Friday, November 21, 2014

Van Shuler - 108 - Oldest Known Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Dies

Van & Gard Shuler - 1968 -
on a bullock cart in Maharashtra
Van at 100 - oldest
known returned Volunteer
Vasai Fort
Bassein fort and fishing boat
I had the good fortune to know Evangeline "Van" Shuler and her husband Gard. They were retired teachers who in 1967 at age 62 joined the Peace Corps.  We were in the same group of ten married couples - all but them young - who went to Maharashtra, India.  They lived in an unelectrified village on the Deccan plateau.  I couldn't handle that and the Peace Corps managers wisely sent us to Bassein - a fishing village and fringe commuter town 30 miles north of central Bombay.   Margo and I spent two years there.  I was assigned to a Catholic! fisherman's co-op and spent some days at sea with men who hauled nets hand over hand.  The shifts were determined by the tides and we slept on deck (crew of 7 + the boy cook).  Margo focused on elementary school children who got a share of the fish caught by the UNICEF funded Danish marine engines on my hosts boats.

Tragically Gard Shuler, a handsome and able man died of viral meningitis in 1968.  Van carried on in Maharashtra - completing her twenty seven month service (we left at 24 months for me to start grad school at Boston University under the historian Howard Zinn to whom I applied with a letter that was pretty silly looking back at it.  I took the LSAT in Bombay because I couldn't see myself writing a doctoral dissertation - unlike Margo who got her PhD at Rutgers and has long taught American history at University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee,

It was a different world.  The fastest way to communicate with home was by aerogramme letter.  To call home (we did twice) we had to go to Bombay to the central post office.  We got our news by shortwave radio - VOA, All India Radio, Radio Moscow, and Radio Peking (which relentlessly denounced "the Soviet renegade revisionist clique" ten years before such a `clique' actually triumphed in China itself).

Van, who died August 17, 2014 at her Florida home, is remembered in this piece on the occasion of her 100th birthday.
- gwc

Oldest Known Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Turns 100 | Peace Corps
"WASHINGTON, D.C., June 2, 2006 When Evangeline Shuler, born in 1906 and who served as a volunteer in the 1960s, arrived at a recent 45th anniversary event for the Peace Corps, it seemed almost everyone in the room wanted to hear her stories.

Shuler, of Seattle, turns 100 on June 4, and while the Peace Corps does not uniformly collect statistics on volunteers once they leave service, she is the oldest known returned Peace Corps volunteer alive today."

'via Blog this'