John Turnbull Ghana-3 Geology and Nyasaland/Malawi-2 Geology Assignment 1963, -64, -65.


John Turnbull passed away on April 4, 2021 at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  John commented frequently on Peace Corps World Wide, about his Peace Corps experiences in Ghana and Malawi as a geologist in the early days of Peace Corps. Here is one of his commentaries in response to John Coyne’s review of Kallman’s Death of Idealism in the Peace Corps

“A great commentary, John ! As you know I have been accused of over-romanticing my experiences as a geologist, in Africa. My conclusion concerning Ms. Kallman’s book, is that there is no single thing we can call “The Peace Corps Experience” There are MANY, and even in Africa, where I worked, the difference in cultural interaction between Ghana in West Africa, and then Nyasaland Protectorate in British Central Africa, was radically different. Even as early as 1967, the Peace Corps itself concluded that the experince in Latin America, was like night and day, contrasted with most projects in Africa. And the dissatisfation rate and early drop out rates certainly spoke to that. Less than 2 % dissatisfaction in African projects, contrasted with 25% overall in Latin America.

My mind goes back to Ghana, and spirited debates wiith African girls about how to win a man’s heart. Something in the East that would only be addressed most carefully. And Friday night paydays at the local bar, with plenty of Star Beer and spirited discussions with crew-members about newly-independent African politics. AND also some debates about how to win a woman’s heart — and cooperation.

And, in the East, my heart always will return to those treks across the High Veldt with my Nyasa prospectiing crew, followed in single file by a dozen youngsters from the nearby village, all trusting that when European Mahn, and whom they called “Beeg Chewa Mahn” were up ahead, things would be safe because all the snakes would flee. What memories ! ! And upon return thrrough the village, the elders would smile, knowing the same — that when European Mahn and “Beeg Chewa Mahn” were there, the children alll would be safe. What memories ! ! Today, 56 years later, those charming little village children are themselves elders. I haven’t any doubt that they remember the day European Mahn and Beeg Chewa Mahn came to their village, and all the snakes fled. I wish I could see those elders today.”

John Turnbull Ghana-3: Geology; and Nyasaland/Malawi-2: Geology Assignment -63, -64, -65.


Here is John Turnbull’s Obituary:


John Allen Turnbull, originally of Rock Island, IL, passed away at his home in Santa Fe, NM at the age of 80 on April 13, 2021.

He was a 1958 graduate of Alleman High School, Rock Island, IL. He attended St. Ambrose College and the University of Oklahoma graduating with a degree in Geology. During the Kennedy Administration, John was an early Peace Corp volunteer in several African locations.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Glenn Owen and Eleanore (nee Montavon) Turnbull of Rock Island. Surviving siblings are Mary Frances Mott (Dale) of Sherrard, IL, Guy Anthony Turnbull (Jane Ann) of Algonquin, IL, and Catherine Jean LaCaille of Davenport, IA.

A private funeral service will be held in St. Patrick Catholic Church, Maytown, IL.

John Turnbull will be missed.

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  • His voice captures perfectly how so many volunteers in Africa felt–that it’s so good to be here, to be alive, to be with these children on this particularly lovely morning!

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