A Word About the Late William Armbruster 1953-2013

By C. Edward Bernier

I first met William when he was assigned to Algiers when I was PAO there in the late 80s. He settled in very quickly and within a short time had developed a clear understanding of what lay ahead for him in Algeria, a country that was only recently warming to the U.S. With a keen intellect and wry sense of humor, William adapted to the work environment and our audiences.

William had a natural affinity for things technical and played a major role in establishing our WorldNet capabilities. At his suggestion in another tech area, we chose not to continue with the Wang system, but rather investing in laptops.

What impressed me the most about William was that he, unlike other FS officers I knew, never once complained about having been assigned to the post, nor did he ever have a negative word about any of his American and Algerian workmates.

Moving ahead, he was assigned to Kuwait with his infant daughter accompanying. I had just taken over as NEA Deputy Director. Within a few days of his arrival, Iraq invaded Kuwait, with William having a first-hand view from his hotel room. His telephone reporting provided valuable insight regarding the Iraqi intentions. Most importantly he kept his cool.

He was detained by the Iraqis, along with other Embassy Officers. Throughout this period, he dealt with his dangerous situation calmly and without fear. He was later evacuated by bus to Baghdad where he sat out more months of detainment without a complaint.

Our next encounter was at the Foreign Service Institute Arabic program in Tunis. Once again, William energetically demonstrated his total ability to adjust to his environment and pursued his studies with enthusiasm. He went on to Morocco, while I was assigned to Riyadh. I did not see him after that and was shocked when I learned about his passing after retirement. A positive note, however, is that in retirement he continued his support of U.S. diplomacy by speaking to local community groups in his town of retirement.

From day one I considered William a dear friend, one whose advice I appreciated.

Ed Bernier is a retired Foreign Service Officer. 

William Armbruster (USIA entry class summer 1986) died in Aug. 2013 at age 59 from a pulmonary embolism. At the time, his obituary could not be published in State Magazine, due to a technical difficulty with the publication. William grew up in San Diego and got his B.S degree in Russian area studies and biology from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1975, and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Gao, Mali, teaching physics from 1977 to 1980. With USIA, he served in Algiers, Tunis, London, Casablanca, and Washington, D.C.. He also served briefly in Kuwait, where he and his infant daughter were taken to Baghdad as diplomatic hostages just before the first Gulf War. He retired from State, after the merger, in 2008, and moved to Missouri where he enjoyed five good years of retirement before his untimely death. His wife, Lisa, would like to hear from those who knew William. She can be reached at admin@publicdiplomacy.org.

See also the Associated Press report of October 22, 1990: Trapped Americans Fight Boredom, Worry; the News-Press story of October 19, 2011: Ex-diplomat has unique view of Middle East; and the Los Angeles Times story of December 12, 1990, S.D. Relatives of Hostages Anticipate Homecomings.  His obituary is available here.