First Peace Corps Members End 25th Reunion EDITOR’S NOTE: Arnold Zeitlin was a member of
First Peace Corps Members End 25th Reunion EDITOR’S NOTE: Arnold Zeitlin was a member of Ghana I, the first Peace Corps group to be sent abroad 25 years ago.
GLOUCESTER, Mass. (AP) _ Members of the first Peace Corps group sent abroad in 1961 ended their 25th reunion Sunday with a splash of 23-year-old triple distilled Ghana Gin.
″I am apologizing to the gods for awakening them so far from their home,″ said Anani Dzidzienyo, the Ghanaian-born professor of African-American studies at Brown University who conducted the West African ritual while standing on rock off Bass Cove beach.
Dzidzienyo appealed to traditional spirits in Twi, a southern Ghanaian language that the early volunteers tried to learn without much success. The first recruits, part of Ghana I, watched the ceremony as they stood on the rocks.
The libation was poured in memory of former Ghana I members John McGinn, of Alameda, Calif., killed in an an accident in the United States in 1964, and Dorothy D. Vellenga, an associate professor of sociology at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, who died of cancer in 1985.
Dzidzienyo met the volunteers as a secondary school student in Ghana, where the first Peace Corps contingent arrived Aug. 30, 1961, after a 17-hour flight from Washington.
The gin was supplied by former volunteer Bob Scheuerman of Longueuil, Quebec, who bought the bottle when he left Ghana in 1963 at the end of his two-year teaching tour. Scheuerman, now a Canadian citizen, teaches English as a second language in Quebec.
Of the 51 Ghana I volunteers who went abroad in 1961, 49 survive; 38 attended the reunion.
They were the first of about 120,000 Peace Corps volunteers and staff that in 25 years have served in 114 countries. Nearly 6,000 Peace Corps volunteers serve now in 64 countries.
Newell Flather, fresh off the Harvard University campus when he joined Ghana I in 1961 and now a Boston financier, provided his family’s Bass Rocks beach house for the reunion.
″Ours is the real reunion,″ he said, referring to a meeting the Peace Corps has scheduled for 1961 volunteers with President Reagan in the White House Rose Garden on Sept. 22. Flather also is a founder of the relief agency Oxfam America.
″The experience matured me,″ said Jim Kelly, of Falls Church, Va., talking about his tenure with the Peace Corps. ″And it certainly changed my life.″
Kelly went to Ghana as a high school teacher, returned to study African development economics at Columbia University, and recently retired after 20 years of service in seven African countries as a development specialist for the U.S. Agency for International Development.