JANUARY FEBRUARY 2015
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
Harold J. Ashby Jr.,
of retired FSO Edward McKeon, died
peacefully on July 29, at his family home in
Chevy Chase, Md.
A native of Newark, N.J., Mr. Ashby
graduated fromHarvard University with
an undergraduate degree in international
a airs. He later received his MBA from the
Wharton School of the University of Penn-
sylvania and anM.Ed. from the University
of Hawaii. From the late 1970s until 1982,
Mr. Ashby worked as the administrative
director of Howard University’s Sickle Cell
With his partner, Edward, Mr. Ashby
travelled the world, setting up his family’s
overseas homes in Tokyo, Osaka, Guang-
zhou, Tel Aviv and Mexico, as well as
Honolulu and Washington, D.C.
Mr. Ashby was a brave pioneer in
creating a stable and loving same-sex
household in sometimes unwelcoming
cultures. Indeed, he created the rst such
home that many foreigners had ever seen,
thereby leaving a lasting and positive
example. He became the second person
to receive a U.S. diplomatic passport as a
Mr. Ashby managed to nd jobs in
each country, often as an English teacher
or as an administrator, all the while plan-
ning the family’s next move or adventure,
not to mention innumerable diplomatic
events. A lover of music, he was a disc
jockey at a radio station in Tokyo, where
he enjoyed some of the happiest times
of his life. From 2007 to 2011, he worked
in the administrative section of Embassy
While on assignment in Guangzhou,
Mr. Ashby and Mr. McKeon adopted
a child. Although China frowned on
adoptions by same-sex couples, the
adoption of Max Albert Ashby McKeon
was approved. Later, despite Japan’s
reluctance to allow foreigners to adopt,
the adoption of Benjamin Makoto Ashby
McKeon was also approved.
On July 21, 2008, Mr. Ashby and Mr.
McKeon married in California, shortly
after same-sex marriages became legal
there, with their sons present.
which began in 1980, lasted for 34 years,
cut short only by Mr. Ashby’s passing.
Since retirement in 2011 to Chevy
Chase, Md., Mr. Ashby spent even
more time caring for his two boys, who
remained the loves of his life. He was also
able to indulge a passion for gardening
that had been put on hold while overseas,
except for an ill-fated attempt to coax a
rose garden to life in Osaka.
Among the things that shaped him
most was his lineage to Sergeant George
Ashby, who fought in the Civil War and
was with General Ulysses S. Grant when
General Robert E. Lee surrendered at
Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
His uncle, Albert Forsyth, was an African-
American aviation pioneer and instructor
to the Tuskegee Airmen.
Mr. Ashby was also shaped by his
experience as a 16-year-old selected to
represent New Jersey at a national meeting
of high school student body presidents.
He was one of only two African-American
selectees out of the 50 states. On arrival in
Nashville, 48 student body presidents were
placed with local families who arranged
social events for them. However, Mr.
Ashby and his fellow African-American
student body president were simply
dropped o at a motel for “coloreds.” Mr.
Ashby’s father wanted him to come home,
but he decided to stay, vowing never to
let discrimination or prejudice steer him
from his path.
Mr. Ashby’s smile and warm personal-
ity quickly helped himwin lasting friend-
ships around the world. He will long be
remembered as a loving husband, father,
role model and friend.
Mr. Ashby is survived by his husband,
Edward, and sons, Max and Benjamin.
Stephanie Mathews Bell,
90, wife of
the late Ambassador James Dunbar Bell,
died on Aug. 8, 2014, in Davis, Calif.
Prior to marriage, Mrs. Bell worked
for the Department of State. From 1950 to
1952, she served in Munich with the High
Commission for Occupied Germany in
the O ce of the Land Commissioner for
Bavaria. From 1952 to 1955, after postwar
diplomatic relations were established
between the United States and Germany,
she worked in American Consulate Gen-
On her return to Washington, D.C.,
she worked in the Bureau of Near East-
ern, South Asian and African A airs.
When the Bureau of African A airs was
established as a separate entity, she
transferred to it as an administrative
Mrs. Bell received an Outstanding
Performance Rating and a congratulatory
letter from Secretary of State John Foster
Dulles for her work in establishing the
In 1960, she became an administra-
tive o cer in the Bureau of Far Eastern
A airs, where she met and married Mr.
Bell. She accompanied him to the United
Nations in 1961, and to Embassy Kuala
Lumpur, where he served as ambassador
from 1964 to 1969.
In 1970, the couple relocated to
California, where Amb. Bell served as
diplomat in residence at the University of
California at Santa Cruz.
Mrs. Bell is predeceased by her son,
Je erson M. Bell. Survivors include her
daughter, Stephanie Susan Bell; son-
in-law, Je ery Seiler; two grandsons:
Samuel and John Bell Seiler; several
nieces, including Ambassador Marianne
M. Myles, and nephews.