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Peace Corps Missions Bridge 50-Year Gap

Peace Corps participant from 1963 meets up with RFH 2009 grads before they left for their 2013 experience in West Africa.

Call it a case of double kismet with a dash of envy for old times' sake.

As if enough fate wasn't involved when two Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) Class of 2009 graduates, Olivia Brown and Leah Small, signed up for the Peace Corps, got accepted, and then assigned to the same mission in Burkina Faso, West Africa, where they now are.

Someone with his own Rumson ties and Peace Corps story to tell from half a century prior, reached out to them before they embarked on their once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The three arranged a meeting, swapped stories, and, by all accounts, learned from one another and forged a new-found kinship and Corps

Red Bank resident and attorney, Brian Boyle, though not an RFH grad, was stationed in Nigeria in the Peace Corps in 1963, after having trained at Columbia University in 1962. Boyle was a Bayonne boy who went to Marist High School and Holy Cross in Worcester, NY.

His Rumson connection? His wife is from Rumson; and the two, post-Peace Corps, settled there from 1969 to 2004, he told Patch.

"In a nutshell, when I saw the item (story in Patch) about them, I used my computer semi-knowledge to hunt them down," Boyle said. "I was able to have someone forward my contact info to them, then Leah replied." And the three met at Danish Cafe in Red Bank on Oct. 2.

Boyle shared his experience with the two, who were four days away from leaving for Africa when they met. He said the difference now is that they train in the country and things the participants may take for granted now, such as cell phones and other technology, were non-existent then.

"We had no phones, no TV, just portable radios and snail mail," Boyle said. "Now, they are taking computers with them so they will be able to remain in close contact with 'home.'"

Boyle added that while some, in his Peace Corps day, were in more rustic circumstances than others, "I don't think I have ever heard anyone really complain about their Peace Corps experience." Boyle left with his group for Nigeria on Jan. 3, 1963 and finished his mission just before Christmas of 1964.

A life-changing experience is what he called it, saying most do think of it that way.

Other than the tinge of envy he said he felt when talking to the girls embarking on their own experience of a lifetime, he said he was thrilled for them and wished he could join them.

So goes the story of two Peace Corps mission worlds colliding 50 years later. What will the story be 50 years from now?

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