August 27, 1934 – January 25, 2015
The first thing you noticed about Ted Wilkinson was his size. I expect everyone in this church will agree that ted was a big man. But most of you did not have to receive his serve in the deuce court. It came down from a great height in a sharp slice. Our late friend Kempton Jenkins complained that no matter how far you moved right into the alley Ted still put the ball out of reach.
And when you watched Ted in a tourist class airplane seat or folded into the back seat of a compact car you felt his pain, as Bill Clinton used to say. But Ted never complained.
He loved language. He spoke spanish, portuguese, german, french and a good deal of swedish. He was a skilled and prolific writer. He wrote a fascinating monograph on Xenia’s serbian parents, their escape from Yugoslavia to America, his father-in-law’s service as an American intelligence officer behind German lines during WWII and his subsequent anger at the way Churchill, with Roosevelt’s agreement, turned his back on the royalist and liberal insurgent General Draza Mihailovic in favor of the Communist partisan Josip Tito. Churchill found Tito more effective against the Germans.
Ted was appointed the American member of the four-power Guarantor Support Commission that successfully resolved the acrimonious border dispute between ecuador and peru. He published a detailed account of that also. And he wrote book reviews and articles for the internet review <americandiplomacy.org>, of which he was a board member.
For several years Ted and I drove up to Long Island each summer for the US Open tennis tournament. On one trip he spent most of the time critiquing and editing Xenia’s phd thesis on wartime rubber production in Brazil. Two years ago he took Xenia out to Boise, Idaho for the Davis Cup tie between the United States and Serbia. Other things being equal, Xenia tends to support a Serb. This is not difficult, Ted thought, as long as Novak Djokovic is the best player in the world.
Ted was elected president of AFSA, the American Foreign Service Association. Later, and for six years, he chaired the editorial board of the Foreign Service Journal. He was a strong editor and also a graceful manager of strong viewpoints. Ted was a tolerant fellow, but like most Foreign Service officers he regretted that noone else could draft properly.
Ted and I also traveled to miami for the Sony Ericsson tournament and to check up on Julia.
We spent a week in London for the Barklays ATP Finals. On that trip he devoted much time to shopping for an English blue blazer for Xenia. Ted had forgotten her detailed instructions about European and American sizes, so he pointed to a nonplussed British matron and said, “her size”. You can ask Xenia how that turned out.
He will be sorely missed by our longstanding monthly poker group, all of whom are here this afternoon.
To serve as minister counselor for political affairs in both Mexico and Brazil, the most important countries of Latin America, is a great professional recognition. Ted cared about American diplomacy and the United States Foreign Service. He was an active member of the Group of Fifteen. These are former AFSA presidents determined to beat back current efforts to weaken the foreign service and to blur its separate identity. I guess we will now be the Group of 14.
Ted Wilkinson lost his one son to cancer far too young. He had tough physical problems himself. He survived a severe malignancy several years ago; he had chronic lymphadema; an imperfect hip repacement left him lame.
Ted was never appointed Chief of Mission despite his impressive professional career. That must have been a disappointment. Yet in forty years of friendship I never heard a word of anger or complaint, never a mean comment. He was invariably positive, loyal, unselfish and considerate. He was a modest man. Ted Wilkinson lived a christian life and that is quite an accomplishment.