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Jean-Louise Thacher

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Jean-Louise Thacher Obituary
Jean-Louise "Beenie" Naffziger Thacher An advocate of greater understanding of the Middle East, where she lived and traveled for many years as the wife of a U.S. diplomat, she died Nov. 28th at the age of 89 at her home in San Francisco. A fourth generation Californian, Mrs. Thacher was born in San Francisco in 1921 and graduated from Miss Burke's High School as the class valedictorian. She attended the French School, a finishing school in New York, and then graduated from Stanford University in 1944 with a degree in Psychology, where she was also a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. She served in the Red Cross as a psychiatric social worker in military hospitals from 1944 - 1947. She was the second daughter of Louise McNear and Dr. Howard C. Naffziger, Chairman of Neurosurgery at U.C. San Francisco and later a member of the University Of California Board Of Regents. Her Great Grandfather, John A. McNear, arrived in Petaluma from Maine in 1856 and became one of its founding fathers. She met her husband, Nicholas G. Thacher, a U.S. Foreign Service Officer in New York City while working the publisher Henry Holt and Company. Together they went to his first post in the newly created country of Pakistan in 1947. In addition to Karachi, Pakistan, she lived in Calcutta, where two of her three children were born, Baghdad (Iraq), Jidda (Saudi Arabia), Tehran (Iran), and Washington, D.C. Her husband retired as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia in 1973 and they returned to San Francisco where he passed away in 2002. Mrs. Thacher was an avid student of each of the countries she lived in; she learned to speak the language in each country, studied the history, architecture and cuisine, made friends, and planted gardens - even in the sands of Saudi Arabia. Her fascination with the Middle East lasted for the rest of her life. In 1991 the University of Texas Press published her bibliography of English translations entitled: An Annotated Partial Bibliography of Contemporary Middle Eastern and North African Poetry, Prose, Drama and Folktales. She was also a founding member of a writing group of San Francisco women that published two books: The Subject of Our Lives and Proust, Pickles and Paychecks. These include essays on her experiences and contacts overseas, including her volunteer work with Mother Teresa of Calcutta from 1951-2, just as Mother Teresa started the Missionaries of Charity. She served on the boards of the Near East Foundation, Middle East Institute, The International Hospitality Center, and The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, and she wrote book reviews for the World Affairs Council and the Middle East Journal. She wished for a life of adventure and got what she wished for. She knew world leaders, had friends all over the world and witnessed firsthand major world events, including the chaos that followed the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the Iraqi revolution in 1958, and the regime of the Shah in Iran. She is survived by three children: Scott Thacher (of San Diego), Edith Thacher (of Sacramento), and Adam Thacher (of Piedmont), and six grandchildren. Plans for a memorial celebration are pending. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Near East Foundation, The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library or the charity of your choice.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Dec. 3, 2010
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