2007.12.10: December 10, 2007: Headlines: COS - Suriname: Fallen: Obituaries: Safety: Chicago Daily Herald: Friends remember Peace Corps Volunteer Blythe O'Sullivan

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Friends remember Peace Corps Volunteer Blythe O'Sullivan

Friends remember Peace Corps Volunteer Blythe O'Sullivan

A quick wit, an original thinker and a smiling face is how the Bloomingdale 25-year-old is remembered by friends. O'Sullivan was killed Thursday after accidentally tripping an illegal animal gun trap while volunteering with the Peace Corps in Suriname, according to media reports out of the South American country.

Friends remember Peace Corps Volunteer Blythe O'Sullivan

Bloomingdale woman killed in South America remembered as a volunteer

By Jake Griffin | Daily Herald Staff

When Kari Pikus woke up on her 16th birthday to discover her parents' front yard had been peppered with smiley faces, she immediately knew who the culprit was.

Blythe O'Sullivan was the personification of those round, yellow icons of happiness, her friends said.

"She really is the greatest person I ever met," Pikus said. "Everywhere she went, she was smiling."

High school pal Sue Page remembers carrying out the smiley face caper with O'Sullivan for their friend's birthday.

"She called them 'Goobers,'" explained Page. "I have no idea why. She just had the idea, and I was tagging along."

A quick wit, an original thinker and a smiling face is how the Bloomingdale 25-year-old is remembered by friends. O'Sullivan was killed Thursday after accidentally tripping an illegal animal gun trap while volunteering with the Peace Corps in Suriname, according to media reports out of the South American country.

Peace Corps spokesman Richard Parker said investigators had been dispatched to the region to clarify reports of O'Sullivan's death.

"We're sending our investigators to get the story straight," he said. "They haven't gotten there yet, so I can't get into the specifics."

However, published reports said she had been shot in the leg and bled to death en route to a hospital.

O'Sullivan joined the Peace Corps in May 2006 and had been stationed in Suriname to help build a community center for women in the impoverished country, Parker said.

"She loved being out in the jungle," Pikus said. "She liked the work, but I think she was frustrated with a feeling she wasn't doing enough down there, but she loved the village where she lived and the people she knew there."

Pikus and Page befriended O'Sullivan while freshmen at St. Francis High School in Wheaton. They described their friend as a bit of an adventurer who dabbled in just about everything.

"I remember one year on her birthday she had a murder-mystery party where everyone had to dress up like the character they were playing, and I was so excited to get invited," said Serena Brommel. "It was a select group, but it was people who normally didn't hang out together at school, that was what she was like. She had a knack for bringing different people together."

Though her interests varied widely, O'Sullivan found a calling in the theater department at the school.

"We were in musicals together," said Sarah Malouf, "but she did things on stage and behind the scenes, she loved drama. She had a sense of adventure and was willing to try anything."

O'Sullivan graduated from St. Francis among the top 10 seniors in 2000. She went to Bradley University in Peoria, where she received a bachelor's degree, majoring in marketing and theater in 2004. She moved to Denver and learned to snowboard.

"I loved it when she moved to Colorado, because I was in Arizona, and now she was closer to me," Pikus said. "We'd go skiing in the morning when I'd visit; it was great."

O'Sullivan learned about the Peace Corps from a friend, and the adventure bug bit again, Pikus said.

Her MySpace Web page humorously details her adventures in Suriname.

"The Peace Corps volunteer learns to see the glass as half full," she writes in her Web page introduction, "and then uses that glass to take a shower."

She also explains how simplified life is in her new home.

"The river is like one-stop shopping," she wrote. "You can wash clothes, dishes, yourself, clean your meat and gather your drinking water."

She even acknowledges her legendary grin, somewhat prophetically.

"I laugh and smile a lot," she wrote, "because, well, why not? Life's too short not to."

Friends of the Bloomingdale family who answered O'Sullivan's parents' phone said funeral arrangements are pending.

For the Peace Corps Fallen

Read and comment on this article written by Swaziland RPCV Jack Conrad on the Memorial Service for the 254 Peace Corps Volunteers who have died in service held at Arlington Cemetery on June 23, 2002 at:

For the Peace Corps Fallen*

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

For the Peace Corps Fallen

This past Sunday was sunny and steamy hot in Washington, D.C. In the morning, hundreds of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers assembled beside the Lincoln Memorial. There they distributed among themselves flags from each of the countries in which the Peace Corps has served - 135 in all. They then marched, led by the flag bearers, in reverent tribute across the Potomac River to Arlington National Cemetery. At the cemetery they mounted the large hill before them, veering to the right in order to pay their respects to the agency's founder, at the grave of President John F. Kennedy. Then they continued on to the top of the hill and the amphitheater beside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. That's where the remembrance ceremony began.

A quartet of Washington, D.C. police officers, called "Prophecy," started the commemoration with gospel music. Then Pat Reilly, President of the National Peace Corps Association Board, stood at the podium, recalling her first encounter with the Peace Corps ("You can't send me to Sierra Leone. I don't speak Spanish! Besides, I wanted to go to Africa!"). Following the assembled volunteers' singing of America the Beautiful, a Rabbi and an Imam shared their prayers with the audience, prayers for the work of the Peace Corps, prayers for Peace. Pat Reilly returned to the stage to share a poem dedicated to those volunteers who gave their lives during their service. Presented below, it packed a punch. Then an unscheduled guest took the stage, newly confirmed Peace Corps Director, Gaddy Vasquez. He shared his brief remarks about the organization, its heightened importance, and again, reverence for those who never returned from their assignments - 254 individuals in all. He disclosed that he thinks about them every day---upon entering and leaving the Peace Corps Office---as there is a large panel with the names of the departed just beside the entrance ...

Next Congressman Christopher Shays from Connecticut (RPCV, Fiji) took the stage, striking just the right note when he asserted that "We walked their paths, rode their buses, bathed in their pools and spoke their languages ... We came home different and with a greater appreciation of our country."

A few other speakers followed, Michelle Forman, the national teacher of the year (RPCV, Nepal), Harris Wofford, instrumental in the founding of the Peace Corps, later a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, and more recently a Clinton Administration task force member, and lastly the coordinator of the conference, Cori Welbourn Bassett (RPCV, Sri Lanka).

The ceremony ended with a final procession of the flags ...

I was honored to have the chance to depart the amphitheater carrying the flag of Swaziland. As I did, I thought about the five Swaziland PCVs who never returned from their service alive.

(1) Frederick A. Schwartz (1970)

(2) Janis Hyatt (1981)

(3) Brenda Crawford (1988)

(4) Juanita Quiton (1988)

(5) Laura Stedman (1996)

I *believe* I met Brenda and Juanita before I left Swaziland in 1987. They would have been among the latest trainees. I heard later, when I was teaching in West Africa in '88, that they had died in an auto accident, while traveling from Johannesburg to Zimbabwe, somewhere on the road between the two.

It would be interesting to hear about the personalities of these five volunteers and more about the circumstances behind their deaths. Did any of you know them?

For the Peace Corps Fallen

We who left you
Before our time
May return if you reach back

And carry a world
With us
Within you.

Let our monument
Be the mark you make
In the life you lead of peace and purpose.

Do, so that we may do
Act, so that we may act
Live, so that we may live

Again, through you.

---by Donald Maclean

Salani kahle, Bonkhosi,

Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: December, 2007; Peace Corps Suriname; Directory of Suriname RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Suriname RPCVs; Fallen; Obituaries; Safety and Security of Volunteers

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Story Source: Chicago Daily Herald

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Suriname; Fallen; Obituaries; Safety


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