Peace Pilgrim Statue Dedication Article
on 11/18/2000, THE PRESS OF ATLANTIC
local Peace Pilgrim will be honored in Central America
BETT NORCROSS McCOY
permanent public testament to a local woman's quest for peace and to the
worldwide appeal of her message will be unveiled Sunday in Central
America -- miles from her Atlantic County birthplace and nearly 20 years
after her death.
woman, Mildred Norman Ryder (1908-1981), known from age 44 only as Peace
Pilgrim, will be honored with a life-size bronze statue installed on the
campus of the United Nations University for Peace located near San Jose,
the capital of Costa Rica.
Pilgrim's basic message was a simple one: "Overcome evil with good,
falsehood with truth and hatred with love."- She shared it and
other insights with anyone who listened as she walked across the country
six times - between 1953 and her death in a head-on crash in 1981 while
being shuttled to a speaking engagement in Indiana. But her teachings
continue to inspire people throughout the world.
statue, created by renowned Costa Rican sculptor Fernando Calvo, is
being installed as part of a yearlong initiative called "Costa Rica
2000: New Millennium of Peace," which has featured a series of
events highlighting peace.
Costa Rica? "Costa Rica is the first and only country in the world
to unilaterally abolish its army, more than 50 years ago," said
Mary Stuckey Newswanger, Peace Pilgrim project coordinator. Newswanger,
a longtime peace activist formerly on staff with the American Friends
Service Committee, worked in Philadelphia before moving to Monteverde,
Costa Rica, about 10 years ago. Monteverde was founded in a rurla
mountainous area in 1950 by 11 Quaker families.
Pilgrim, who relied solely on the kindness of strangers for food and
shelter, was an independent promoter of peace during her back-and-forth
nationwide travels. But she had been affiliated with various Quaker
groups in the years she spent preparing herself for her mission.
Township resident Helene Norman Young, Peace Pilgrim's 84-year-old
sister, is attending the commemorative ceremony at the university and
related events in Costa Rica courtesy of a supporter of Peace Pilgrim's
teachings. "I am very honored and grateful to the woman who is
sponsoring me. Her name is Elinore Detiger. I haven't ever met her, but
I hope to when I get there ... . All of this is really
overwhelming," Young said recently from her Cologne home.
will be accompanied by Barbara Reynolds and Reynolds' daughter, Erin
Bumgarner, 16, both of the Smithville section of Galloway Township.
Reynolds became intrigued by Young's sister when she read "Peace
Pilgrim: Her Life and Works in Her Own Words," a compilation of
Peace Pilgrim's writings, which was in the library of the Quaker Friends
Meeting group Reynolds attends in Absecon Highlands, Galloway Township.
was so impressed by the book that she tracked Young down through the
Cologne post office, which was where Peace Pilgrim's mail went during
her travels (and sometimes still does) and was where Young, who kept her
sister's identity secret during her lifetime, picked it up for her.
and Young developed a friendship and now share their affinity for Peace
Pilgrim's teachings and for bike riding. Their Costa Rican trip
developed because organizers of the statue project had e-mailed Reynolds
to ask her to notify Young that Detiger would sponsor Young's trip.
thing led to another and Reynolds, director of Free To Be child-care
center at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Pomona, Galloway
Township, decided to go too. "I had always wanted to go to Costa
Rica. In fact, I planned to go with Stockton students sometime,"
she said recently. (The Stockton group goes to study animal and plant
life, she said.)
the way, Detiger, Young's benefactor, is an international peace worker
and one of the "many individual people" involved in the statue
project, Newswanger said in an e-mail interview recently.
a summary of the statue's serendipitous genesis, as Newswanger explained
it. Of course there was a lot more to it than this, but you'll get the
Muller, former assistant secretary general of the United Nations and
chancellor emeritus of the U.N. University for Peace, originated the
idea several years ago. He wanted to honor individuals who
"dedicated their life's work to world peace." Newswanger first
heard about the possibility of the statue from Ann Rush, who runs the
all-volunteer Friends of Peace Pilgrim organization with her husband,
John Rush, in California. Newswanger had contacted them about getting
some Peace Pilgrim books that the Quakers in Monteverde wanted to
distribute to schoolteachers in Nicaragua.
