LAFF Society


In Memoriam, Spring 2018


Richard Charles (Chuck) Robarts, who worked at Ford for 19 years in various assignments relating to its work in the Middle East, died March 25 at the age of 85 in Stamford (Conn.) Hospital of complications from Parkinson’s Disease.
Chuck, who graduated magna cum laude from Bowdoin College in Maine and earned master’s degrees from Yale and Columbia universities, went to work at Ford in 1963 as an assistant to the director of administration.
He was assigned to the office in Beirut as assistant to the representative, and subsequently worked in Cairo as deputy representative. Between these assignments he worked as a program officer in New York.
He left Ford in 1982 to become executive director and later president of the Near East Foundation (NEF), founded in 1919 as Near East Relief, this country’s first international development organization. He oversaw the organization’s existing programs and expanded work in Egypt, Jordan, Mali, Morocco, Lesotho, Swaziland and the Sudan.
LAFF learned recently of the death on April 6 last year of John Cole Cool, who spent 12 years in various overseas assignments for Ford in a long and varied career in government and private development work. He had suffered from multiple myeloma for two years until he died at the age of 90.
John began at Ford in 1970 in the New Delhi office, working on population programs. He became the deputy representative there in 1973 and then moved on to posts in Islamabad and Manila before becoming a program officer in New York. He retired from Ford in 1982.
A family biography of John, written at the time of his death, summed up his long career, including with the U.S. Navy during World War II and, after the war, in various posts throughout the Pacific islands and Asia with the Department of the Interior, the State Department, the Agricultural Development Council, Winrock International and Ford.
“He was unwavering in his devotion to the service of humanity,” it says, “and to addressing systemic social problems, including the establishment of participatory rural and community development, local self-government, management of human population growth, reforming archaic agricultural and land tenure systems, management of natural resource systems (especially watershed management, sustainable agriculture and the environment), advocating the need to educate and mentor visionary leadership in countries where he served and addressing problems arising from ethnicity and access to resources.”
Among the tributes from LAFF members who worked with him, Mary Racelis said that, when she became Ford’s representative in Manila, “the participatory development programs he established remained central to Philippine progress. To have an anthropologist with widespread Asian experience initiating people-oriented capacity building programs for community groups, NGOs and government set the standards toward goals we continue to pursue”. 
Natalia Nikova, a native of Russia who worked at Ford for 16 years, died March 8 in New York City of cancer. She was 79 years old.
Natalia began work at the Foundation in 1989 as a senior programmer and analyst and was a project leader in grants management when she retired in 2005.
At a memorial celebration April 19 in Manhattan, her husband, David Stimpson, provided a booklet she had written chronicling the wrenching and harrowing journey she took to emigrate to America.
“I remember,” he said, “tears came to her eyes as she recalled all the troubles she and her mother and daughter had gone through to decide whether or not to migrate, then to prepare for their journey from Leningrad to New York, which eventually took place in the first quarter of 1980.”
Natalia wrote that “….for me, the thought of leaving Russia was filled with horror. I was overwhelmed by fear of an unknown future, and an inability to survive the ordeal.”
But she chose the ordeal because, a few years earlier, “The political weather quickly began to freeze….By the end of the 1960s, our country was again plunged into a darkness of restrictions and arrests.”
In simple and powerful prose, and a sense of the surreal, she describes the preparations for the journey into the unknown.
“….we traveled with only the luggage that we were allowed to take on the airplane, which included 100 pounds of our belongings, one golden ring for each member of the family and 90 U.S. dollars per person,” she wrote.
“My mother was feverishly selling the rest of our household, and sewing a big duffel bag from strong fabric. Everything that we were taking with us was packed into a duffel bag and a huge fiberglass suitcase, a reminder of World War II….”
To protect friends they were leaving, they destroyed their address books and wrote names “on the elastic in the panties that my mother and I would wear on our trip,” she wrote. “…. panties played a big role in our preparations. My mother worried so much about money that she sewed a small pocket in her panties between her legs and hid 300 rubles there.”
Then, at the airport as they finally were leaving, "an agent took my mother and me to a separate room and demanded that we undress completely so they could use a sensor to search our bodies for diamonds or gold in our entrails. 
“‘Now this is the real end,’ I thought. ‘The 300 rubles will be detected in my mother’s panties.’”
But somehow the rubles were not found and they boarded the plane, “numb from utter fatigue and shock” and on their way to America. 
Mary Ruth (Mitzi) Gary, who worked in Building Services for 26 years until her retirement in 1994, died in March.
Mitzi started at Ford in 1968 as a receptionist in Building Services and became a senior staff assistant in 1971. She was named coordinator of meeting services in 1992, a position she held until she retired.
Christel Staedt Carlson, wife of Bruce Carlson, died December 4 at their home in Bethesda, Md. She was 80 years old.
A native of Germany, she and Bruce were married in 1961 and spent most of their years together in assignments as varied as South America, Asia and Africa as Bruce, a public health professional, pursued a career in population and family planning.
He went to work at Ford first in Ghana in 1971 and, over the next 11 years, in Thailand, Peru, Chile and Colombia. He joined the World Bank in 1985 and worked for it in Venezuela for five years.



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