As a part of Embassy Direct’s ten years celebration, we decided to launch a virtual segment called, “Former2Former. The initiative is basically a series of conversations between me and former colleagues, who were posted in South Africa, during the same periods that I served as ambassador. Earlier this year I reached former USA head of mission, Delano Lewis, a dear friend whom with as coincide in Pretoria, during my first diplomatic tour in the country. He was on the top of my list, to have one of the Former2Former dialogues. It never happened and is keeping me in arrears.

In the early hours of the 3rd of August, I got the sad news of Delano’s passing. I was aware of his illness but had the hope that my friend would get better and that we would have the opportunity to have our Former2Former conversation. Our mortality is what defines us. If we took a minute to realise such a fact, our lives would be way more meaningful and productive. And that was precisely what Delano Lewis’ life was. The former USA ambassador was a dedicated human being.

Born on a 12 of November in Arkansas City, he became an attorney, a businessman and a diplomat. Moreover, he was a loving husband and a caring father. He was married to the kind Gayle Jones, with whom he had four kids. One of them, Phil, is a known celebrity, for those who ever watch Disney Channel. As a career man, Delano worked as an attorney at the Justice Department and in the Office of Compliance in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He later became associate and country director for the Peace Corps in Nigeria and Uganda, during the 1960s. Thirty years ago, he became the president and CEO of the National Public Radio. In the corporate world, Delano served on the board of Apple Computer and was a member of the board of directors of Black Entertainment Television, Colgate-Palmolive, Haliburton, and Eastman Kodak.

In early 2000, the same year that I became the first Panamanian ambassador to South Africa, Delano Lewis presented his credentials to Thabo Mbeki. That was the time when we first met him and Gayle. I remember that it was at the Mexican residence in Pretoria. The chat began fluently and never stopped until our last exchange of texts, a few months ago, when I requested him to be one of our Former2Former guests. Delano and Gayle got seriously involved with the South African community. When we reunited again, in 2017, we drove together on a Sunday morning to a church in the middle of Mamelodi. This man truly understood clearly and in depth, the meaning of spirituality.  I was deeply impressed by his commitment towards the township. He introduced me to various friends. There I gathered the love and respect people in South Africa had for him. Even after he went into semi-retirement, Delano still involved South Africa in the academic work he dedicated his last years to. The solution for everyone to have access to drinkable water, became his obsession.

Delano was very supportive of my film project, Magic. His love for jazz and South African history motivated him to be part of our initiative. And even though it has not materialised yet, one fine day when it happens, I will honour his memory, for his contribution to our content. I have to say that I already miss him. He was an excellent human being. I am sure that Brian, Delano Jr, Geoffrey, and Lewis will continue his legacy. Few times in life, one can meet greatness and that is what I precisely encountered the day we first spoke to each other. Delano, my friend, rest in peace…

By Rodrigo Chiari