OBITUARY

Robert Lloyd Funseth

May 10, 1926September 25, 2015

Robert Lloyd Funseth

Robert Lloyd Funseth died September 25, 2015 at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington. Robert Funseth was Spokesman of the State Department during the tenure of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. He was predeceased by his wife, Marilyn, and only child, Eric Christian Funseth.

Robert Funseth was born on May 10, 1926 in International Falls, Minnesota and raised in West Seneca, New York in the hamlet of Ebenezer (a suburb of Buffalo) with his father (Martin Emanuel), mother (Agnes Evangeline Guibault), and brothers Edward (late) and Denis. Robert graduated from Ebenezer High School in 1943.

In 1943 Funseth was assigned to the U.S. Navy V-12 unit during World War 2. After his commissioning as an ensign and service with the Pacific fleet, he graduated from Hobart College. At Hobart he was a student, a newspaper editor and a charter member of the group of sailing enthusiasts.

Following Hobart, Funseth became a California newspaperman: editor of the Coachella Desert Barnacle, managing editor of the Anaheim Daily Gazette and Associated Press correspondent. He returned to Hobart as the College’s first graduate student in international relations. He continued graduate work at Cornell, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and George Washington University.

Robert Funseth embarked on a 40-year diplomatic career serving at American embassies, consulates and on diplomatic missions in the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Western Hemisphere and the United Nations. He was the spokesman for the State Department in the 1970s and during his last ten years there, Funseth managed the worldwide U.S. refugee program.

For his humanitarian achievements, including pioneer work on behalf of refugee women and children, improving refugee mental health and negotiating the release of tens of thousands of political prisoners, Robert Funseth received three Presidential Foreign Service Honor Awards, the Distinguished Honor Award, and, upon his retirement in 1991 from the Foreign Service, the Wilbur Carr Distinguished Service Award.

Robert Funseth has served as a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow lecturer and student counselor, and as a member of the Episcopal World Relief board. In 1978, he was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of Laws by Hobart College.

Robert Funseth was a member of St. John's Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square, DACOR (Diplomat and Consular Officers Retired) and several conferences, commissions, foundations and associations.

Robert is survived by his brother Denis (Linda) Funseth; niece Sarah Funseth Baran (Todd); and nephews John Funseth (Lisa), and Karl Funseth (Elizabeth).

A memorial service will be held at St. John's Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square, Washington, DC, on Friday, December 4, 2015 at 1:30pm. In Robert Funseth’s honor, contributions may be made in his name to: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 3803 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 100 Arlington, VA 22203; Or to the St. John's Church – Lafayette Square, 1525 H Street NW, Washington D.C. 20005.

Services

  • Memorial Serice Friday, December 4, 2015
REMEMBERING

Robert Lloyd Funseth

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Martha Schuelke-Moody

February 1, 2016

I am so sorry to learn of Bob's death. His wife, Marilyn, was my first cousin. Bob was a wise and gentle man who possessed a most impressive memory and delightful sense of humor. Having read his oral history interview for the State Department archives, I only wish he had written a memoir of his many experiences throughout his career. The many tributes from the Vietnamese-American community do not surprise me. I was with Bob & Marilyn at a family funeral in the 1980s when Bob received a work related phone call. I remember Bob telling the caller, "We have to get him out. He was loyal to us and we have to be loyal to him." Bob was a fine person. May he and Marilyn rest in eternal peace.

Brenda

December 4, 2015

I count it a great honor to have worked with you.

December 4, 2015

I am so honored to have worked with Mr. Funseth. He was truly a wonderful person.

Vuong Phung

November 18, 2015

May God bless your soul and keep you under His wing eternally.

Vuong Phung

November 18, 2015

Dear Mr. Funseth,

It's never too late to say "thank you". Because of your effort many people like my father and their families had a chance to come to the US by airplane.

Before we were able to come to the US, HO 17, by airplane on May 6 1993, we tried to escape Vietnam by boat but failed a few times. Luckly we did not die.

We appreciate and thankful for your effort in the HO program. Because of it we can enjoy the freedom and the greatness of this country and its people for my generation, my children and grandchildren generation, and generation to come.

May God bless your soul.

Phung family

Kieu Nguyen

November 10, 2015

Vietnamese political prisoners of communism and their families should owe you a great heart and human love. Rest in peace, Mr. Funseth. I keep you in my prayer.

Thuan Nguyen

November 4, 2015

Rest in peace Bob. Your work for the Vietnamese political prisoners will never be forgotten. Almost half a million Vietnamese live now in this great land owe you a debt that can never be repaid for you have save them from hell. Gos love you. Enter in to eternal peace.

Ft. Duc Nguyen

November 4, 2015

The world has lost a precious soul, US lost a wise diplomat and I lost a dear friend.
As an Episcopal priest who worked closely with Bob Funseth,I find him to be a wonderful loving Christian, "loving his neighbor as himself". He is gracious, hard work, caring for others. In the years he worked for refugees he put more of his life than the call of duties. Many refugees, Amerasians came to know him as their benefactor, savior because he saved many of them from the reeducation camps and helped them to come to USA, to freedom. He has faith in God, his Book of Common Prayer is always by his side when he traveled to negotiate with the Vietnamese counterparts. He often asked me to pray for him so that he would not give up and endure to the end in his talks with Vietnamese diplomats. Thank you for your labor of love to the Vietnamese prisones. You not only visit prisoners but rescue them. Bob rest in peace. We love you, all Vietnamese love you and wish you eternal happiness in the arms of the loving God. Amen. Fr. Duc Nguyen

Heather Vieira

November 2, 2015

Nearly 20 years ago Dr. Funseth took me under his wing. I was an HWS alum & a recent graduate of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. I was heartsick when my long held dream of joining the Foreign Service was squelched as they implemented a hiring freeze. He introduced me to many in his Latin America policy circle & here I am now having served in the U.S. Government as a foreign policy analyst for 18 years. Coincidently - the week before his passing I was invoking his name at an event on campus at HWS designed to inspire students to careers in foreign affairs. I am so pleased that I have not missed the opportunity to meet his extended family & pay my respects at the service in December.

John Hampson

October 31, 2015

It was an honor to know Bob as a neighbor and being a member of the foreign service myself, I was fascinated to hear his stories. I will always remember how he made a special effort to walk down to my home only a few years ago to wish me safe passage and advised me to to keep my head down as I was departing for a year in Baghdad. He was a very sweet man and I considered him a friend. I will miss him and thank him for his service to our country and to all the people he helped and saved throughout his career. John Hampson, US Department of State.