Did anyone know Moritz Thomsen?

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ecuador: February 9, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: RPCV Moritz Thomsen (Ecuador) : Did anyone know Moritz Thomsen?

By Admin1 (Admin) on Tuesday, May 08, 2001 - 7:20 pm: Edit Post

Did anyone know Moritz Thomsen?

I was a great admirer of the four books that
Moritz Thomsen's wrote especially "Living Poor"
which I have just finished re-reading for the
fifth or sixth time.

I was already in the Peace Corps when it came
out and always wanted to make the trip to
Guayaquil to meet him - but I never got the
chance - and now it is too late.

Would someone who knew him personally mind
sharing a few anecdotes about him. Was he
really like he appeared in his books?

By Wilson Ring (Wring) on Thursday, May 10, 2001 - 3:14 pm: Edit Post

I met Moritz Thomsen once, at a Cafe in Quito while I was still in training. He seemed rather annoyed at the attention from the fawning Peace Corps trainee who was eager to speak with him about his book (I only read Living Poor). I visited Rio Verde once and worked with some volunteers who worked there.
I have to say I did not know him well enough to provide much of a personality analysis. I have been trying to decide whether to buy his latest book, the one about his struggles with his father.

While I did not know him well I certainly remember meeting him and Living Poor went a long ways towards getting me interested in the Peace Corps.

By Al Stevenson on Wednesday, June 27, 2001 - 1:17 pm: Edit Post

I was a PCV in Ecuador from 1970 to 1975. During that time, I probably saw Moritz only twice. Once in Quito, another PCV from my group and I shared a few cervezas with him at a place in the Parque Alameda. The other time was in Esmeraldas, where by chance I happened to be at the same time he was. I have two copies of Living Poor, which has to be one of the best books by a PCV. It is so long ago that I cannot remember any specifics from our 2 encounters. I have one other connection tho. Some family friends in Idaho Falls, ID, told me (Again, years ago) that he had been the Best Man at their wedding in Montana..

By Dan Wharton on Wednesday, April 17, 2002 - 11:23 am: Edit Post

I was uniquely privileged to have Moritz Thomsen as one of the trainers in PC Training/Big Timber Montana in 1969. Then, I became a PC volunteer in Esmeraldas, not far from Moritz's farm ("on the river of Emeralds") and so several of us had regular interaction with Moritz, Ramon, and Esther. He was indeed well-represented in his books, in many ways a natural-born pessimist, but oh so articulate on the subject!

By Lenny Ljungholm on Thursday, May 09, 2002 - 10:54 pm: Edit Post

Met him when he visited our training group to impart some local knowledge of volunteer life in Ecuador. I remember his comments about volunteers with "their big yellow leather boots" arriving in town. I don't think he was talking about a particular volunteer as much as he was generalizing about volunteers, particularly the new arrivals, whose apparel (and attitude) clashed with the working class garb (and demeanor) of the campesinos. His descriptions and examples of people living in poverty are illuminating, I'm sure, to most of us.

By deugenia on Wednesday, August 21, 2002 - 8:34 pm: Edit Post

My husband Robert Dressel and I, Eugenia, operated a hog farm in Santo Domingo 72-74. Maruice used to come often to farm to buy corn from us. He used to get pretty annoyed when I pointed out to him what he owed.We would sit in my little cabin and have philosophical nd academic discussions I couldn't follow. His book Living Poor is still the best book for pointing out the challenges in serving in a poor country. He was an eternal pessinmist, (ie he was always growing the wrong crop on his farm) He was also opininated, charming and exasperating if you did not agree with him. On his farm one time with our family he pointed out a huming bird nest to my little girl that he had plowed around not to disturb. We often saw him in Quito at the bookstore and restaurants. Never took care of his health. Came down with diseases I didn't know we had in Ecuador. His later books to me seemed dark and rather sad. Eugenia

By Megan Criley Doyon on Tuesday, September 24, 2002 - 2:11 pm: Edit Post

In the early 80's, I had the opportunity or misfortune of being one of the first volunteers that ended up in Rio Verde years after Moritz Thomsen made his mark there. My roommate and I lived in a house that happened to be the house next door to where Moritz lived in Rio Verde. The people still remembered him, and the village was still divided as to who Moritz favored and who he didn't. In some houses, his name was forbidden, in others, his name was always followed by anecdotes and showings of the shovels or some such gift that he gave.
I met Moritz in Quito years later, and he was gruff and unimpressed that his reputation was still alive, although he did remember names and personalities.

By Charles Johnson on Monday, December 02, 2002 - 2:03 am: Edit Post

I was a volunteer in Cariamanga (prov. of Loja) from 1964-66. Moritz came through for a few days as part of his in-country orientation. He was a gruff sort, but fascinating and very friendly. We were blown out by the fact that he was a pig farmer, but so well read. Never saw him again, but have read his books. Does anyone know if it's true that he died of cholera in Guayaquil?

By Ed Bagley on Friday, January 24, 2003 - 10:24 pm: Edit Post

I met Moritz several times in Quito and Santo Domingo in 1965 and 1966. I was stationed in Chone, Manabi with Heifer Project. He was often grumpy, always unimpressed with the almost mythical reputation he already had. He liked to remind people that he was just a pig farmer. He didn't take good care of himself, his health suffered. As I remember, he smoked a lot and liked to share a beer or two from which he would offer some strong opinions in the inevitable political/philosophical discussions.

By Lisa Mirande-Lind on Wednesday, February 05, 2003 - 7:31 am: Edit Post

I was a Cattle Extension agent in 1981 (Roca Fuerte, Esmeraldas province),and stayed a few nights at Moritz's house during my initial days in site. I had not read "Living Poor" when I met him and Moritz gave me the first printing of his book " On the River of Emeralds". Our tech trainer during PST was Ron Dudley who was a good friend of Moritz during their time as PCVs. Moritz was a really down to earth, interesting man and a PC legend.

