August 18, 2002 - Jersey Courier Post: RPCV Jack Lutz joins Peace Corps for 2nd time at 80 to go to Poland

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 08 August 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: August 18, 2002 - Jersey Courier Post: RPCV Jack Lutz joins Peace Corps for 2nd time at 80 to go to Poland

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, August 18, 2002 - 8:13 pm: Edit Post

RPCV Jack Lutz joins Peace Corps for 2nd time at 80 to go to Poland

Read and comment on this story from the Jersey Courier Post on Jack Lutz and his wife, both in their 80's, who are joining the Peace Corps for a second time. The story says they previously worked in Poland and are going back to Poland to teach English. There must be some confusion by the reporter who wrote the story since Peace Corps graduated its Poland program in 2001. Read the story at:

South Jersey couple devote lives to public service*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

South Jersey couple devote lives to public service


Don't call Jack Lutz elderly. Call him egheli, a Nigerian title meaning "old warrior who's still ready to get into the fight."

Lutz, 80, will leave in a few weeks for his second tour of duty with the Peace Corps in Poland. The longtime educator and Holiday Village resident will resign from the school board on Sept. 1, volunteering to teach English to college students in Nowy Sacz, a 12th-century, artsy village outside Krakow.

Instead of late-night runs to Super G, he'll shop for fresh fish and produce in an open-air market. He'll leave the keys to his Ford Taurus behind and ride a bus to his apartment in a student hostel.

"When you're close to 81 years old and you get an opportunity to serve young people again, it's very gratifying," said Lutz, whose storied career in public service spans nearly six decades and has taken him all over the world.

His wife, Paz (meaning "peace" in Spanish), shares his commitment and will join him in Poland. They met in Africa in 1976, when she worked for UNICEF and he was an adviser for the United Nations, setting up teacher colleges.

After she nursed him through black water fever and a four- day coma, they were married in Sierra Leone in 1982 - in true multi-cultural style. A civil ceremony was performed by a female Muslim magistrate. They dined on Lebanese food by candlelight on the beach, under soft palm tree fronds.

Their marriage, the second for both, was blessed the following Sunday during a Catholic nuptial Mass. Later, back in the United States, it was consecrated by a Philadelphia rabbi in front of the Torah.

"As he says, we covered all the bases," joked Paz, who was raised in the Philippines and is a Fulbright Scholar with a doctorate in environmental education. She will teach remedial English in Poland, where she joined her husband on their first Peace Corps trip - when he was 75 and she was 69. To the Lutzes, public service is as natural as holding hands.

An active Boy Scout growing up in Northeast Philadelphia, Jack enlisted in the Army with members of his Scout troop after Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.

"I got caught up in the zeal of the moment," he said.

For the next 4 1/2 years, he was a sergeant in charge of radar equipment in the Army Air Corps while stationed in the Aleutian Islands near Alaska. Jack took advantage of the G.I. Bill to put himself through Temple University, where he earned a master's degree in education in 1953.

An avid cartoonist, he augmented his income with nightclub performances as a "chalk-talk artist," a skill that has helped him get through many dull school board meetings.

"I'm a great doodler," he said with a laugh. He was cartoon editor at the college paper and later taught cartooning classes in Mount Laurel and at Burlington County College.

Jack became a public school teacher in Philadelphia, but quickly ascended through the ranks. He served as principal, then assistant superintendent in Plymouth Whitemarsh, near Norristown, Pa., in 1956. He earned his doctorate in education from Temple in 1966.

That broad experience has helped him serve two terms on the local school board.

"He does have the ability to soften any situation and he is blessed with a wonderful wit," said board President Joanne Pelly. "He was very focused and he stuck to the issues. I can't recall one time when he lost his temper."

Jack then became a professor at Glassboro College (now Rowan University), where his interest was piqued by international education. Hired as superintendent of the American Community School in Ethiopia in 1969, he went on to spend 23 years in Africa, developing teacher colleges for UNESCO (United Nations Educational Science and Cultural Organization). His wife focused on improving family health and sanitation conditions for UNICEF and the World Bank.

During those years, they learned how to dance the tinikling, a double-Dutch over moving bamboo sticks, and enjoyed disco and reggae. Dinner parties featured academics from all over the world as well as local faces.

The Lutzes donned cultural garb and collected the ethnic art that now fills their home, including an ebony bust of a native Nigerian woman, a Sri Lankan mask and 280 small elephants carved from jade, ivory, wood and semiprecious stones.

They also survived hardships. In Nigeria, while home alone, Paz was attacked by four burglars. They held a knife to her throat and demanded the keys to her car. While they were stealing a television, she managed to call police, who shot and killed three of them.

"I could smell the gunpowder and I ran and hid in the bathroom," said Paz, who also was bit by a rabid dog during their time in Africa.

"We've been in revolutions and so forth," Jack said. "It wasn't all ginger peachy."

They had electricity only in the evening, and no ice or air conditioning in a brutally hot climate.

The majordomo of their household in Nigeria had four wives and 22 children, one of whom slept on a straw mat in their kitchen.

Jack grew fond of the boy, Abubakar Ahmedu, and paid his way through high school. To pay homage to his father for outstanding service and friendship, the Lutzes decided to adopt the teenager and bring him to the United States. Jack also has two sons from his first marriage, while his wife has five children. They have 15 grandchildren.

Ahmedu graduated from Cheney University in 1990 with a degree in business administration. Now an American citizen, he owns Chef Abu's African restaurant in Philadelphia.

"The rewards that I've gotten from my service to others have been greater than what I've given," said Jack, who encouraged teachers to stay in rural areas of Sierra Leone instead of taking higher-paying city jobs and recruited science and technology teachers to oil-rich areas of Nigeria to develop its fledgling economy following the Biafran War.

At Abraka College in Nigeria, Jack was honored with the title egheli and a citation. He's on the Wall of Fame at Northeast High School, where he serves on the alumni board. He's on the alumni board at Temple, too. Framed certificates proclaiming the Lutzes' achievements dot the walls of their tidy home.

A scrapbook called Jack's World A to Z, made by his wife for his 75th birthday, contains subtitles like "retired but not tired" and "serve fellow humans."

There are photos of friends, family and the Lutzes in places as far-flung as Jerusalem, Rome, Dachau and Katmandu - their favorite place on Earth. "It's a quaint, unusual city, but very laid back," Jack said. "The people are not sophisticated, but are somehow spiritual," his wife added.

U.N. regulations forced Jack to retire at age 70. When they returned to the United States in 1992, they sold their home near the Philadelphia Museum of Art and chose a rancher on a quiet, shaded street in Holiday Village. He started writing a nostalgia column for the Villager, his community's newspaper, called "Looking Back With Jack." He was executive director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of of of Burlington County for two years, relinquishing his position in June.

Keeping active

In 1993, Jack responded to a school district flier asking residents to join a planning committee to improve multi- cultural relations in the schools.

"At that time, the population was becoming more diversified," he said. When a school board member passed away, Jack applied for the vacancy and was appointed. In 1994, he ran for election and won.

He won again in 2000. With eight months left in his current term, he has mixed emotions about stepping down. " The board should reflect an updated cross-section of the Mount Laurel population," he said. "It's time to give way to younger people."

The Lutzes said they are looking forward to their next adventure in Poland, where they hope improved English- speaking skills will help the former communist country become more democratic.

"It was not only gratifying, but it made me appreciate the cultural values in another country," Paz said. "We made a lot of friends and we knew we were making a difference."

"As Paz and I say, it'll be our last hurrah," Jack said.

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