Recently we lost an amazingly talented woman; Mrs. Shirley Black. She was known to the majority of us as Shirley Temple, the cute little girl who danced her way into our hearts, lifted our spirits, and made us cry in the 1930’s.
As the son of a Diplomat, I travelled to many places around the world and saw many amazing things; lions and zebras in Burundi, Africa; Hong Kong; the Great Wall and Forbidden City in China; the clock tower and sitting two seats down from Václav Havel while he had lunch in the bar just outside the Palace gates in Prague, Czechoslovakia; and the Lipizzaner Stallions in Vienna, Austria.
However, the best experience I ever had was in 1990 when I was fortunate enough to be Mrs. Black’s temporary secretary when she was the Ambassador in Prague, then Czechoslovakia. The Russians had just left, the city was full of life, and the people were so friendly to Westerners. I was just a kid of 18, fresh out of High School and probably not paying attention as closely as I should have to the rich cultural experiences that I was being exposed to. It apparently made no difference to the wonderful woman who would always invite me to join her for lunch. Me, an 18 year old summer hire! I had many wonderful conversations with Mrs. Black over lunch, mostly about where we had been and the things that we had done. I watched her as she met with foreign diplomats and witnessed how she made sure she spent a few minutes with everyone attending an Embassy party. I had the good fortune to work in several Embassies over the years. None topped the time I spent with Ms. Black – the best states person I have ever met. Join me in saying farewell to the voice of the Good Ship Lollipop, a cultural icon, and a credit to the Diplomatic Corps, who will be greatly missed.