later, Newswanger contacted the Rushes to find out how to reach Jemila
Ericson, a North Carolina woman who portrays Peace Pilgrim for Living
History projects. Newswanger wanted to invite her to speak to children
at the Monteverde Friends School. She learned then that the statue
project had been abandoned because the $30,000 price quoted for it was
soon after that, things started falling into place: Ericson agreed to go
to Costa Rica as Peace Pilgrim, Calvo agreed to make the statue for
$18,000, and officials at the small United Nations University for Peace,
known as UPAZ in Spanish, approved of the statue's placement there.
said the setting is perfect.
founded in the west San Jose suburb of Ciudad Colon in 1980, "is
the world's only United Nations-sanctioned learning center dedicated to
peace studies," a May 2000 article in The Tico Times, a Costa Rican
newspaper, said. The university, which offers a doctorate in
Communications for Peace and a master's program in Environmental
Resources and Peace, "receives no funding from the U.N., but
depends on contributions from international organizations," the
article says. Its five-year plan focuses on energizing its funding
efforts, expanding its programs and developing "internationally
recognized peace research programs." Funding for the bronze statue
is separate from the university's development plans.
statue, incidentally, is actually larger than life. "Peace Pilgrim
was 5 feet 2 inches tall. Calvo made the statue 5 feet 4 inches tall, as
it will not be on a pedestal but simply placed at ground level, as she
herself walked the earth with no distinction between herself and those
around her," Newswanger said. It depicts her wearing her trademark
tunic, which was emblazoned with her adopted name on the front and
mileage count on the back. (When she passed the 25,000-mile mark in
1964, she stopped counting miles.)
Atlantic County contingent - Young, Reynolds and Bumgarner - was
scheduled to leave New Jersey Thursday and will return Wednesday.
Cardenas, of Honduras, will be at the ceremony representing the American
Friends Service Committee, an organization that received the Nobel Peace
Prize in 1947. Newswanger said the AFSC "formally considered"
nominating Peace Pilgrim for a Nobel Peace Prize posthumously in 2001,
but decided against it.
has never been awarded posthumously, not even to Mahatma Gandhi,"
Newswanger said, "We fully realize why they decided they couldn't
not nominate Peace Pilgrim, even though the idea was worthwhile and
extremely timely." Regardless of the outcome of the nomination
request, the prospect "gave an incredible energy and dynamic for
our organizing the (statue) project," she said.
attending the event - besides our local trio, the Rushes and Ericson -
include: Cheryl Canfield, longtime friend of Peace Pilgrim; Bruce
Nichols, who created the Friends of Peace Pilgrim's Web site; Mayte
Picco-Kline, who translated the Peace Pilgrim book into Spanish; and
Erika Muhlenberg, who hosted Peace Pilgrim in her home when Peace
Pilgrim spoke at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania in 1963
(Swarthmore's library houses a comprehensive Peace Collection).
am very excited about all of these people coming together for this one
purpose," Reynolds said.
also is thrilled about the trip and is impressed by the continued
attention given her sister's personal mission for peace. "She died
almost 20 years ago and the interest is still growing ... We (the
family) knew she crisscrossed the country for peace, and I forwarded her
mail to her, but when she was home, she spent all of her time writing or
speaking to different groups. I never realized what an impact she had
until after she was gone," Young said.
said the project was worth all the work. "It will make an enduring
contribution, hopefully inspiring peacemakers for decades to come."
make a tax-exempt contribution toward the cost of the statue and related
events, send a check to: Peace Pilgrim Project, c/o Cheryl Canfield,
20135 Pine Mountain Drive, Groveland, Calif. 95321.
more information about the Friends of Peace Pilgrim, call the Rushes in
California at (909) 927-7678 or visit www.peacepilgrim.org.
learn more about UPAZ, visit www.upeace.org .
Page created by Bruce Nichols.