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November 2, 1999

THE CRASH OF EGYPTAIR 990: THE VICTIMS

Across the World, Family and Friends Sift Memories


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  • BY FRANCIS X. CLINES

    b.gif ALTIMORE — More resolute than bereft, Patricia Rose is making a memorial journal of the final two weeks in the life of Walla Zeid, a 19-year-old student from Luxor, Egypt.

    "It's important that her family know how their child spent her last two weeks on earth," Mrs. Rose explained Monday at Dunbar High School in Baltimore, where Ms. Zeid and three other Egyptian exchange students spent two all-too-fleeting weeks of schooling and socializing.

    "There will be pictures of Walla from every day she was with us so her family has a memory of what their child was like," said Mrs. Rose, glancing over at her own daughter, Chantel, a 17-year-old Dunbar senior grieving for her newfound friend, now lost. "That family sent their child to me for two weeks and didn't know she wasn't going to come back."

    All over the world Monday, families and friends sifted through pictures mental and sentimental ones as well as photographs of the 217 passengers and crew members who died Sunday when EgyptAir Flight 990 fell into the Atlantic Ocean off Nantucket.

    There were children and retirees, business people and vacationers. Many of the victims were traveling in groups: more than 30 Egyptian military officers returning home from a variety of missions across the country; six supervisory engineers from the Egyptian branch of the oil giant BP Amoco PTL; 30 adventurous Americans on an Elderhostel tour; a foursome of card players from Southern California, and the Egyptian students at Dunbar High in downtown Baltimore.

    At the high school, a dozen parents, teachers and students pondered the frightening news that came so soon after they had thrown a jubilant bon voyage celebration Saturday at the airport.

    "Everyone's kind of numb," said the principal, Dr. Joyce Ilean Jennings, who had been host to one of the students, 12-year-old Gehed Mohamed, and to her father, Hosam Mohamed Ahmed, the tour chaperone and a tourism director from Egypt who also perished on the plane.

    "At the airport with them Saturday, it was like Christmas, so glorious," Dr. Jennings said, describing how Gehed beamed and waved goodbye as she trod down the jetway in a pair of oversize Winnie-the-Pooh bedroom slippers, a gift from Chantel Rose.

    Sameh Morkos, a 15-year-old student, was remembered by his American friend, 17-year-old Chris Hill, for a spontaneous sense of humor that endeared him to all sorts of people as he mugged his way through class and darted in open wonder through the city's shopping malls. "We laughed a lot," Chris said. "He was just like a second little brother."

    Chris and the others who grew close to the visitors said they were determined to carry out the second half of the exchange program, however nervous the Dunbar party might be when they take off next spring for Luxor, where their visitors had lived. "I have a lot to say to Sameh's family about the way their son was, about the last days he was here on earth, days full of joy and energy."

    Imilda Kolander, 66, who traveled the world with her husband and on her own, was not quite fearless, but almost, said her husband, Harry. On a trip up Mount Ararat in Turkey, she was taken as a hostage by Kurdish rebels.

    "Mil had a wonderful life," Kolander, of San Ramon, Calif., said in a telephone conversation punctuated with deep sighs. "She was a fulfilled person."

    She put a Dramamine patch behind her ear on Saturday and boarded EgyptAir Flight 990 for a tour that was to take her to Egypt and Jordan to pursue a deep interest in antiquities, he said. She had put off an operation to replace both knees, he said, because she wanted to take the trip. "She said: 'It ain't hurtin' bad enough. I'm going to let it hurt a little longer,"' said Kolander, who loved to travel, but could no longer accompany her because he had developed diabetes.

    Mrs. Kolander, who is also survived by a daughter and a son, had seen much of what she wanted to see of the world, from China and the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, to the Balkans, the Himalayas and outer Mongolia.

    She lost interest in traveling only once, after a trip to Turkey in 1990. While climbing Mount Ararat, she and several members of her small tour group were intercepted by Kurdish rebels who were apparently interested in taking an American hostage, Kolander said. She was forced to walk from about 10,000 feet up the mountain to 14,000 feet, where she passed out. Her captors decided she was an unsuitable hostage, and sent her down the mountain, where she was later picked up by a truck driver and turned over to military police. It was a year before she traveled again.

    Then she went back to Turkey to finish her trip.
    JANE FRITSCH

    The joke around the radiology department at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Chillicothe, Ohio, was that when Dr. Adel Elkousy, the department's chief, and his administrative assistant, Milly New, both retired in a few years, they would have to go to the courthouse for a divorce.

