D'Adamo, 38, of Catholic Relief Services Deputy director's work for Africa began with Peace Corps job

M. A.

October 14, 1995|By FRED RASMUSSEN | FRED RASMUSSEN,SUN STAFF

Michael Anthony D'Adamo, deputy director of Catholic Relief Services, whose work took him to Angola, Somalia, Rwanda and Ghana, died Oct. 5 of AIDS at his Charles Village residence. He was 38.

Mr. D'Adamo, who joined the Baltimore-based relief organization 1987, was considered an expert on famine and disaster relief.

Earlier this year, Mr. D'Adamo completed an agreement, which was signed in Baltimore, between the Rome-based World Food Program, an emergency aid agency of the United Nations, and CRS, the international humanitarian organization of the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops.

Mr. D'Adamo told The Sun in an interview, "Practically speaking, what the agreement does is make WFP responsible for getting resources into a country and then hand the resources over to CRS, which will have the responsibility for registration of beneficiaries and the actual distribution."

Mr. D'Adamo's experience with Africa began in 1981 while he was serving with the Peace Corps teaching accounting and business mathematics.

"I hired him," said Kenneth F. Hackett, CRS director. "He had a rough job, his people were always under fire, but he managed to keep their spirits up. He was a natural leader, and people always were willing to line up behind him.

"He was a really good guy to be with, play basketball with, drink beer with and go to work with," said Mr. Hackett.

Bill O'Keefe, director of CRS' Operation Rice Bowl, said, "He was one of the notable individuals in our field.

"He was a leader who was able in Africa, whose culture and people he deeply respected, to combine relief and economic theories and put them into common practice. He was able to work and understand the link between short-term relief and long-term community development.

"He was the type of person who never accepted the status quo. He thought that things could be better, and he had a deep commitment to that," Mr. O'Keefe said.

Richard Ford, a professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., said, "He was a very principled person who, when he was applying for jobs after graduate school, was sent first-class airline tickets to an interview on the West Coast.

"He sent them back and told them they were more interested in impressing him than with their role in Africa, and that an interview would not be beneficial. That's why we called him 'feisty Mike,' " said Mr. Ford.

Mr. D'Adamo earned a master's degree at Clark in international development in 1985.

He served as a mentor to many young students he met in Africa.

"He was always sending us students and used his own money to help get them here. He was far from being a rich man, but thought that students of energy and promise would benefit by studying at Clark," said Mr. Ford.

Mr. D'Adamo was a member of Friends of Lesotho and the Returned Peace Corps Association.

Born in New York City, Mr. D'Adamo was raised in Garden City, S.C. He was a graduate of Socastee High School and earned his bachelor's degree in 1978 from South Carolina's Furman University.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. today at Catholic Relief Services headquarters, 209 W. Fayette St., Baltimore.

He is survived by his mother and stepfather, Cliff and Betty Olsen of Linville, N.C.; a brother, Stephen D'Adamo of Cincinnati; and a sister, Renee D'Adamo of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Memorial contributions may be made to Catholic Relief Services; or Whitman-Walker Clinic, 1407 S Street N.W., Washington, D.C.

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