The Foreign Service Journal - May 2017
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MAY 2017


cousins, John Chantiles and Joseph


Memorial contributions may be made

to the Alexandria Police Foundation or

to Friends of the Fairfax County Animal



Harry Elstner Talbott Thayer

, 89, a

retired Foreign Service officer and former

ambassador, died on Jan. 21 in Washing-

ton, D.C., after a yearlong struggle follow-

ing cancer treatment.

Born in Boston on Sept. 10, 1927,

to Eliza Talbott and Frederick Morris

Thayer, Mr. Thayer grew up in Newtown

Square, Pa., at Mill Hollow, his fam-

ily’s home. He graduated from Haver-

ford School in 1945 and then, at age

17, enlisted in the U.S. Navy. In 1951

he graduated from Yale University,

where he majored in English and was

a member of St. Anthony Hall and the


Mr. Thayer began his working life in

New York City with Alaska Airlines, as

assistant to the chairman of the board.

He then worked as a copy boy and

reporter at


, before joining the

Philadelphia Bulletin

as a night crime

reporter and rewrite man.

The Army-McCarthy hearings and the

capture and imprisonment in China of

his college friend, U.S. intelligence officer

Jack Downey, deepened a growing desire

to become more engaged in world affairs

and in China, in particular.

In 1956, Mr. Thayer joined the State

Department as a Foreign Service officer.

His first overseas post was Hong Kong,

in 1957. While serving in the East Asia

Bureau in Washington, D.C., from 1959

to 1961, he participated in Vice Presi-

dent Lyndon Johnson’s first around-the-

world trip in 1961.

Following two years of Mandarin

language training, he was posted to the