A Tribute to Peter Cecere

Peter Cecere and I became Foreign Service Specialist Officers at exactly the same time in 1966. A special class was set up for us since we could not take part in the A-100 course, so we were together for about six weeks learning the in's and out's of being in the Foreign Service together. Pete was on his way to Cochabamba, Bolivia, as publications officer and I had been assigned as the Regional English Teaching Officer in Tripoli, Libya.
Pete completed his law degree at Cornell University, and he had just finished several years of service in the Judge Advocate Generals Corps of the US Army.  So up until then, he had spent most of his time wearing either dark suits with white shirts or an Army Captain's uniform. Needless to say, he had short, close-cropped hair.
But his life was changing drastically as he re-evaluated how he thought he would like to go about things in the future. He was beginning to reject how he had gone about things in the past and how he would from then on look at his future role as a U.S. diplomat and Foreign Service Officer. And that, of course, had a great impact on his marriage. His wife suddenly found herself living with an entirely changed person and, understandably, their marriage dissolved.
So Peter and I parted company in the late spring of 1967: he for a series of assignments across Latin America and me for work in Libya, Somalia, South Africa, and Poland.
I returned to the US for a domestic assignment in the Speaker's Bureau in 1979. Soon thereafter, Peter appeared at my door exclaiming, "Hey, you don't even know who (the f..k) I am!"  He obviously had been unshaven and had not had a haircut for some time, and he was wearing chartreuse-colored slacks with a black and white checked dashiki-style shirt. I recognized him immediately from his voice, and we were off immediately picking up on perhaps the most meaningful professional relationship of my lifetime. 
Without a doubt Peter Cecere was the most capable FSO I ever worked with over a 36-year career, but he also was a great challenge to work with because of his attitude about external appearances. Peter was most likely the most fluent Spanish-speaking officer in our Foreign Service. He became equally fluent in Catalan for his assignment as BPAO in Barcelona. But Peter's most important talent was in being able to very quickly determine the power-structure where he was assigned and quickly come to know those who occupied the most important positions. Peter was a fine chef-gourmand and soon the most important people where he lived and worked could be found around his dinner table.
But Peter Cecere's perhaps most significant contribution to the luminosity of American, and Latin American, and Spanish, and Catalan folk art and culture was his ever-discerning eye in recognizing and eventually himself creating folk art. His donated collections now form a substantive part of the permanent collections of the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Arizona State University Art Museum, our country's foremost institutions in this field.           
Peter was a great friend and colleague.To say that I will miss him does not come close to the mark now with his departure.
Ambassador Robert G. Gosende