July 1, 1997 - Personal Web Page: A Mother Continues the Mission of Her Son, Zaire RPCV Fred Stone

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Congo - Kinshasa (Zaire): Peace Corps Congo Kinshasa : The Peace Corps in Congo - Kinshasa: July 1, 1997 - Personal Web Page: A Mother Continues the Mission of Her Son, Zaire RPCV Fred Stone

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A Mother Continues the Mission of Her Son, Zaire RPCV Fred Stone

A Mother Continues the Mission of Her Son, Zaire RPCV Fred Stone

A Mother Continues Her Son's Mission

by Mary Jo McLaughlin. From the Summer 1999 SOH Newsletter

On the coffee table in Ann and Fred Stone’s West Hartford living room is a testament to the impact their son, Ralph, had on the lives of others.

It is a scrapbook filled with letters the couple has received from across the world. From remote villages in Africa to the Himalayas in Nepal, people whose lives were enriched by Ralph have written to the Stone’s lamenting the tragedy of their son’s murder. "We will never know how widely the effect of Ralph’s work now ripples … how many people’s lives have been empowered because of their contact with Ralph as a trainer and a friend and the very model of a gentleman," wrote a woman named Mary Anne.

Another wrote: "Mr. Stone was a gentle man of goodness, goodwill and good action … contributing his life and activities in education and empowerment of people for a better world." And from Peru, "It is impossible for me to believe that a person who gave so much of himself to build a better world - a world of peace and harmony - has been a victim of violence and insanity."

Letters of courage

They are letters Ann wishes she never had to read. But, read them she does, because each one gives her the courage to do something she never thought she would be doing in her golden years of retirement: Finishing her son’s dissertation. At the time of his death in July 1997, Ralph, 38, was writing his dissertation for his doctorate degree in education from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. His proposal for the dissertation was so outstanding, that the university is using it as a model for other students preparing theirs.

Ralph was working at the time as director of training for the Center for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA), an organization dedicated to the empowerment of women in third world countries. His job took him around the world to Tokyo, Mexico, Zaire, Namibia, and Uganda to name a few, where he primarily taught women how to teach other women. Before that, he worked for the Peace Corps for three years in Zaire, and later as a consultant for the Center for Disease Control and the Association for International Development.


No physical evidence

The only evidence authorities have in the case is a picture of a man using Ralph’s ATM card at a local bank. That man is currently incarcerated on unrelated charges. According to Ann, police are confident this man is either involved with or responsible for Ralph’s murder, but they do not have any physical evidence linking him to the crime. "Right now, police are waiting for somebody to talk, to come forward with some information to break the case," Ann said.

Without that evidence, the Stones must face the daily frustration of knowing their son’s murderer could very well get away with murder. "I try not to think about that," Ann said. "It’s not what Ralph would want me to do."

So, she focuses on what she is convinced Ralph would want her to do instead, finish his dissertation. "I know he would have wanted me to do this," Ann said. "I know I never would have gotten this far, if he hadn’t wanted me to do this. It is his spirit that is moving me on." It was Ralph’s spirit that walked with Ann and Fred as they returned to Washington the year after he died to watch as George Washington University posthumously conferred upon Ralph a Ph.D in education. Later, talking with Ralph’s faculty advisor and CEDPA co-workers, Ann realized how anxious they were to have Ralph’s research made available. "I suggested that I finish his work, and they said great," Ann said. "It was a spur of the moment decision. Yet, somehow I knew Ralph was behind it."

Despite the disheveled condition of Ralph’s condominium after the murder, the Stone’s were able to find the computer disk containing Ralph’s dissertation and his research material. This included audiotapes of 17 interviews Ralph had conducted with women leaders in Kenya. What she could not find were transcripts of the tapes. "The accents on the tapes were so strong that I could not transcribe them myself," she said. Eventually, Ann learned that a woman in Washington, who agreed to finish the project, had already transcribed seven of the interviews. However, this woman was only able to finish five more interviews, as the accents on the others were inaudible. Luckily, she attended a local gym with a woman from Ghana, who had grown up in Kenya, who was able to finish the transcriptions.

More than coincidences

Some may call these events mere coincidences but Ann believes they were Ralph’s spirit at work. "Completing Ralph’s dissertation is my connection to Ralph, to his work and to his mission," Ann said. That connection became very strong to her as she listened to the interview tapes and heard his voice. "It felt as if he were with me," she said. Ann expects to have the bulk of the dissertation finished by early summer. Then, she can devote more time to her other passions - her work as a member of the board of directors of the Association Promoting Education and Conservation of the Amazon, volunteer service on various church committees and as a social studies tutor for homebound children in Manchester. Also, during tax season, Ann volunteers at H & R Block to help low-income people with their taxes.

Ralph’s time

For now, this is Ralph’s time, she says. "I’m doing this for Ralph. His school and his organization want the research. It will be very helpful to them to have this research. I could not bear to know that he’d done all this work and have it go to waste. "So many people that contacted us told us about the impact Ralph had on their lives," she added. "I couldn’t let this work slip away. I know it could have an impact on the lives of other people." In one of the letters inside the Stone’s scrapbook it is written, "Here in far away Enugi, Nigeria, Ralph Stone still lives in our work, our positive thinking and our faith." So too in a house in West Hartford does Ralph Stone still live on in the life of a mother who refuses to let the son who once touched her life stop touching the lives of others.

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Story Source: Personal Web Page

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Congo Kinshasa; Obituaries; Crime



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