a PCV in Ethiopia from summer 1972 until early 1973 [probably Ethiopia XVIII]. My father is Eshetu Setegn, an Ethiopia native from Debre Berhan who worked for the Peace Corps while he was a student at Haile Selassie I University. He worked for the Peace Corps during the summer. I think he started in 1969; I know that his last summer was 1973.

My Dad was my Mom’s Peace Corps group leader in the summer of 1972. They were in a small village near the rain forest, but I don’t know which one. My Mom was sent to the village to learn the language and culture before being sent to her Volunteer job of teaching English in a village school. I never did get the name of the village where she was sent.

campbell-spouse

Diane Campbell and Eshetu Setegn in early 2000s

My parents married in November 1972 at City Hall in Addis Ababa. My Mom left the Peace Corps early because she was pregnant with me and came home to Rochester, NY. My Dad finished college and worked for the Peace Corps in the summer of 1973. He joined me and my Mom in October 1973.

My Mom passed away in May 2008. My parents were married over 35 years, and Dad misses her every day. I would love to find people who knew them both and help my Dad connect with them.

I do remember meeting one of my parents’ friends from the Peace Corps. Sadly, I don’t remember anything but her first name, which is Chris. She had twin boys who were toddlers in 1980 when I met them.

I’ve attached a photo of my parents from the early 2000s. They both look pretty similar to how they looked in the early 1970s.

Lea Setegn

Do you remember Diane and Eshetu?
Lea and her father would be so pleased to hear from you.

Send a note with your contact information to

eerpcv@gmail.com

and E&E RPCVs will forward it to Lea.


A PC Trainer would like to reconnect with his Trainees

Hi there! This is Tewodros Sahlemariam. I was a trainer of those volunteers at PST ’98. I don’t know what I can do, but if there is anything that I can do for this group, I would be very glad. We had a great training time at Ambo then. I remember everyone of the trainees. Anyways, if here is anything I could help, let me know.                   —Teddy

To reconnect with Teddy send a note with your contact information to

eerpcv@gmail.com

and E&E RPCVs will forward it to Teddy.



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