March 20, 2004 - Shawnee News-Star: Namibia RPCV Fern Holland remembered in memorial

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Namibia: Special: Namibia RPCV Fern Holland put her life on the line for Iraqi Women: March 20, 2004 - Shawnee News-Star: Namibia RPCV Fern Holland remembered in memorial

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Namibia RPCV Fern Holland remembered in memorial

Namibia RPCV Fern Holland remembered in memorial

Namibia RPCV Fern Holland remembered in memorial

Activist remembered in memorial
Associated Press Writer

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- The friends of slain human rights activist Fern Holland remembered her in life Friday as a star attorney, a passionate fireball, a teacher and a fighter of injustice.

And the Rev. Marlin Lavanhar summed up her death: "This is truly an international loss."

Several hundred people gathered at All Souls Unitarian Church to mourn the 33-year-old former Tulsa lawyer who was assassinated March 9 in Iraq, where she was working to help women achieve basic rights.

Holland was remembered for her beauty, her bravery, her intelligence, her love for life and the people whose lives she was trying to improve.

"Everywhere she went she brought light where there was darkness," said her friend and fellow lawyer Stephen Rodolf.

Holland, another American civilian and a translator were slain by Iraqi gunmen near Hillah, 35 miles south of Baghdad. The two civilians were the first Americans working for the U.S. occupation authority to be killed in Iraq.

As a member of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Holland had opened women's centers in Iraq, arranged conferences and helped write part of the country's interim constitution.

"She was very concerned the women in south central Iraq were going to be forgotten," said her friend, B.A. Rudolph.

She was proud of the fact the constitution guaranteed women at least 25 percent of the seats in the new government. But "she wanted 60 (percent) and she wanted everyone to know she wanted 60," Rudolph said to laughter.

Holland grew up in Miami in northeastern Oklahoma. A 1996 graduate of the University of Tulsa College of Law, she worked at two law firms in Tulsa and became known as a tough litigator.

But fellow lawyer Jim Green said Holland had other ambitions and joined the Peace Corps in 2000, traveling to Namibia.

Later, she returned to West Africa to investigate atrocities against refugee women and children and set up legal aid clinics to help them.

One of the clinics has been renamed in her honor, Green said.

"In her 33 years, Fern did it all," he said. "She died doing precisely what she wanted to do."

During the memorial service, U.S. Army officials presented Holland's family with the Defense of Freedom medal, the civilian equivalent of the military's Purple Heart.

"Fern lived a life that left a better place for all of us," said Sandra Riley, assistant to the Secretary of the Army.

Cherokee Chief Chad Smith also recognized Holland, a member of the tribe, as a "Cherokee warrior" who died fighting for her beliefs. He said he brought his children to the service so they could come to know "a true Cherokee hero."

Lavanhar urged mourners not to let Holland's murder fill them with bitterness or a desire for revenge because "that is not what Fern would want."

Green summed up his friend's approach to life in quoting Robert F. Kennedy: "Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

"Fern," Green said, "was our ripple."

Holland is survived by brothers James Holland of Overland Park, Kan., and Joe Holland of Cleveland, and sisters Vi Holland and Mary Ann Dunn of Oklahoma City.

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Story Source: Shawnee News-Star

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Namibia; Obituaries; Iraq; Women's Issues



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