Victoria DeLong was only known U.S. diplomat to die in quake

Victoria DeLong had a great affection for Haiti.
Victoria DeLong had a great affection for Haiti. (Family Photo)
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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Victoria DeLong didn't have a favorite country. After serving as a diplomat in so many, from Costa Rica to Congo, choosing one would have been hard.

But friends say that few places in her nearly three decades at the State Department touched her the way Haiti did.

Posted there last year, she was struck not only by the poverty but by the resilience of the people, recalled Cesar B. Cabrera, who was the U.S. ambassador to Mauritius and kept in touch with DeLong after she moved from that island nation to Washington and then on to Haiti.

"She said they were very poor, but they were always smiling and they were very nice people," Cabrera, who is retired, said in a telephone interview from Puerto Rico.

DeLong, who was 57 and served as a cultural affairs officer in Port-au-Prince, died in Tuesday's earthquake. She was at her home in the capital city when the quake struck, and she is the only U.S. diplomat known to have perished in the catastrophe.

It was the end of a career that began by chance at a California college.

A fellow student was taking a break from the Foreign Service to go back to school, and she raved to DeLong about what a wonderful career the State Department offered.

"I was the one who convinced her to join," said Dorothy Ledger, who was that other student and who remained a close friend.

By Ledger's account, it was a career choice that DeLong never regretted.

"She loved it. She absolutely loved it," Ledger said in an interview from Kentucky. "She loved the travel. She loved her job. She just loved all of it."

Over the course of 27 years, DeLong counted Australia, Germany and the Philippines among her postings.

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