    "We spent more time with each other than with our spouses," Ms. New said Monday.

    They had worked together for 22 years, since Elkousy, 67, first arrived at the hospital. "We didn't think of him as the boss," Ms. New said of herself and the department's nine other employees. "He was Doc."

    He was a Muslim; Ms. New, and the other employees, were Christian. They celebrated each other's holidays. Born in Luxor, Egypt, and a graduate of the University of Cairo, Elkousy had become an American citizen, with his wife, Wafaa. He was so appreciative of America's rights and freedoms that before he and his wife left for their two month trip to Egypt a pilgrimage they made every other year he filled out an absentee ballot.

    Serious in demeanor outside the hospital, he welcomed practical jokes and tricks within its walls. "He said: 'We deal with death. We deal with illness. We have to be able to laugh,"' Ms. New said.

    Everyone called him Doc, even at the Big Bear Grocery, where he went almost daily. He was so well loved at the store that employees would bake special muffins just for him.

    Yet they were a very private family, said Joanne Stevens, a neighbor and friend. What was public was Mrs. Elkousy's pride in her two sons: Hussein and Mohamed, tennis stars in high school, doctors in adulthood.

    Mrs. Elkousy had relatives in Egypt, so every other year they made their visit home. Before he left, on Friday, the doctor embraced his employees, who were apprehensive about his trip. Ms. New said she was crying. He looked at her and said, "I'm going home."
    AMY WALDMAN

    They found each other late in life, after long careers in science and social work. They had raised eight children between the two of them, and lost their first spouses to cancer.

    But Richard Brokaw, 76, and Virginia Chaplin, 72, were just getting started together.

    The newlyweds they celebrated their first anniversary on Oct. 23 split their time between his home at the foot of the Green Mountains in Strafford, Vt., and her home overlooking the Atlantic in Georgetown, Maine.

    The two were studying Homer's "Iliad" for a future trip to Greece, and had planned to ski the slopes of St. Moritz in January. "They loved life, knowledge and learning, both of them," said Mrs. Chaplin's daughter Anne Chaplin Gould of Kennebunkport, Maine. "They weren't the type to just take a cruise."

    Brokaw retired in 1973 after 20 years at the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, where he received an achievement medal for his study of gases during combustion. Mrs. Chaplin served on the national board of the YWCA in the 1970s, and continued to volunteer with the organization. When she was in her 60s, she enrolled in classes at the Divinity School at Yale University.

    Brokaw and Mrs. Chaplin met a decade ago, when they were traveling with their spouses on an Elderhostel trip in Greece. The couples remained friends, and after tragedy struck years later, Brokaw and Mrs. Chaplin came together in support and friendship.

    "Their friendship blossomed into love," said Brokaw's daughter Frances Brokaw of Norwich, Vt. "They were happy together. I felt like they were so lucky to find each other at the end of their lives."
    WINNIE HU

    They were a foursome: a quartet of women in Orange County, Calif., who were brought together by the card game Pan.

    Beverly Grant, Judy Bowman, Sheila Jaffee and Tobey Seidman played together with three or four others each Thursday night for several years. Mrs. Grant's son-in-law, Randy Garell, said the three others had planned the three-week trip.

    "Bev had already been to that part of world but she was one of these people who said, 'I'd like to go,"' Garell said. "So she decided to go, too." He said the women were particularly looking forward to a boat trip down the Nile. "I'm sure they were going to play a lot of cards."

    He said his mother-in-law worked every day in the sporting goods store owned by her daughter, Alexa, and Garell. She is also survived by three sons and two grandchildren.

    "Most 23-year-olds couldn't have kept up with her," Garell said. "She really was in the prime of her life, at 82."
    CHRISTIAN BERTHELSEN

    Kurt Schwenk, the 39-year-old manager of business development at the Palm Computing division of 3Com Corp. in Santa Clara, Calif., was following one of his several passions when he took off on vacation with his girlfriend, her parents, his mother, Erica Schwenk of Hilton, N.Y., and his sister and brother-in-law, Mitzie Schwenk and Will Jackson of Scotch Plains, N.J.

    "He was a regular world traveler," said Betty Taylor, a Silicon Valley public relations executive who was a friend of Schwenk's. She said he had recently traveled in Spain and Ireland and had trekked in the Himalayas in Nepal last year. "We all described Kurt as someone who was larger than life. He had a big personality and a great sense of humor and wit."

