May 4, 2003 - The Olympian: Ring/Johnson Family boasts three generations of Peace Corps Volunteers

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By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, May 06, 2003 - 6:09 am: Edit Post

Ring/Johnson Family boasts three generations of Peace Corps Volunteers

Third generation Peace Corps Volunteer Amon Johnson is on his way to his assignment in Guatemala.

Read and comment on this story from the The Olympian on the Ring/Johnson Family that boasts three generations of Peace Corps Volunteers. Grandmother Pat Ring, 77, joined the Peace Corps in 1971, shortly after the death of her husband and was assigned to a mobile health team given the task of controlling a tuberculosis epidemic among indigenous people of the Amazon River in the interior of Brazil. Mother Diana Johnson, 55, joined at the same time and served in Uganda and Kenya. "Neither of us knew the other was planning to join. It was a heckuva coincidence." Now Diana's son Amon Johnson has left his hometown of Olympia for his Peace Corps assignment in Guatemala.

We know of many Peace Corps families that span two generations. This is the first instance of a three generation Peace Corps family that we have heard about. Congratulations to the Ring/Johnson family. Read the story at:

Family bridges generation gaps through Peace Corps service*

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

Family bridges generation gaps through Peace Corps service



For more columns by John Dodge, visit the Soundings section.

Amon Johnson left his hometown of Olympia on Saturday for his Peace Corps assignment in Guatemala.

The 1992 Capital High School graduate follows in the footsteps of his mother, Diana Johnson of Olympia, and his grandmother, Pat Ring of Seaview.

That's right, three generations of Peace Corps workers, all with very different stories to tell.

Ring, 77, joined the Peace Corps in 1971, shortly after the death of her husband.

"She and I joined at the same time," said Diana Johnson, 55. "Neither of us knew the other was planning to join. It was a heckuva coincidence."

Johnson, who was active in the Vietnam War anti-war movement at the time, was working at the University of Washington art department.

"For me, it was a response to the war," said Johnson, an AIDS program supervisor for the Thurston County Public Health Department. "It was a time when I really needed some perspective and I needed to get out of America. They sent me to Uganda. I didn't even know where it was."

She wasn't there long. She arrived shortly after Idi Amin, commander and chief of the Ugandan armed forces, seized control of the country, signaling the beginning of a brutal dictatorship that lasted until 1979 and claimed the lives of some half million Ugandans.

Peace Corps authorities evacuated Johnson and her co-workers to neighboring Kenya, where she spent most of her two-year stint teaching art to high school students.

It was a life-altering experience. Upon completion of her tour of duty, she turned to a career in public health and returned to Africa several times as an employee of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Her west Olympia home is adorned with African art and she has served as a foster parent for a child from the African country of Sudan.

Before joining, Ring was a medical lab technician in rural Pacific County. About the time her husband died, the Peace Corps changed its policy to allow adults with children to serve.

"I had a choice -- I could keep going to work at the hospital and come home at night and mow the lawn, or I could do something totally different by joining the Peace Corps," she recalled. "I chose the Peace Corps."

Ring was assigned to a mobile health team given the task of controlling a tuberculosis epidemic among indigenous people of the Amazon River in the interior of Brazil. They helped curb the TB outbreak, but the Indian people and their way of life were eventually destroyed with the advance of roads and civilization into the region.

"I was very frustrated and angry," she said of the Indians' demise.

Her grandson, Amon, took his own, independent route to the Peace Corps, recently quitting his job as a corporate law attorney in Seattle with a goal of seeing new places and learning about new cultures.

"The experiences of my mother and grandmother definitely shaped my decision," said Amon Johnson, 28. "I liked my job, but I didn't like being stuck in an office. One of the mistakes I made is hanging a huge map of the world on my office wall."

He will train in Guatemala City for three months before receiving his assignment. He has no idea what he'll be asked to do, or where in the country he'll be assigned, which is fine with him.

The Peace Corps was born out of a 1960 campaign idea conceived by soon-to-be President John F. Kennedy. He challenged the young adults of this Cold War nation, asking how many would be willing to serve their country and the cause of peace by living and working in developing nations.

On March 1, 1961, Kennedy signed an executive order establishing the Peace Corps. In the ensuing 40-plus years, more than 168,000 Americans have responded to Kennedy's original challenge.

When Ring and her daughter enlisted in the Peace Corps, they received a monthly allowance of $125. Johnson will receive $250 a month, a far cry from what he was pulling in a few short months ago at the law office.

Both mom and grandma are supportive of Johnson's decision to set aside his career for a while.

"I don't blame him -- it's a good idea to see the world while you are young," Ring said.

No fan of President George W. Bush and his foreign policies, including the invasion of Iraq, Amon Johnson is still reconciling the fact that he's working for the federal government.

He sees himself more as a goodwill ambassador and student of another culture.

"I encouraged him from when he was small to be a global citizen," his mother said.

And along the way, she planted the seed for yet another family member to be a Peace Corps volunteer.

John Dodge covers the environment and energy for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5444 or by e-mail at

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Uganda; COS - Kenya; COS - Brazil; COS - Guatemala; Multi-generational Volunteer Famiies



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