The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2021

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2021 85 n Diego Cortes Asencio , 89, a retired FSO and former ambassador, died on Oct. 6, 2020, at his home in PalmBeach, Fla., due to complications frommyasthenia gravis. With himwas his wife of 67 years, Nancy, and their children. Born in 1931 in Nijar, Spain, Mr. Asencio derived his American citizen- ship from his naturalized father, who had returned to his hometown to marry. He was raised in the Ironbound neighbor- hood of Newark, N.J. Mr. Asencio graduated fromGeorge- town University’s School of Foreign Ser- vice in Washington, D.C., in 1952 and was a member of the Delta Phi Epsilon Foreign Service Fraternity. After military service as a sergeant in the U.S. Army during the KoreanWar, he joined the Foreign Service in 1957. His first assignment was in the Bureau of Intel- ligence and Research inWashington, and his second was a posting toMexico to fill in for consular officers in Spanish-language training. In 1964 he was transferred to Panama, where he participated in the Panama Canal negotiations. Subsequent assignments included serving as special assistant to the assistant secretary for Inter-American Affairs/coor- dinator of the Alliance for Progress, deputy chief of mission in Portugal just before the Revolution of the Carnations, politi- cal counselor in Brazil during a military government and deputy chief of mission in Venezuela during the nationalization of the petroleum industry. In 1977 President Jimmy Carter appointedMr. Asencio U.S. ambassador to Colombia, where he implemented a Drug Enforcement Administration program aimed at eradicating drug trafficking. In 1980, while attending a cocktail party at the embassy of the Dominican Republic in Bogotá, he was captured by the radical paramilitary organization known as M-19 and held hostage with a group of other foreign ambassadors. In a departure from the usual turn of events, the hostages directly partici- pated in the negotiations that eventually set them free, as Amb. Asencio recounts in his book Diplomats and Terrorists, Or: How I Survived a 61-Day Cocktail Party (2011). Amb. Asencio was ulti- mately awarded the State Department’s highest commendation, the Award for Valor gold medal. After completing an assignment as assistant secretary of State for consular affairs, he was named ambassador to Brazil in 1983, and served there until 1986, when he retired. The Asencios’ memoir, The Joys and Perils of Serving Abroad (2014), recounts Amb. Asencio’s membership in the U.S.-Moscow Investigating Commis- sion and his work as chair of the Com- mission for the Study of International Migration and Cooperative Economic Development. In 1991 Amb. Asencio and his wife moved to PalmBeach, Fla., where Gov- ernor Lawton Chiles promptly appointed him executive director of the Florida International Affairs Commission with a charge to coordinate the state’s foreign trade policy. Later, he engaged in consulting with American firms, including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Casals & Associates, on their Latin American operations. Amb. Asencio is survived by his wife, Nancy Rodriguez Asencio; sons Manuel Asencio, Diego Carlos Asencio and Francis Xavier Asencio; daughter Maria Dolores Asencio; grandchildren Joshua Asencio, Alexandra Victoria Asencio, Max Victor Asencio, Jessica DrewHippolyte- Blackman, Alicia Christina Montgomery, Andrew John Cooke, Benjamin Joseph Cooke and Nicholas Scott Asencio; and great-grandchildren Lily Anne Montgom- ery and Charles Arthur Asencio. He was predeceased by a second daughter, Anne Frances Asencio. n Lois Mervyn , 90, a retired Senior Foreign Service officer, died on Oct. 20, 2020, of a heart attack. Born in Great Falls, Mont., Ms. Mervyn and her family later moved to Moscow, Idaho, where she attended college at the University of Idaho. After graduating, she married, moved to a farm and had three children. She later obtained a Ph.D. in English and taught at the University of Arizona and Colorado State University. In her mid-40s, she took the Foreign Service examon a whim to see how she would do. To her surprise, she scored well and was offered a position as the cultural affairs officer inMadrid. Ms. Mervyn’s assignments included tours in England, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru and Pakistan. On retirement she moved to Tucson, Ariz., where she became a docent at the Historical Society and traveled with Path- finders Tours. She is survived by two children, a sister, and three grandchildren. n Ernest Nagy , 90, a retired Senior Foreign Service officer, died on Nov. 25, 2017, in Toluca Lake, Calif. Mr. Nagy was born onMay 1, 1927, in Hamilton Square, N.J. Both of his parents were born in Hungary and immigrated separately to the United States around 1920. They met and were married in Chicago. His father was a Seventh-day Adventist minister. When Mr. Nagy was 6, his family was transferred to New Jersey. He graduated from Plainfield Academy before being drafted into the Army. After spending IN MEMORY