A VOC Champion

Jay Katzen was born in Brooklyn but his warm smile and voice reminded you of a Virginia  gentleman. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Princeton and earned a Master’s degree at Yale, but represented a rural constituency in Virginia’s House of Delegates. How different Virginia politics would have been if he had won rather than narrowly lost his bid to be the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.

He was a career member of the Foreign Service for 25 years, with postings in six nations, including Australia, and at the United Nations and the White House. After serving as a consultant to several Fortune 500 companies, he and his wonderful wife Paddy moved in 2009 to Alaska where he became a National Park Ranger. And why not? He was only in his early seventies.

I came to know Jay in 2001 when the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation was at a crossroads. We had been debating whether to concentrate on building a museum or a memorial to the more than 100 million victims of communism. Jay agreed to be our president and in just one year he made us see the wisdom of first building the Memorial and raised several hundred thousand dollars toward that goal. We began negotiating the 24 steps required under law to construct a monument or memorial in the nation’s capital.

Jay was there when President George W. Bush dedicated the Memorial in June 2007, a direct result of Jay’s leadership. He continued to serve long distance as a valuable VOC trustee until his death last week. The Foundation will miss his wise counsel and I will miss, deeply, his friendship and his warm smile.