Monday, April 20, 2009

Peace Corps Volunteer

Catherine "Kate" Puzey, Peace Corps volunteer, was found dead outside her home in a remote, rural village about a seven hour drive north of Cotonou, in West Africa.

Peace Corps volunteer’s killing devastates relatives in Cumming
by Kathy Jefcoats

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Monday, March 16, 2009

Kate Puzey settled into the West African nation Benin almost two years ago as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English.

Relatives said she acclimated quickly, dining with local seamstresses and wise women, and attending a birthday party for a village child. Puzey, 24, wrote on her blog of witnessing a ritual circumcision and anticipating the start of mango season in April.

So her parents, Harry and Lois Puzey of Cumming, were devastated to learn last week that someone had killed their only daughter. Her body was found Thursday outside her home in Benin.

“We’ve been told they have a major suspect but we don’t know any details,” Harry Puzey said Sunday. “We don’t think her death was political or random but an individual act by one person.”
Lois Puzey said her daughter was a staunch defender of the “underdog.”

“She was whipsmart, articulate and honest with people,” Lois Puzey said. “She would always stand up for the underdog. That was a major part of her personality.”

Kate Puzey was born in Germany, where her parents were U.S. Department of Defense teachers. When she was 7, they moved to Okinawa, where Kate graduated high school at the top of her class. She graduated from the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

“We taught her to be a citizen of the world,” he said.

Kate wrote about her experiences around the world on her blog, at

One entry about Benin begins:

“I realized some time ago my education here goes way beyond the local language and customs. I’ve become familiar with so many new sounds. I now know the sound of a chicken when it’s being killed, a goat when it’s giving birth, the baby next door when it’s hungry. … With all the noise I find myself listening more. That is, before I put in earplugs at night to try and get some sleep!”

Lois Puzey said she is devastated.

“She was an incredible person, gifted in people skills,” she said. “She would just light up a room. It’s hard to believe someone bigger than life is gone.”

Kate Puzey was comfortable in her adopted, albeit temporary, home, said her cousin, Emilie Jacobs-Finnegan.

“She always saw the positive in people,” Jacobs-Finnegan said. “But she was not naive. She was feisty, a real steel magnolia, but she had a way of soothing people. She was open-minded and compassionate.”

Lois Puzey said her daughter’s body will be accompanied back to Georgia in a few days by a Peace Corps official.

Services are set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Alpharetta’s Sanctuary at Birmingham United Methodist Church.

There are over 100 Peace Corps volunteers currently working in Benin.

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