By AndreaHrrsn on Monday, May 19, 2003 - 9:03 am: Edit Post

My dad, William Thomas Dean (a.k.a. Biff or Bill), was a PCV in the early 1960's. He did his training in Bozeman, MT. He was friends with Ron Dudley, Moritz Thomsen and many others. I was just wondering if anyone served with him or remembered him. If you have any stories and/or photographs that would be great!

By claymorgan on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 - 1:55 pm: Edit Post

I met Moritz in 1978 in Quito, corresponded with him for years, and went back to visit him near Esmeraldas airport in 1985. He was a big sentimentalist, for all his gruffness. Once, he gave me a month's "rent" to take to some squatters living on the river bank. I came upon an old black woman in a top hat, smoking a long clay pipe, and an old man weaving a beautiful cylindrical fishtrap out of wicker. I said, "I've brought the rent," and the old man turned around. He was totally blind. Later, Mortiz told me that he felt just like that old blind man.

By Jim Jensen (customer21022.porta.net - on Wednesday, January 21, 2004 - 10:34 am: Edit Post

I was not a PCV, but lived in Esmeraldas from 1971 to 2003. I knew Moritz personally and he was a very bitter man. By 1971 he was no longer living in Rio Verde, but in the Viche area, in Male I believe. Some time in the 1980's I visited him at a small house next to the Airport in Tachina. By then his health had greatly deteriorated and his bitterness increased. If any PCV that lived in Las Palmas in 1971 sees this message, I would appreciated renewing contact. One was Jim from Los Angeles who worked with the Electric Company and another worked with a Fishing co-op.

By Andrea Harrison (82-33-109-135.cable.ubr04.stav.blueyonder.co.uk - on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 4:41 pm: Edit Post

(I have changed my email address)My dad, William Thomas Dean (a.k.a. Biff or Bill), was a PCV in the early 1960's. He did his training in Bozeman, MT. He was friends with Ron Dudley, Moritz Thomsen and many others. I was just wondering if anyone served with him or remembered him. If you have any stories and/or photographs that would be great!

By George Baker (cache-rtc-aa13.proxy.aol.com - on Sunday, April 01, 2007 - 11:06 am: Edit Post

I trained with Moritz in Bozeman(1964). Everyone loved the guy. Would tell us about his pig farm in Redding, CA. Always upbeat and at his age still kept up with the youngsters. Although I have not read his books, I'm sure his impish sense of humor was evident. His often used word from the very beginning of training was: FANTASTICO! Great memories. I'd had no contact since leaving Ecuador. I wonder how old he was when he died; or did he?

By a pvc (uw-71-52.uwyo.edu - on Wednesday, May 02, 2007 - 3:37 pm: Edit Post

I met Moritz during his regular visits to Rancho Ronald in Santo Domingo in the early 70's. We drank a lot, he chained smoked, and we discussed books until late at night. We finally got around to discussing his book Living Poor. He didn't have too much to say about it and I told him that his style was very much like Kurt Vonnegut who I admired. He shrugged and on one of his visits he gave me a shoe box with his latest manuscript "Farm on the River Esmeraldas." I stayed up all night reading it and told him the next morning that it was a lot like his first book and the people who would read it would be all those who liked his first book. He shrugged when I told him that he should write about his experiences during WWII as Vonnegut's book seemed to impact a lot of people and that he did have the ability to tell a good story. I visited him a number of times on his farm and spent most of my time with Ramon as he is just like Mortiz discribes him in his book. I ran into him once in Quito on the street around 1976. I was with the owner of a health food store and Mortiz told him that he had eaten an alfalfa cookie at his store which tasted like...well alfalfa. He then looked at Jamie and said "you know if you give chickens alfalfa they stop laying." He then said almost to himself. "I guess since I ate that cookie maybe I'll stop laying" My brother visited him in Guayaquil in the late 80's and said that he was killing himself with smoking and not eating right. I was sad to hear he died the way he did, but I guess that is the way he wanted it. John Coyne wrote a good piece on him in his blog (see below)

By Dennis (unassigned.fema.gov - on Monday, October 08, 2007 - 3:31 pm: Edit Post

I met Moritz in Rio Verde or Viche in 71 or 72
I lived in La Concordia and traveled with Dave Gehrman to visit Moritz. He was somewhat negative but I thought he needed a break from his surroundings--sorry about the spelling--no espeekie ingi after all these years.I would be interrested in catching up with the anon guy who worked Rancho Ronald-Bangs? Stew?I was stationed
Sto Domingo '71-'74--Nicho Rocafuerte

By poates ( on Thursday, May 04, 2017 - 1:38 pm: Edit Post

Yes, I knew Moritz. My (future) father's bombadier in WWII days. I have a LOT of memories from the days after the war, when my dad and he came up to Tehama County in Northern California to farm, plant orchards, and--uh--paint. My dad, Jack, and my Uncle Earl went down to Quito at least a couple of times--in the '80's to try to get him to come back to California. The last time I saw him was about 1970, or '71, when he returned to Vina for a short time to recuperate from his lung infection. Yes, he was disgruntled about a lot of things, but he always got to laughing when he talked to my dad--who could usually get just about anyone to laugh. So bright. And so lonely, I think. I'll never forget those bright blue eyes, kinda crooked smile, and bushy (in those days) blond hair. Yes, I have a few cousins who also remember him quite well--also have two of the three journals he kept while stationed at Basingborne, in '43-'44. Am enjoying the posts of some of the folks who knew him toward the end of his life. The bookstore owner in Quito called me when he died.

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