The Foreign Service Journal - September 2017
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Selena Nelson-Salcedo

, 38, an

active-duty FSO serving as U.S. consul in

Bratislava, died suddenly there on June 4.

A native of Minnesota, Mrs. Nelson-

Salcedo earned a bachelor’s degree from

the University of Wisconsin and a master’s

degree from the Humphrey School of Pub-

lic Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

She joined the U.S. Foreign Service in

2008 and had served in Santo Domingo

and in Kuala Lumpur prior to her assign-

ment to Bratislava in 2014. Known for

innovation and customer service in

consular affairs, she was the recipient of

several Superior and Meritorious Honor

Awards from the State Department.

Mrs. Nelson-Salcedo was an enthu-

siastic and skilled student of foreign

languages and relished exploring cultures;

at her untimely death she spoke five

languages fluently. Her passion for civil

rights and social justice was reflected in

her excellent work as a diplomat around

the world.

She was also a dedicated wife and

mother. Friends and family members

recall her as an exceptional human being

with a huge heart, unlimited compassion

and an irrepressible smile, who lived life to

the fullest.

Selena Nelson-Salcedo is survived by

her husband, Jorge, and their daughters,

Antonella, age 4, and Gaia, age 3; her

parents, Janice Hobbs and Don Nelson; her

stepmother, Mary Kay Perrin; her mother-

in-law, Consuelo Barbosa; her siblings:

Jenna, Jeremy (and his wife, Clara), Micah

(and his wife, Lindsay) and Simone (and

her husband, John); and six nieces and

nephews: Henry, Diego, Emma, Max,

Homer and Nelson.

To make a contribution to educa-

tion funds for Selena Nelson-Salcedo’s

daughters, go to:


., and enter code CAR6jpB and

CAhAU5G (one account for each child).


Sharon Elspeth Oper

, 76, a retired

Foreign Service office management spe-

cialist, died on June 2 in Longboat Key, Fla.

A native of New Jersey, Ms. Oper was

born on Jan. 16, 1941. Her entry into public

service began in the early 1970s when she

was hired as an aide to Representative

Bella Abzug (D-N.Y.).

She established and managed two

congressional offices, worked as a field

representative and program analyst for the

Head Start program, and held professional

status in the Department of Housing and

Urban Development’s Office of Congres-

sional Relations before joining the Foreign

Service in 1974.

Ms. Oper enjoyed overseas postings in

Chile, Spain, Zaire (now the Democratic

Republic of the Congo), Pakistan, Thailand

and Kenya during her 20-year Foreign

Service career from 1974 to 1994.

During her last assignment, she was

selected as a member of the State Depart-

ment “advance team” for Secretary of State

Warren Christopher and was in and out of

the Middle East a dozen times. Four life-

long friendships were born of the intensity

of those trips, and Sharon took great pride

in watching as three of those colleagues

rose to the role of ambassador.

Ms. Oper retired from the Foreign Ser-

vice in 1995 and settled in Florida.

Admitting that she was terrified of most

down escalators and heights in general,

friends recall, Ms. Oper insisted she was

never afraid of living in strange places. Her

life stories were the delight of her friends

and evidence of her strength of charac-

ter—whether the time in Chile when she

hid three American nuns from the secret

police; or the charming anecdotes involv-

ing her aging mother, who lived with her

during postings inThailand and Kenya.

Seven years of living in Africa trans-

formed Ms. Oper into an aficionado of

African art and African grey parrots, one

of whom—“Two-Two”—survives her

and has been lovingly adopted by local

friends with an African grey of their own.

Ms. Oper loved animals, and many

friends remember the little dog she

had early in her career. She never

allowed herself another pup, however,

because she knew she would be travel-

ing too often to give a dog the affec-

tion it deserved. But she couldn’t resist

Two-Two, or the hundreds of birds she

photographed on the beach just near her


Known as “Fluffy” to many in the

Foreign Service (owing to a coat she once

wore), Ms. Oper was a member of Temple

Beth Israel, and a member of a syna-

gogue in every country in which she lived

throughout her career. She had a lifelong

passion for international cultures and

cuisine and for tennis, and was a stead-

fast supporter of the Democratic Party.

Ms. Oper was a true champion of

diversity and inclusion long before those

ideas became buzzwords, friends recall.

She excelled as a friend: she listened well,

and remembered the details. She took

your side and worried alongside you, and

enjoyed sharing a discussion of current

events or a laugh. Her enthusiasm for life

was matched only by her ability to find

humor in even the simplest moment.

Ms. Oper is survived by her nieces,

Zoe Oper and Gail Oper Stumpf; her

nephew, Joseph Oper; and by her cousin

Beth Vandroff and lifelong friend Sally

Arce, both of whom were supportive

presences in her last days.


James D. “Jim” Rosenthal,

85, a

retired Foreign Service officer and former

ambassador, died on June 20 at his home

in San Francisco, Calif.

A native San Franciscan, Mr. Rosen-

thal graduated from Lowell High School

in 1950. He was on the swimming and