For Families, A Mixture of Anger, Grief
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, August 9, 1998; Page A01
Molly Huckaby Hardy had been waiting all summer for someone to take her place in the administrative division of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. She wanted to come back to the Centreville home she loved and dote on her new grandson, family members and friends recalled yesterday.
Prabhi Guptara Kavaler had just left her McLean home and gone to Nairobi, with her husband and their two daughters, to start a new assignment in administration at the embassy there.
Hardy, 51, and Kavaler, 46, were among the 12 Americans -- several with Washington ties -- known yesterday to have died after a car bomb exploded outside the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. In an apparently coordinated attack, a bomb also exploded in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. At least 149 people were killed in the blasts.
Hardy was a divorced mother who brought up a daughter alone and won a reputation as "the fun mom" while serving on three continents during a 20-year State Department career. Kavaler, a Foreign Service officer whose husband was also a Foreign Service officer, was "beloved by everyone who ever met her," her mother-in-law said.
Friends and relatives struggled, often on the verge of tears, to come to terms with the deaths.
After the first reports of the bombings in Africa, Hardy's daughter, Brandi Plants, 24, who has been living in her mother's Centreville town house with her husband, Rick, and their baby, Devin, said she waited all day Friday to hear from the State Department.
Hardy had been told that a replacement for her would arrive in Nairobi in June. Then she was to come home this month. Eventually, the date was delayed until September. On Friday, with the airwaves filled with reports of the bombing, and her mother still in Nairobi, Plants said she felt a particular dread.
"When I turned on the TV and it said there was a bomb at the embassy, I knew it was where she worked, but I didn't know if she was there," Plants said. "By 3:30 or 4 [p.m.], I guess I knew. I just knew that if she was alive she would have called me."
State Department officials, who had told Plants that her mother was missing, arrived at the house late Friday afternoon to tell her that Hardy was dead.
Hardy's mother, Jayne Huckaby, last saw her daughter in April 1997, when Hardy returned to her home town of Valdosta, Ga., for the funeral of her younger sister and only sibling, Patti, who had been killed in a collision with a dump truck.
"Her mother is just devastated. She has lost her only two children in 15 months," family friend Marsha Bates said yesterday in a telephone interview from the Huckaby home in Valdosta.
In Nairobi, she turned a ruin of a garden at her house into a little paradise, said friends who had seen recent photographs.
Recently she had been warming to her new role of grandmother and was looking forward to seeing more of her grandson. In September, she went back to Centreville to see him.
The grief of Hardy's family and friends was tinged yesterday with anger.
"You look at stuff like this, this isn't supposed to happen in Beaver-Cleaver land," family friend Kimberly Morrison said. "She wasn't killed; she was murdered."
Prabhi Kavaler was born in India, the daughter of a university professor, and she met Howard Kavaler, her future husband, when he was assigned there on his first State Department tour, about 20 years ago, according to Pearl Kavaler, her mother-in-law.
Prabhi Kavaler, who received a master's degree in sociology from the University of New Delhi, became an American citizen and a Foreign Service officer herself, and she and her husband moved around the world on assignments that took them to Pakistan, the Philippines, Israel, Paris and, once before, to Nairobi.
A few years ago, they bought a house on Balsam Drive, a quiet street in the Chesterbrook section of McLean, where their older daughter, Tara, 10, attended Chesterbrook elementary school and Prabhi Kavaler, according to a neighbor, immersed herself in school activities.
"They were great people," a Balsam Drive neighbor said.
The younger daughter, Maya, who is 5, was to start kindergarten this year in Nairobi. The family arrived in Nairobi 10 days ago, said Pearl Kavaler, in a telephone interview from her home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The day before the bombing, Kavaler took the older girl for an evaluation in Nairobi to see what grade would suit her there.
Now the children are coming back to the United States with their father for their mother's burial in Washington, Pearl Kavaler said.
"The children are decimated," she said.
"My daughter-in-law was somebody who was beloved by everyone who ever met her," she said, describing her as lively and vivacious, "a wonderful mother" and "a very good daughter" to her and her husband, Leon Kavaler.
She said Prabhi Kavaler's mother lives in Westchester County, N.Y., and a brother lives in Switzerland. Her father died when Prabhi Kavaler was 5, she said.
The fear felt by Hardy's daughter when she heard of the explosion was shared by Evelyn Olds, a Panama City, Fla., woman whose daughter, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Sherry Lynn Olds, 40, was also listed yesterday as among the Americans killed in Nairobi.
"I knew it was bad when I turned on the TV at 5 a.m.," Evelyn Olds said. She said she spent the rest of Friday "in limbo," waiting for officials from nearby Tyndall Air Force Base to confirm her fears. "Sherry would have contacted" her and her husband, Delbert, "if she'd been alive," Evelyn Olds said.
Sherry Olds joined the Air Force 20 years ago after graduating from junior college. She had at least two ambitions. "She wanted to see the world," her mother said, "and she wanted to finish her education." She did both, eventually receiving a degree from the University of South Carolina.
Olds had been assigned to the embassy in Nairobi for the last year. Last month, she attended noncommissioned officer school in Birmingham, Ala., and made it home to visit her parents. "She was very independent, industrious, caring and thoughtful," her mother said.
On Friday, the day of the bombing, the mail at Delbert and Evelyn Olds's home in Panama City included a short note from their daughter.
It said she had returned to Africa safely.
Yesterday, Evelyn Olds played a videotape her daughter had made during a visit to a game preserve. The animals appeared on the screen. Sherry Olds narrated.
"I couldn't see her," her mother said, "but I could hear her voice."
In Tallahassee, relatives of Jesse Nathanael Aliganga, a 21-year-old Marine sergeant also killed in the bombing remembered him as a little guy with a big heart.
"He had so many goals," said his mother, Clara Aliganga, 43, who runs a day-care center out of her home. He wanted to make sergeant in his first four-year tour, and was proud when he did in July. After postings in Okinawa, Japan and Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aliganga finished the security guard school in Quantico and was sent to Nairobi.
Aliganga was born in Oakland, Calif., and grew up in Pensacola, Fla., becoming an energetic and ambitious youth who liked drawing, reading Greek mythology, playing the saxophone in his high school band and collecting comic books, family members recalled.
When he was assigned to Nairobi in February, his sister, Leah Colston said: "My mother had great misgivings. . . . You hear about these things that can happen." But her brother seemed happy.
At first, Clara Aliganga said, the State Department told her that Nathan was in the hospital. But later Friday, she learned that he was listed as missing. And yesterday morning military officials came to her home. "They said he . . . had died at his post," she said.
His sister said the family is hurting. "He promised us he was going to come home," she said.
At least three others named yesterday on a list compiled by the Associated Press as killed in the bombing had Washington ties. Jay Bartley was listed as the son of consul general Julian Bartley. Julian Bartley, and possibly members of his family, apparently lived in Bowie before going overseas.
Another U.S. victim was identified as Jean Dalizu, a member of the defense attache's office. Dalizu's daughter lives in Southeast Washington. She said last night that her mother lived in Kenya.
Another American victim was identified as Tom Shah, a member of the embassy's political section, who may have lived in the Washington area.
Staff writers Steven Gray and Annie Gowen, researcher Madonna Lebling and Metro Resources Director Margot Williams contributed to this report.
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