Richard Pelczar

Richard Pelczar

CHAMPAIGN – Richard Pelczar, age 75, died peacefully on Friday (Sept. 29, 2017) at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, surrounded by his family.

He was born in East Chicago, Ind., in 1942, the second of four children born to Stanley and Mary (Gadzala) Pelczar. After graduating from Bishop Noll High School in Hammond, he attended Indiana University on a merit scholarship, receiving a bachelor of art with honors in government in 1964.

Inspired by John F. Kennedy's inauguration speech, he volunteered for the Peace Corps and served two years in Ecuador helping a rural community open its first credit union. These experiences instilled in him a lifelong passion for helping others around the world. He returned to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. in comparative education from the University of Chicago (awarded in 1973).

He met his wife, Lois Shapland, while teaching as an assistant professor in the Department of Education Policy Research at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. They married in 1972, and in 1974 he took a job in Chile with the Inter-American Development Bank, managing education and other social sector development projects.

Over the next 30 years of his career, he worked with IDB, the United States Agency for International Development and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and lived in Colombia, Chile (twice), Panama, the Dominican Republic (twice), Brazil (twice), Indonesia, Virginia, El Salvador and France before retiring and spending time between a seaside home in Searsport, Maine, and a home closer to family in Champaign.

He is survived by his beloved wife of 45 years, Lois Shapland Pelczar; their four children, Marisa (Matthew Wallis) Pelczar of Washington, D.C., Somer Pelczar of Champaign, Nicholas (Erin Carter) Pelczar of San Francisco, Calif., and Andrew (Vanessa Bresson) Pelczar of South Portland, Maine; his grandson, Sam of San Francisco, Calif.; his siblings, Maryann (Tom) Magurany of Munster, Ind., and Jerry (Randi) Pelczar of Hobart, Ind.; and many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents and brother, John.

The family will have a private memorial in Champaign at a later date.

Richard believed in the power of education to change people's lives and society for the better, and devoted himself to improving education systems around the world. Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, he had a special connection with the people and culture of Latin America.

Richard was gregarious and well-liked by many, and made his children laugh many times with his playful sense of humor. He made connections everywhere he went, and had scores of friends around the globe who remember him for his kindness, knowledge and big heart.

Although he endured more than his share of health issues over the past 10 years, he maintained a positive attitude, never gave up and found joy wherever and whenever he could in his life and with his family. Now he can finally rest in peace and without pain.

He will be greatly missed by his wife, children and all who knew and loved him.

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