John Barbee ’64

2 April 2018

Class: 1964

Residence: Glenwood Springs, CO

Deceased: January 1, 2017

July 13, 1942 To December 30, 2016
John was raised in the Aspen, Colorado area, graduating from Aspen High School in 1960. He initially attended the U. S. Air Force Academy, but when he was told he was too tall to fly, he left the Academy for Carleton. John eventually earned a business degree at the University of Northern Colorado. He joined the U. S. Peace Corps in 1965 and was sent to Afghanistan where he lived for three years, first as a volunteer in the Panshir Valley and then as a staff member in Kabul. Regretfully, John was medically evacuated from Afghanistan in 1967 to the U. S. Army hospital in Landstull, Germany. He had suffered a pituitary tumor that caused total blindness. After surgery, he regained some sight in his left eye and thereafter, with limited vision, accomplished so very much personally and professionally.
John loved Afghanistan. “It isn’t a no man’s land, there is much diversity. Throughout history, Afghanistan has been an ethnic crossroads. Alexander’s troops, Mongols, Dravidians and Arabs all traveled through and even settled in Afghanistan. I have seen people with red hair and blue eyes” John said. “Following the Soviet-Afghan War, the country was left in virtual ruins with thousands of refugees, most of them young, desperate and eager for direction. The Taliban and al-Qaida recruited from these refugee camps, rapidly rebuilding their armies. Suddenly, Afghanistan became the center of the radical Muslim world and a sanctuary and training ground for global terrorists. But, for the average Afghan, it was a center for oppression and misery” John said.
After leaving the Peace Corps, John and his wife Nancy raised their four sons on a ranch in the North Fork River Valley in Colorado. In 1987 he relocated with his family to the African country of Malawi, first with the Peace Corps as Associate Country Director, and then to direct the Southern Africa Drought Relief Coordination Unit.
In the mid 1990’s John moved with his family back to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, but at the same time, started a nine-year career in Central Asia, based in Tajikistan, returning to Afghanistan and Iraq for short term consulting assignments. Most of his over-sea’s consulting was with Counterpart International, an organization that encourages and enables grass-root organizations in the former soviet countries. Because John spoke Farsi, he worked to improve conditions in Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
John’s remaining sight began to fail, and in 2006, he retired from the overseas assignments to devote his time to stateside organizations, including board membership of Mountain Family Health and other causes devoted to personal development and peace building. He became almost totally blind and profoundly deaf. In his final years, he could be seen regularly with his guide dog Piper.
John and his wife Nancy raised four sons, three of which are now engaged in environmental work around the world. He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Nancy, four sons and a grandson.

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