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78

MARCH 2017

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

his sister, Georgine Sargent; his four

children, Walter Sargent III (and his wife,

Sandra), Stuart Sargent, Kathleen Kogel

(and her husband, Samuel) and Deborah

Stitt; and grandchildren, nieces, nephews,

brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law.

Donations in Walter Sargent’s name

may be made to Tidewell Hospice in

Sarasota, Fla.

n

M. PatriciaWazer,

88, a retired

Foreign Service officer, died peacefully on

Sept. 30 at her home in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Wazer was born on Aug. 4, 1928,

the youngest of nine children, in Forest

City, Pa. Because there was no possibil-

ity of attending college for a poor girl in

the mining country of Pennsylvania, she

left immediately after high school to live

with her older siblings in Hartford, Conn.,

where she was expected to be a secretary

in a factory.

Quickly realizing that such a life was

not for her, she hopped on a cross-country

bus, carrying all her possessions in a card-

board suitcase, with a friend, Cecilia. After

a fewmonths in San Francisco working as

phone operators, Ms. Wazer and Cecilia

saw an ad for postwar Department of

Defense jobs in occupied Japan.

They lied about their age (they were

not yet 21) and were soon off on a troop

ship to work as clerks in the U.S. hospitals.

When they got off the ship, they were sent

to different posts—Ms. Wazer ended up at

Nagoya Air Base, where she spent the next

several years clerking. In the early 1950s

Nagoya became very busy as an evacua-

tion base for Korean War casualties.

While in Nagoya, she became friendly

with a few State Department employees

who convinced her to go back to college.

After one semester at the University of

Maryland, Ms. Wazer met a State Depart-

ment recruiter on campus and decided

she would work for State for a few years to

try to earn the money to return to college.

She received a few weeks of training

and was off to work as a clerk in Calcutta.

She credits the post-partition British for

teaching her proper etiquette, how to

formally eat, how to entertain and, sadly,

how to smoke. After Calcutta she planned

to go back to college, but they offered her

Paris, and in her words, “How could a girl

say no to Paris?”

After Paris, she returned to Japan,

serving as a vice consul. Frustrated

that women were not allowed to learn

Japanese, she secretly took private, early

morning Japanese lessons before work.

She was then assigned to Bucharest,

where she was miserable serving in the

oppressive environment of the communist

country. She contemplated leaving the

Foreign Service, and spent the next several

months trying to get “PNG’d” (kicked out

as persona non grata).

Fortunately, a year later, U.S. Ambassa-

dor to Japan Edwin Reischauer was look-

ing for a woman to serve in Tokyo who

spoke Japanese, and her friends helped

get her called back to Japan.

Ms. Wazer served for the next decade

as protocol officer in Tokyo. Each time

Washington tried to move her after the

normal two-year posting, the current

ambassador (Reischauer, Johnson,

Meyer, then Ingersoll) would pull some

strings to allow her to continue. She

spent one of those years as protocol

officer for Expo 1970, giving tours of the

exhibit to visiting dignitaries, a young

Prince Charles among them.

Sadly, in 1972, she had to leave her

beloved Japan. Assigned to Korea, she

was cold and unhappy enough after eight

months to volunteer to serve in a war

zone. In 1973, she was assigned to Saigon.

Her assignment there ended with

burning passports, papers and money

before leaving on a helicopter on April 30,

1975, in Operation Frequent Wind. Once

she safely landed on the USS

Midway

,

she dropped the final suitcase of visa and

passport stamps into the ocean. The State

Department awarded her the Meritorious

Service Award in 1975.

After a two-year stint recovering

in warm Port-au-Prince in 1977, she

returned to Southeast Asia to help

establish the Orderly Departure Program

to assist refugees resettle fromVietnam.

From 1980 to 1984, Ms. Wazer served as

consul general in Jakarta.

In September 1984, she was assigned

to Beirut. Her arrival was delayed by riots

at the airport. As she was getting out of

the car at the embassy, a suicide bomber

detonated, killing at least 20 people. For

her service during the ensuing chaos, Ms.

Wazer received the State Department

Superior Honor Award in 1985.

That year she returned to Tokyo once

more, to serve as consul general, the first

woman to serve in this position in Japan.

In 1989, she served as the principal officer

at the U.S. consulate in Brisbane and, in

1992, she returned to the Orderly Depar-

ture Program as program coordinator.

Retirement in 1995 was only a minor

pause. Ms. Wazer spent the next 20 years

working as a consultant, taking assign-

ments as acting consul general for a

month or two in many Southeast Asian

countries. Her last service was in 2011,

where at the age of 83, she spent many

night shifts on the phone using her fluent

Japanese to help reunite families after the

great Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

Ms. Wazer is survived by her nieces,

nephews and countless friends through-

out the world.

Donations in her name may be made

to Capital Caring (

www.capitalcaring.

org) or the George Washington Hospital

House Calls Program (go.gwu.edu/

discovery).

n