"John F. Kennedy School" by Bob Herrick

This story is a tribute to Hugh Downey, ASA 058, 63-65. He did so much for the people of Keren during his time at Kagnew and even came back as a civilian and continued his work for several years.

The School is located in a small village outside Keren. It all started when Hugh Downey was driving in the near Keren and gave a ride to a priest walking in the desert. Hugh drove him to his village. This must have been in 64. The village school was, as I remember it, in ruins.

Hugh then organized fund raising both at Kagnew and the USA. He found a contractor in Asmara and the school was built. I made many trips with Hugh to this village. There were 4 of us involved. Hugh, Plemmons, myself and a name I forget. Hugh really made it happen and as you might know when he got out of the Army he married in Colorado then he and his wife returned to Keren and built many more schools in the area. He also got to meet The Lion of Judah, King of Kings, Haile Sellasie.

I read this in a Readers Digest article sometime in the early 70’s.

Some interesting tid bits..

After the school was built the village invited the 4 of us for a meal in their village. It was terrible but we knew it was a treat and probably something the villagers could ill afford. And, as the whole village came out to watch us eat. We did.

The village had a surprisingly large church. The priest, of course, had the best house in the village. I was there the day Hugh brought the money to give to the priest for the school. Quite a site as Hugh handed the notes one by one to the priest. More money than he would ever see in his life. In fact, the Priest skipped town with some of the cash. I believe we also built or repaired the Well in the village.

Finally, the guy whose name I forget, organized a large shipment of fertilizer which landed in Massawa. He and I drove an Army truck down to Massawa (in uniform) and loaded this into the truck. You remember the heat in Massawa!! We did the loading. Hugh organized something with local farmers in the Keren area and that’s where we took the fertilizer. We all got to try plowing a field behind an oxen. NOT easy.

That’s all I remember. If anyone has more information it would be great to hear from them. As I write it seems there was one other guy involved. Might have been Hugh Downs.

Bob Herrick
1184 Vinzel, Switzerland