David Crozier Memorial
First Peace Corps Volunteer to Die in Service
Memorialized in Bolivar, MO 56 Years after His Death
Columbia, MO – On April 22, 2018 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers from around Missouri and the United States gathered in Bolivar, MO, at Dunnegan Memorial Park and Greenwood Cemetery to remember David Crozier. Crozier died in a plane accident on April 22, 1962, in Colombia, South America. With fellow Peace Corps Volunteer Larry Radley, who also perished, they were the first Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide to die in service. President Kennedy had just signed the executive order establishing the Peace Corps “to promote world peace and friendship” in 1961 when David Crozier, a pharmacist’s son from rural West Plains, MO, decided to serve. It was a turbulent time in U.S. history; in a letter to his parents David wrote “If it should come to it, I’d rather give my life trying to help these people, than to have to give my life looking down a gun barrel at them.” http://fpcv.org/volunteers/david-crozier/
Assigned to the first group of Volunteers headed to Colombia, South America, David arrived in-country in September, 1961. He was stationed in Jardiń, working as a community development assistant. On April 22, 1962, he and Larry Radley were returning to site from the Easter holidays when the plane they were on crashed into a mountain in the Choco jungle. Their bodies were never recovered. In 2011, Gordon Radley, Larry’s brother, finally made it to the crash site in a perilous journey covered by the New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/24/world/americas/24colombia.html
David’s life and service to the United States have never been honored in the state of Missouri. Doyle Childers, a former state legislator and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Costa Rica ‘65-‘69) was the first to suggest a memorial to other Missouri RPCVs. “I know the family, have always known his (David’s) story”, Childers, who lives in Reed Springs MO, said. Central Missouri Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, the Columbia MO alumni chapter of the National Peace Corps Association, believe it is time to tell the story to a wider audience. The group, along with other RPCVs from the very earliest years of the Peace Corps, will honor David in a graveside Memorial service, on April 22, 56 years to the day from the plane crash that took his life.
David Crozier’ sister, Nancy Brown, lives in Bolivar, MO, where a simple gravestone marks David’s short life alongside his parents’ grave. Members of the family attended, along with Gordon Radley and his sister Elana Radley Rozenman. Both of Radley’s siblings went on to serve in the Peace Corps themselves, Elana in Colombia one year after her brother’s death. Elana now lives in Jerusalem, and Gordon made a career in Hollywood, retiring as the president of Lucasfilms.
David’s service and sacrifice, and that of the 230,000 Americans who have served in the Peace Corps, including 3,400 Missourians, was recognized. Over the 56 year history of the Peace Corps, more than 300 Volunteers have not come back. Little provision is made for the families of fallen Volunteers, who are not permitted to use the Peace Corps logo on their gravestones. A Congressional bill, House Bill 1295, has been introduced to remedy this, and Missouri RPCVs hope the service for David will bring attention to the issue.
The Central Missouri Returned Peace Corps Volunteers is a 25-year-old non-profit organization in the mid-Missouri area. Our goals include educating the public about Peace Corps and the countries we serve around the world, as well as supporting those interested in Peace Corps service.