Jeremy Andrew Rolfs, Lesotho, 1995-1997
From Jeremy’s mom, Alma:
The first word that immediately comes to mind to describe my son Jeremy is “passionate.” From the time he was very young he threw himself wholeheartedly into whatever was important or intriguing to him at the time. He was especially intensely enthusiastic about science and technology, social justice, animals, music, film, and documentaries. He was proud of his liberal beliefs even at the mostly conservative southern university he attended. He switched majors from recording engineering to Communications and was a big part of the campus television station, developing a news program that addressed often controversial campus issues. He was always fascinated by cross-cultural encounters and conflicts, a theme reflected in his favorite movies. He was a big fan of Star-Trek: The Next Generation. He was also proud of his feminism and delighted when a woman became captain of the Starship Enterprise. His heroes included Galileo, Darwin, Stephen Hawking, and Nelson Mandela.
In his last year of college, he and his fiancée were violently assaulted and she died. He survived, but entered a long period of darkness. Very gradually he began making documentaries again, and the idea of joining the Peace Corps, (which he and she had dreamed of doing together) became the light at the end of the dark drawing him back into an exciting, productive life again. When he was assigned to help develop the first national television station in Lesotho, he could not have been more thrilled. His final college paper was based on the idea that the widespread use of computers could make a huge difference in reducing global poverty and inequality. When he left, he said his secret dream was to become a Peace Corps documentarian. His work in the Communications Ministry in Lesotho was enormously exciting and fulfilling for him. In the Peace Corps in Africa he found all the things that fascinated and moved him – putting his technology skills to positive use, making a difference in the world, cross-cultural communication – and even wild animals.
When I visited him in March of 1997, I had never seen him so happy. The week we spent together traveling in South Africa was exhilarating and joyous, but ended with his death in a head-on collision on March 31. I believe his time in the Peace Corps allowed him to become the person he had always wanted to be. My last memory of him was his voice laughing. He was 27 years old.
From Jeremy’s dad, Dan:
“Jeremy, your life was short, but you accomplished so much and traveled far. We think of you, love you, and miss you.”
From Jeremy’s sister, Angie:
“To all those celebrating and remembering a loved one who served in the Peace Corps, thank you for supporting that person’s beautiful spirit and commitment to making the world a better place. Of all the work my brother Jeremy did in his vivid, generous life, I think he was proudest of this: being a Peace Corps volunteer. My glimpses of his new life in Lesotho came in the form of photographs and long letters; featured plentifully in both were his treasured new friends, people who were brave and resilient, people who cared about helping others – people like the loved ones you’re here to remember today. I salute them, and among them, my irreplaceable brother, Jeremy Andrew Rolfs: endlessly inquisitive, loving, goofy, hilarious, always up for a challenge, and wholeheartedly dedicated to all that really matters in life.”
Read by Donna Mack (for the Rolfs family) at Hains Point, October 2015