Bahar B. Hess
September 20, 1938 – September 8, 2021
Bahar Bengisu Hess can be described in so many ways: strong woman; loving wife, mother, daughter, in-law, aunt, and sister; kind neighbor; trusted professional; activist; and community volunteer.
She was born in Izmir, Turkey on September 20, 1938, the older of two children to Mazhar and Aliye Bengisu. She was a talented and accomplished student, and in her intrepid, truly trailblazing way, came to the United States in 1962 as a Fulbright Scholar. While a PhD student at Georgetown University, she met her future husband, fellow Georgetown student Frederick W. Hess, Jr., who was pursuing his graduate degree in Political Science. They married in 1967. Some three weeks into his tour of duty as a pilot during the Vietnam War, Fred was lost in battle in Laos in March 1969, and remains one of nearly 1,600 unaccounted-for U.S. service personnel in Southeast Asia today.
Alone to provide for and raise their infant daughter, Christine, Bahar subsequently embarked on a career at the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., putting her language skills and political science degree to immediate use as a trusted resource to the Ambassador and staff. Following her retirement from the embassy, she was able to devote more time to Christine and her own many interests and passions.
The loss of her husband Fred in Laos listed him as Missing in Action (MIA) for a number of years, and of course had a profound impact. For over 50 years, Bahar was a tireless advocate for Fred and the MIA issue. She was an active member of the National League of POW/MIA Families, attending rallies and conferences for the cause for the “fullest possible accounting,” and supporting other families in the same situation. Her work in these areas has helped to keep this issue in the public's attention and a national priority. How can one imagine how not knowing her young husband's fate affected her? Certainly, it influenced her perspective, her activities, her needs and wants, and her growth and relationships. Still, through her entire life, she never lost hope, love and loyalty towards her husband. She was married for almost 55 years, but she only spent two as a complete family. What a life of service on behalf of her adopted country that she loved profusely and completely! Many of us think of Bahar as a supreme patriot, an inspiration and a role model to the many generations that will follow and keep her memory alive.
Bahar was infinitely proud of Christine and she devoted all her energy to her well-being. She delighted in her daughter’s personal and professional accomplishments. The two were in constant contact as Christine travelled all over the world with various deployments. Bahar’s home was filled with mementos from throughout Christine’s life. Likewise, Bahar immensely loved her family in Turkey. Though she could not be with them in person as often as she wanted, her heart was always with them. Her husband’s parents, Frederick and Helen Hess in Kansas City, and indeed all the Hess family, fell in love with her from the start, and cherished her in every way.
Bahar gave of herself in service to her community in many ways. She was an active member and friend to many in the Arlington Women’s Club. She was also a decades-long volunteer for the American Red Cross Bloodmobile. Likewise, she volunteered with the American Cancer Society. Bahar’s commitment to the United States of America was deep and firm, and she proudly gained her naturalization as a U.S. citizen in 1995. For many years she volunteered at her local polling and election center. The Arlington block where Bahar lived for nearly 50 years was particularly special to her, as the old and new neighbors blended into its own extended family, not only over the years, but even today. In her every endeavor, Bahar continued to expand her circle of friends.
Bahar’s talents and interests were many: cooking, sewing, crocheting, crafting, reading, foreign languages, politics, fitness, gardening and the Japanese art of Ikebana floral arrangement. As a child she played the mandolin. Her skills were versatile and almost any activity she tried, from doing her own taxes to mastering the use of digital equipment, came seemingly effortlessly to her.
With friends and family all over the world, Bahar was always writing letters and cards and sharing interesting newspaper clippings. She kept up with modern communications methods, and became fluent with laptop and cell phone to keep in touch with those she cared for. Her love seemed endless.
Her passing on September 8, 2021 was sudden and unexpected – she worked often in her garden, prepared healthy meals from scratch, and went for vigorous walks. Bahar’s family and extended family of friends miss her terribly. We are happy that she is at last reunited with her dear husband, whom she continually prayed and waited for since his loss in service of our great country.
In lieu of flowers, support for the following organizations would be welcomed: - National League of POW/MIA Families - American Red Cross - American Cancer Society
Monday, September 20, 2021
Monday, September 20, 2021
Bahar B. Hess
Kyle & Maxine Kopecky
September 20, 2021
When you called me to tell me of your mother's passing, I too was stunned. I knew I had to tell mother in person. As you know, she's now in assisted living, and this would come as terrible news to her. And, indeed, it did.
Every time I would call mother and her phone was busy for any extended period of time I knew it was one of two things; either she hadn't hung up her phone properly or she was talking to Bahar. She and Bahar had been friends for decades. Even after mother returned to Chagrin Falls, I made a trip back to Northern VA for her to visit with your mother and a couple of other friends. She so loved your mother.
Your mother was a good a loyal friend to her. And to me as well. They loved attending Ikebana events together and Military Concerts as well. I know they truly loved each other.
We will both miss her terribly, but we will cherish our memories of her. Thank you for sharing the video of the service this morning. We both enjoyed sharing it with all of you.
Maxine and Kyle
September 19, 2021
Happy birthday, dear Bahar!!
September 19, 2021
May it bring you comfort to know that we all feel blessed to have been a part of such a wonderful life.
My deepest sympathies.
Bahar: Rest In Peace my dear friend.
September 16, 2021
We had happy days together in Turkish College of İzmir. I remember lovely Bahar, one of our class mates in our class room. She has gone remaining her name in memories.
September 15, 2021
Bahar was a wonderful friend to so many, and I am praying for Christine and all of her family and friends, during this time of loss. I knew Bahar for many years in our Fort Myer Fitness Center Senior Fitness Class. The group is composed of retired service members, like me, and many military spouses, widows, and widowers . Bahar was full of enthusiasm for her activities that week, whether with the Red Cross, or community clubs, or MIA/POW groups. As we walked on the indoor track before class, she would often tell me stories of her husband and that loss, and stories of her daughter. She was a great woman, who will missed by so many of us. May she Rest In Peace.
Nilgun Galin DeMarinis
September 14, 2021
On the 8th of September I found a message from Christine telling me that her mom had passed away. It was such a surprise to hear Christine‘s voice when I listened to the message before returning the call because she had used her mom’s phone to leave the message.
My sympathies to all Bahar’s family members and her friends.
She was a classmate of my older sister, in Turkey, and got to know about my and my younger sister’s births and possibly helped celebrate birthdays, at the restaurant my parents owned....
I got to know Bahar when I moved to Virginia for a job and lived in close proximity to her. She helped me settle in Virginia when my sister asked her to help me. She knew to cook wonderful Turkish dishes. We went to festivals, swam at her friends’ pool, drove to my niece’s graduation at Chapel Hill surprising my sister.... When I returned to St. Louis we kept in touch on email, and after I got married, my husband and I visited with her and went on the metro to a lecture together which she had arranged.
We continued to talk on the phone off and on through the pandemic and illnesses and deaths in my family, never thinking anything could happen to her. I will miss you. Farewell Bahar.