Eugene S. Staples, Foreign Service officer and foundation president, dies at 91

November 6, 2013

Eugene S. Staples, a former State Department official who later became president of a foundation promoting international understanding, died Oct. 4 at his home in Wakefield, R.I. He was 91.

The cause was congestive heart failure, his wife, Judy Staples, said.

Mr. Staples, who was known as Rocky, was a news correspondent in Mexico for the old United Press before joining the Foreign Service in 1951. As a press officer in South America, he helped plan a tour of Latin America for Vice President Richard M. Nixon in 1958.

In 1959, Mr. Staples was assigned to Moscow to help organize an exhibition of American products, including kitchen appliances and other household wares. The exhibition was the site of a somewhat confrontational meeting between Nixon and Soviet premier Nikita S. Khrushchev that became known as the “kitchen debate.”

After serving at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow from 1961 to 1964, Mr. Staples joined the Ford Foundation and supervised development programs in Asia for many years.

Mr. Staples joined the Asia bureau of the U.S. Agency for International Development in 1981 and served in Pakistan from 1985 until his retirement in 1988.

In 1992, Mr. Staples helped establish the Eurasia Foundation, which provides community development grants to former republics of the Soviet Union and other locales. He retired as president of the foundation in 1997.

Eugene Sheldon Staples was born in Marceline, Mo., and grew up in Kansas City, Mo.

He served in World War II as a Marine Corps fighter pilot in the Pacific theater. He survived the bombing of the aircraft carrier USS Franklin on March 19, 1945, which resulted in hundreds of casualties.

Mr. Staples graduated from the English-language Mexico City College in the late 1940s and did advanced work in Russian-language studies at State Department and U.S. Army language institutes. He was also fluent in Spanish.

He wrote a self-published memoir, “Old Gods, New Nations,” in 2006. In recent years, he had homes in Wakefield and New York City.

Mr. Staples’s first wife, the former Charlotte Stern, died in 1978 after 30 years of marriage. His second marriage, to Suzanne Fisher, ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 20 years, Judy Reynolds Staples of Wakefield and New York; three children from his first marriage, John Staples of Seattle, Kathleen Staples of Miami and Peter Staples of Narragansett, R.I.; a brother; and four grandchildren.

— Samantha Hogan

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