    Schwenk's other passions were skiing and rugby, she said. He played for the San Jose Seahawks, an amateur team. Another outdoor passion was skiing, said Nancy Keith Kelly, a friend who is vice president and group manager at the Fleishman-Hillard public relations agency in Singapore. She summed up his philosophy of life this way: "The more stamps on your passport the more fun life becomes."

    To their neighbors in Ridgefield, Conn., they were Natalie and Martin Greenberg. To each other, they were "sweetheart" and "doll."

    Rabbi Jon Haddon of Temple Sherith Israel was planning to help the couple renew their marriage vows on their 50th anniversary in May. "I never remember not seeing them together," he said.

    They were also planning to celebrate the occasion this spring with a cruise in Alaska, with their only daughter and two grandchildren. But the Greenbergs, avid travelers and tennis players, did not reach that milestone. They had set off Saturday on their first trip to Egypt.

    "They had a hard time staying home," said Karl Holzthum, who played bridge with the Greenbergs. Neighbors and friends in this New York suburb, where they had lived for more than 25 years, said Greenberg, a semiretired toy salesman, enjoyed his subscription to the New York Philharmonic, until his hearing started to fail. A former secretary in the Bronx public schools, Mrs. Greenberg used to enjoy hikes with friends, but had double hip replacement surgery this year.

    Hadden recalled seeing them power-walking through town.

    "They lived life to the hilt," he said, "and really contemplated this trip as the trip of their life."
    TINA KELLEY

    Norman and Joan Shapiro and Larry and Edith Kowalsky were close friends for nearly half a century in metropolitan Detroit before they boarded the EgyptAir flight for what was supposed to have been a day in Cairo followed by a two-week photography safari in Kenya.

    Shapiro, 70, and Kowalsky, 74, attended pharmacy school at Wayne State University in the early 1950s and became friends soon after graduation through a professional organization of pharmacists.

    Kowalsky "was the kind of pharmacist in the neighborhood that you'd go to and say, 'I have something wrong with my ear,' and he'd recommend something off the shelf," said John Moscheck, who owns a butcher shop across the street from where the Kowalskys' drug store used to be in Allen Park, Mich. Kowalsky and his wife, Edith, 68, are survived by four sons and six grandchildren, said one of their sons, Steven Kowalsky.

    Shapiro so enjoyed meeting customers that he continued to work full time for several years after he sold his pharmacy in 1992, and was still working on Saturdays until the crash, said Richard Kerr, the manager of the CVS drug store in Bloomfield Township, Mich., that bought Shapiro's business. Joan Shapiro, 64, wrote at least two published romance novels. They are survived by two sons and a daughter, said Ben-Zion Lanxner, the rabbi and cantor at their synagogue, Congregation B'nai David.

    Allan Gale, the assistant director of the Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Detroit, said their presence on the flight was a testament to progress in the Middle East. Until recently, he said, "I don't think you'd find many Jews flying on EgyptAir unless they had relatives in Cairo."
    KEITH BRADSHER

    Robert Fitzpatrick had lived on Long Island's North Fork for only three years, but to his neighbors on Old Wood Path in Southold, N.Y., he may as well have been a lifelong resident.

    The 69-year-old retiree took long, solitary walks through the woods to Great Peconic Bay, but stopped often to chitchat. "He made a lot of friends out here," said Doug Jacobs, who lives a few doors away from Fitzpatrick and his wife, Sharon Fitzpatrick, 67.

    Fitzpatrick volunteered with the Scenic Byways Advisory Committee, a group of town residents that for two years has been formulating a land-use plan to maintain the rural character of Southold. Mrs. Fitzpatrick also became a fixture, supporting a budding arts community that brought concerts to the town and arts programs to schools.

    The couple had lived for years in Port Washington, N.Y., but when Fitzpatrick retired as the manager of a Lord & Taylor store in Garden City, N.Y., and Mrs. Fitzpatrick retired as an English teacher at Hempstead, N.Y., High School, they left the big house where they had raised four children and moved to a cozy saltbox colonial nestled in the woods in Southold.

    There, Fitzpatrick could take his walks and Mrs. Fitzpatrick, who wrote poetry and fiction, could work on her mystery novels, two of which she was trying to publish. The couple, who were married 44 years, could also put up their four grown children and four grandchildren.

    On Monday, the children gathered at the Southold home, where they fielded phone calls from friends and relatives, and reminisced. "Whatever fear or pain they felt," Sean said, "they were holding hands when it happened, and we're glad they were together."
    JUAN FORERO




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