October 19, 2005: Headlines: COS - Tonga: Obituaries: Albuquerque Tribune: Tonga RPCV Preston McCrossen dies

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tonga: Peace Corps Tonga : The Peace Corps in Tonga: October 19, 2005: Headlines: COS - Tonga: Obituaries: Albuquerque Tribune: Tonga RPCV Preston McCrossen dies

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Tonga RPCV Preston McCrossen dies

Tonga RPCV Preston McCrossen dies

As a Peace Corps volunteer director in the South Pacific's Kingdom of Tonga, McCrossen landed on an island where everybody knew everybody. News traveled fast on what islanders called "the coconut wireless."

Tonga RPCV Preston McCrossen dies

McCrossen set up Indian center

By Jan Jonas
Tribune Reporter
October 19, 2005

In 1977, Preston McCrossen learned how the coconut wireless worked.

As a Peace Corps volunteer director in the South Pacific's Kingdom of Tonga, McCrossen landed on an island where everybody knew everybody. News traveled fast on what islanders called "the coconut wireless."

Only two years before, McCrossen used his own connections to gather money to create the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. But he and the other founders wanted American Indians to run the show. Once the center opened, McCrossen, who is not American Indian, moved on to other pursuits, including his three-year Peace Corps stint.

McCrossen died Saturday at age 72 after battling ill health for five years.

Macon McCrossen, his wife of 49 years, said he was often fearless - but also tender.

"He was the kind of person who we would nominate to say, `The emperor has no clothes on,' when the rest of us were too afraid," she said. "But he had this kind of gentle side. When someone was in distress, he could talk and understand. When you saw it happen, you were never quite expecting it."

Raised in Santa Fe in the 1930s, Õ40s and Õ50s, McCrossen was used to being around all kinds of people. "He didn't know there were differences between people because of race," Macon McCrossen said. He only knew social and economic differences.

A bus trip to Mexico when he was 18 gave him not only a love for the country but a desire to help people living in poverty.

After attending the University of New Mexico and earning a degree in chemistry, McCrossen worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

"He didn't want to be a scientist because his interest all along was this international political science," his wife said.

So he became a consultant for American Indians on issues of economy and poverty. He worked with the All Indian Pueblo Council in New Mexico and was sent to New York City to work with urban American Indians.

He did the same kind of work in Alaska and Washington state for tribes requesting help.

"I don't know what reservation you could name he hadn't been on," Macon McCrossen said.

He became interested in American Indian culture because "he just related very well to that."

To develop the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, McCrossen sought government economic development funds and money from local business owners.

He included the arts community, working with native artists to enhance the building and grounds.

As much as he enjoyed working with tribes and pueblos, McCrossen wasn't all work. He liked to play.

"He lived hard," she said. He liked parties and after a few drinks of tequila, he would tell great stories.

"In one sense, he was very conservative and in another he didn't get in this job where he had the retirement and that security" that other people seem to covet, said his wife.

When Macon McCrossen was about to marry him, she sent a photograph to her mother.

Her future husband was "sitting in front of an adobe kiva fireplace and on the mantle is a statue of the Virgin Mary. He's in Pancho Villa huraches with rubber-tire soles, smoking a cigarette," she said. "He was not a Catholic; he was not religious. Here was this statue he had. He was just comfortable with that."

Services were held this morning.

When this story was posted in October 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Albuquerque Tribune

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Tonga; Obituaries


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