The early morning of Sunday June 3rd, 2018, Dennis Patrick Barrett – residing in Apex, NC, passed away at the age of 81 after a long and valiant struggle with an insidious pulmonary ailment.
Dennis was born on July 21st, 1936 in St. Paul, MN to George T. and Helen Barrett (nee Roan); the youngest of two older siblings – Timothy and Mary Ann. A Native American Tlingit Indian by heritage, Dennis was raised on various Navajo Reservations across the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, and New Mexico. He attended Catholic schools across these reservations, eventually joining the Franciscan Order, with an early passion and calling to pursue Priesthood. He is fondly remembered by his dear friend Father Dennet Jung, who Dennis was fortunate to have by his side as he departed this world. He was an avid sportsman, with keen interest and passion for baseball – developing near professional-level skills by the time he started his college years. Dennis graduated from the University of Portland (B.A., 1959) and the University of Southern California (M.P.A., 1966). He received his honorary Ph.D. from University of Portland in 1996. Prior to starting his diplomatic career, he also served in the United States Army.
Dennis would fondly recall all the interesting, and sometimes dangerous, short-term jobs he held while putting himself through school – from deftly (and to the surprise of the owner, profitably) manning a hot-dog stand at the local baseball stadium, to pulling in heavy nets and cages on a rickety boat in brutally-cold Alaskan sea; no job was too small or dangerous to get in the way of achieving his goals. This tenacity served him well when he made his way to Washington, DC, where he made several hundred copies of his resume and flooded the mailboxes at the Department of State. His determination was rewarded with a call, pleading with him to stop clogging the internal mail at the State – and kindly come in for an interview; and rest, as they say, is history. Dennis, in service of his beloved country since 1960, served in some of the most difficult regions of the world – ensuring that United States’ aid to deserving countries was spent appropriately, and accounted for. Dennis succeeded in germinating, or nurturing, democracies in countries like Pakistan, Nigeria, South Korea, Philippines, South Africa, and Madagascar. When necessary, he adroitly shifted his ‘soft-touch’ diplomacy to a resolute stance – achieving results demanded by the American citizens. Dennis considered effectuating the breakup of South African Apartheid, and playing a seminal role in the release of Nelson Mandela as one of his crowning diplomatic achievements. Another of Dennis’ major achievements was his invitation to, and subsequent establishment of, the United States Peace Corp offices in Madagascar.
Dennis, a consummate Career Officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development – USAID and United States Department of State, concluded his long and distinguished career serving American interest and values across the developing world as the Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary for the Democratic Republic of Madagascar.
Dennis, over the course of his service with the USAID and the State, received numerous awards from the U.S. Government and Governments of Nigeria, South Africa, and the Philippines. He was also awarded the Order of National Commander by the Government of Madagascar, which was the first time this Order had ever been conferred on a foreigner.
Dennis married the love of his life, Rosemary (Rosie) Barrett (nee Sumner), on December 22nd, 1988 in South Africa – who, until his final breath, remained vigilant by his side.
In an interview with the Portland Magazine, published by his Alma Mater, Dennis noted that “… I like to believe that we never lost faith in the fundamental goodness of people and their hope for freedom.” In many ways, these words serve as the coda for Dennis’ resplendent life.