Judith Kelly (Peru 1968-70)

Monday, November 21
5:51 pm

TWENTY YEARS AGO, in November, 1968, just as the world marked five years without the President who had created the Peace Corps, I met my future spouse, William Kelly, in Peace Corps training in Puerto Rico. Kennedy’s call to serve had brought us together, and bonded us for sixteen years.

I want to speak of Bill today because to me he embodies the spirit of the Peace Corps – throughout his life, and right to the end. His final service – as Peace Corps Country Director for Paraguay – ended in a mysterious aircrash high in the Andes of Bolivia on January 1, 1985. He had been en route to Miami to orient a new group of Peace Corps trainees

The Peace Corps gave us a great beginning – a two-year “honeymoon” in southern Peru – and we treasured that time through many hectic years. We believed that if our marriage had survived the seeming hardships of Third World development work, we could handle anything. Even Washington.

Bill traveled the world as an AID international disaster relief officer, but in 1982, he sought out service as Peace Corps staff. His dedication, energy, and humor made him a legend among the Volunteers of Paraguay. He’d been called “excruciatingly fair,” “amazing,” and “a saint.” He’d scoff and work even harder. I know he took his role as leader very seriously, and that inspired all who knew him to serve more fully.

As a couple, teamed up again as in our Peace Corps beginning, we relived a commitment that never really stopped. I’ll always cherish those two additional years in the Peace Corps, and the many friends we made through out work in Paraguay.

Maybe something so idyllic – like Camelot – can never last. Bill was called on another mission and now rests in a snowy eternity near the peak of a mountains that guards La Paz, the City of Peace. Many say it is a fitting place for a Peace Corps man.

For me, life without Bill is incalculably less, but I have slowly regained a sense of purpose, and a plan to close yet another circle. We had always hoped to serve again as Volunteers. If the Peace Corps will accept my service when the program in Bolivia reopens, I intend to be a Peace Corps Volunteer again.

My deep gratitude is to John F. Kennedy for creating the opportunity for us to serve in the name of peace. And to the fine people who are the Peace Corps, for keeping the dream of peace, commitment and service alive. And to Bill Kelly, who touched many lives, but especially mine.

One Comment

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  • I rmember Bill. I met him while i was serving as a program officer with CARE, Inc and he was a disaster relief official in Washington. I talked with him a number of times during my tenure as regional program officer for latin america and africa. Before returning to New York to serve as program officer, I worked as the Care country director in Bolivia. Each morning i would look at Illimani and meditate before going up the hill to La Paz. Mt. Illimani has written itself into my mind or soul. Years later i heard about the crash. I no longer remember Illimani without thinking about Bill. Yes, i remember Bill. Today i changed the “Wallpaper” on my computer screen. The new image is a mountain similar to Illimani. And I remember Bill, his gentle humor, his irony. He occupies a place within me.

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