Beryl A. Brinkman
Beryl A. Brinkman, inveterate traveler, vertebrate wordsmith, scrabbler extraordinaire, warrior for peace, student of cultures and languages, supporter of causes just and all around best friend to hundreds, has made her last journey.
Beryl started her life on a small farm in Wisconsin and ended her days in Eugene some 67 years later. She had been fatally bitten by the travel bug after her college years at North Central College in Illinois. In the early sixties, she hopped a freighter to Spain and never looked back on the simple farm life. After Spain she journeyed to Afghanistan as a Peace Corps volunteer and her family says this was a turning point in her life. Afghanistan was a wild and undiscovered country in 1967 and Beryl made many lifetime friends there. Beryl served with 20 other women as a vaccinator for smallpox, traveling by horse, donkey and even camels to remote villages to vaccinate women and children. That work contributed to the eventual eradication of that devastating disease. Concerned for the poverty and the kids she had worked with in Afghanistan, she was an activist against poverty and war from that day onward. She had also become an avid traveler and would be ready for a trip at the drop of a hat. One friend remembers remarking in the 80's, "I think I will go to Russia" and Beryl's response was, "I'm in."
She set a pattern of meeting new friends in the oddest of places and absorbing them into her growing family. She was never judgmental instead accepting people for what was in their hearts. To keep tabs with all her new buddies, she established the "esteemed correspondents" list whereby she would issue well-crafted travelogues laced with the wonderful characters and odd situations which she encountered. Her writing was so vivid that readers could smell the curry and taste the sweets. Many of Beryl's friends traveled the world with her through her emails. Since the early 70's she made Oregon her home and had made her conversion to a loyal duck fan with panache. In Eugene, Beryl worked for the State of Oregon for over 20 years, most recently at the Oregon State Scholarship Commission. Beryl loved the independent spirit of the Oregonians and admired the state staff she worked with. She was a founding member of the West Cascade Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Group and ever active in international movements/affairs, she served as president and co-chair of the National Council of RPCV's. She put Eugene on the Peace Corps map. Largely as a result of her efforts (and some chocolate bribes) the National Council held its 24th annual meeting in Eugene. For years she has mentored foreign students and transcended cultural and language differences. Her beloved Tanzanian housemate assisted her in her final moments. She honed her own writing skill, edited two Peace Corps books and was working on another of her early letters. Recently she was asked to write a book review for a national publication and she was awed that her talents had been recognized.
She is survived by her brothers Lynn of Wisconsin, and Nathan of California, and sister Natalie of Ohio, 10 nieces and nephews scattered throughout the States. Donations in Beryl's memory can be sent to Patricia Tate, 4704 Larkwood Ave., Eugene OR 97405 designated for the Beryl Brinkman Memorial Fund. Money will go to projects she was working on for building schools and clinics in Afghanistan and to a fund for students in Tanzania.
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Published in Eugene Register-Guard on February 8, 2007