Stephen Michael (Mike) Murray, Colombia 1 (Unero)
Today, February 29, 2016, we attended Mike Murray’s Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St Louis. It was a well-attended solemn Mass; many of St Louis’ dignitaries were present. Our Mike was a well-known, very much liked member of this community. Mike’s wife Barbara, his sister and brothers were of course present and we offered our condolences and prayers on behalf of all the Unero Brotherhood. From the opening hymn through the Biblical readings, to the song of farewell, all selections were very well-presented, by the clergy and attendants.
At the close of the service, one of Mike’s best friends offered a eulogy of his life and asked for a moment of silent prayer. Then he proceeded to list Mike’s love of life and his country, his involvement in the environment, his finding of the local movement of Forest Park Forever (he was a local fund-raiser and supporter of St Louis’ largest park), and the many other endeavors Mike was involved in. Then his friend asked all those in attendance to stand and be recognized—his wife Barbara, his family, his Peace Corps comrades, his fellow bikers, runners, and many friends. We all stood and acknowledged our love and admiration for Mike.
At the end of the service, a bagpiper from Mike’s Hibernian Irish Society led the procession to the rear of the cathedral. Outside the church stood two rows of Mike’s fellow bikers holding up bicycle wheels in salute to Mike’s involvement in biking. It was all very impressive and very moving to honor a well deserving member of this vast community. And the bagpiper kept playing until the casket was placed in the hearse by the pallbearers. Armida and I were overwhelmed and very honored to be part of such a beautiful farewell to our fellow Peace Corpsman.
William Leon Smith, Colombia 12
Bill was born on June 26, 1939, the second youngest of seven siblings. He grew up in in western Maryland and as a youth was well known for his accomplished skills in gardening, rabbit raising, and growing and selling fruits and vegetables. He graduated from Allegany High School in Cumberland, Maryland, in 1956 and he received a degree in business administration from the University of Maryland in 1968. Bill joined the Marine Corps in 1957 and served in the Navy Reserves as a petty officer until 1995.
In 1963 he joined the Peace Corps. Bill was trained as an Agricultural Extensionist and credit union promoter at the University of Nebraska. He arrived in Colombia on the day of President Kennedy’s funeral, November 25, 1963, as member of the 12th group of Peace Corps Volunteers in Colombia. He served in the village of Marsella, Caldas in the Integrated Program of Applied Nutrition, (PINA).
Bill’s career spanned several organizations. He worked for many years as a loan processor for the Navy Federal Credit Union in Vienna, Virginia. As a self-described “people person, “he also particularly enjoyed being a part-time sales associate for Woodward and Lothrop for 27 years until they closed their doors in 1996. He continued to work part time in sales at Macy’s for many years thereafter. Bill especially loved crabbing in the summertime in the Solomon Island and at the Pax River Naval base with family and friends.
While a Peace Corps Volunteer he met Ines Casteneda of the city of Santa Rosa de Cabal, Caldas. In 1965, they were married in Cumberland, Maryland. They had three daughters—Shelby Evans, Lynn and Cynthia and two grandsons, Kennedy and Riley Evans. He is also survived by a brother, Roland Smith of Rawlings, Maryland, and two sisters, Ronelda Davis of LaVale, Maryland and Treva Michaels of Cumberland, Maryland.
Robert Bernero, Colombia 8
Robert Bernero, affectionately known as Bob by all who knew him, passed away on March 8, 2016. He was a civil engineer and consultant who specialized in infrastructure projects, both domestically and internationally. Over his 50-year professional career, he was a Peace Corps Volunteer, and after his service in Colombia, he worked with the U. S. Forest Service, the World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Bob also had extensive consultancies with private groups, such as Booz Allen Hamilton and Tetra Tech. These took him on assignments to Angola, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Mozambique, Malawi, Ecuador, Panama, Dominican Republic, Peru, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Russia and Tanzania. Whenever possible, Bob wanted these cultural experiences to be shared with his family and he managed to have them accompany him often, even later in life, including his grandchildren. When not working abroad, Bob served as a volunteer with the Census Bureau, the GALA Hispanic Theatre, and the Montgomery County Board of Elections.
When his sons spoke at Bob’s memorial service, the sense of family loss was palpable and reminiscent too of a passage in a book called ‘Boys in the Boat’: they thanked him for his goodness, his grace, his honor, his simple civility, and for all the things he had taught them.
Donations may be made in his honor to the American Heart Association (https.//donatenow. heart.org); Friends of Colombia (http://www.friendsofcolombia.org/donate-now/); or the Peace Corps (https://donate.peacecorps.gov/donate/projects-funds/).