Born in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, Liz graduated from Bennington College in 1960. She went on to graduate school at Arizona State and the Universidad National Autonoma de Mexico.
Liz spent most of her working life overseas, and she clearly loved it. Her first job was on the Peace Corps staff in Lahore, Pakistan, followed by more senior Peace Corps positions in Thailand and Tunisia.
She saw embassies in operation in those countries, and she got the Foreign Service bug. After passing the rigorous Foreign Service entrance exam, she joined the Department of State in August 1973 and began in-service training. One of only four women in an entering class of twenty-five, she excelled, coming out with a highly sought-after assignment in Lyon, France. After completing basic training as a consular officer, she headed out to her first post where she was the only consular officer in a two-person post. She learned by doing.
Liz was not one to seek out comfortable postings. Her next assignment was in Seoul, Korea, where she was one of many consular officers, allowing her to see and learn the whole range of skills that she would need during the long career on which she was embarking. From Seoul, she went to Addis Ababa, where Ethiopia was in the midst of its brutal killings known as the Red Terror. She recalled dinners interrupted by gunfire and American residents, caught up in the violence, who needed to find their way back to the U.S. with embassy help. Liz was often that help.
She returned to Washington in 1981 for a position on the Executive Secretariat, an office that worked directly for the Secretary of State. Her next assignment was to be China, and that required two years of training in Mandarin, first in the Foreign Service institute in northern Virginia and then a year in a school in Taiwan where students explored a Chinese environment and improved their speaking and understanding of the Chinese language before using it in the workplace.
Liz spent 1983-1986 in the US Consulate in Guangzhou. She oversaw a very busy consular section during the early years after U.S. normalization with the People’s Republic. Working conditions were awful - she remembered the cockroaches and rats - but the job was worthwhile and fulfilling. She was rewarded with a promotion to the Consul General job in Beijing where she oversaw all the consular sections in China and worked on developing a relationship with Chinese officials at the Foreign Ministry.
China turned out to be a steppingstone to even bigger assignments. She returned to Africa in 1991 as Deputy Chief of Mission in Ouagadougou where she served as Charge d’Affaires from April to November 1993. She was selected to attend the prestigious yearlong Foreign Service Senior Seminar in 1995 and arrived in Gabon as Ambassador in 1996. Liz returned to Washington in 1998 to head the office of senior assignments. She left there, taking leave without pay, so that she could spend time with her seriously ill brother, Anthony (known to the family as Sonny), until his death in 2000.
Liz retired from the State Department in 2001 to Tucson, Arizona, but that was far from the end of the story. The Department recalled her in 2008 to be Charge d’Affaires in Conakry, Guinea at a very tumultuous time. During her almost two years there, the military seized power and was brutal to its opponents. She was remembered for her unflappable presence and for supporting her embassy staff during the continuing crisis.
Liz devoted her life to the service of her country and did her job with passion and dedication. This led to many enduring friendships. She embraced the culture of every country she served in and learned to speak several languages during the course of her illustrious career.
In retirement, Liz divided her time between Phoenix, Arizona and Santa Fe, New Mexico. She remained a lifelong avid reader as well as a supporter of education and the arts. Liz spent her final years collecting art and Native American jewelry, as well as going to exhibits and volunteering at several local museums. She also always made time for the Santa Fe Opera, which she looked forward to attending each year as a chance to keep in touch with friends and former colleagues.
Even with all these activities, Liz found time to visit her family in Pittsburgh, New York and Cleveland. She did her best to show up for important events like weddings and family reunions. Liz made it a point to regularly keep in touch with her stateside cousins. She also provided love and affection to a succession of beloved cats that she shared her home with. As an unpretentious person, Liz found this phase of her life as equally rewarding as her professional life.
Liz passed away following a brief illness on May 26, 2022. She is survived by her cousins, Catherine (Raspolic) Jelkovac, Lillian (Raspolic) Carrara, Norman Raspolic, Judy Burch and their families. She will be fondly remembered by her cousins for family gatherings growing up and the detailed repository she kept of the family’s history.
The family wishes to thank all who shared stories and comforting words which were read to Liz while she was succumbing to her illness. We were grateful to learn about her Foreign Service career and were touched at how many lives she affected.
Liz will be interred at William Penn Memorial Cemetery, in Churchill, PA. alongside her father Anton Raspolic, her mother Mildred (Raynovich) Raspolic and brother Anthony “Sonny” Raspolic.
Arrangements being handled by Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home in East Pittsburgh, PA.